If you were to rattle off the staples that make up the foundational elements in your summer wardrobe, shorts would likely rank high on the list. More specifically, denim shorts. As the cool cousin to your favorite jeans, cutoffs bring an effortlessness to any outfit. And while there is a range of silhouettes out there to choose from, I scrolled through all my favorite shops to uncover the chicest (and most popular) styles on the internet.
Instead of simply reporting on my findings, I took it one step further by trying on the best pairs I found and lending them my personal reviews. I'm very picky about denim shorts and have a checklist of specific details prospective shorts need to have before I add them to my closet. If you're just as wary of denim shorts or are simply curious to see which pairs I'm recommending, look no further. Just up ahead, see the results of my try-on, and read my reviews of each.
What I Looked For
I considered several factors when choosing the pairs I eventually landed on. I first made a short list of the most popular denim brands, including Levi's and Agolde. I then cross-referenced it with the best-selling pairs on retailers like Nordstrom, Shopbop, Revolve, and Amazon to land on denim shorts beloved by reviewers and appealing to a discerning editor like myself. Once I ordered nearly a dozen pairs, I did the legwork (literally) and tried them all on. Here, I whittled my list of favorites down to five standout pairs that really wowed me.
Best Overall Denim Shorts: Abecrombie Mid-Rise Baggy Shorts
My review: Okay, Abercrombie, I see you. I didn't know what to expect before trying this pair, but the many glowing reviews on the retailer's website persuaded me. I have to say I'm thoroughly impressed. Not only are these extremely comfortable, but thanks to their 99:1 cotton-to-elastane ratio, they are the perfect mid-thigh length that gives me coverage without looking awkward. I can't corroborate this, but my friend did say they also looked good from the backside.
Customer review: "Perfect shorts. High rise with full coverage. Doesn't look too long or awkward and doesn't bunch up. Would buy 100 times over." — Abercrombie reviewer
My review: I'm very picky about denim shorts. But not only did this pair end up really impressing me when I tried them on, but I also loved them so much that I immediately packed them for an upcoming beach trip. They're relaxed throughout the thighs and sit lower on my hips for a slouchy, lived-in feel. I loved how they looked with a pair of kitten heels, but I could easily see myself throwing them on over a swimsuit at the beach because the denim is thin and light.
Customer review: "Can't say enough good things about these! Didn't find the fit larger like other reviewers, I bought my normal denim size and the fit it great around the waist and through the leg." — Shopbop reviewer
Pros: Thin and lightweight denim, relaxed fit
Cons: Not the most flattering fit
Levi's 501 Original Shorts
My review: Levi's has officially entered the chat. Seeing as I've been living in my vintage pairs for years, I thought it was only fair to explore what the brand offers in the way of shorts. I went with the 501 Original Shorts as they bring in elements of iconic jeans like a high-rise fit, button fly, and 100% cotton body. With thousands of rave reviews all around the internet, from Amazon to Nordstrom, I had high hopes for this pair, and while they definitely delivered on the quality and fabric, they were also the shorts with the smallest inseam of any I tried for this edit. I found them to be a tad snug in the leg, even though they fit well in the waist and would have sized up for a better fit.
Customer review: "These 501s should be a staple in every wardrobe. Perfect fit, although they run a little small." — Levi's reviewer
EB Denim Scout Shorts
My review: If a pair of tiny cutoffs has ever put you off denim shorts entirely, ] I have just the style you need to see. The Scout Shorts from cool-girl label EB Denim are the antithesis of traditional Daisy Dukes. Instead, they are probably the best pair of shorts I've ever put on my body. They're sized to be low-slung and oversize but somehow don't end up looking like jorts. These are the pair I'd want to reach for with heels and a little going-out top for a more downtown vibe.
Pros: Weighty denim feel, baggy but not too baggy shape
Cons: Investment price tag
Good American Good '90s Shorts
My review: I loved how roomy these were in the rear and leg—so much so that I could have run a mile in them. That said, many of the reviews mentioned how big they were, and I have to agree. This is definitely a style I would size down in since I found them way too wide.
Customer review: "[I] was hopeful these would fit and be flattering, and they didn't fail. [I] couldn't be happier!" — Nordstrom reviewer