If there’s any piece of clothing that feels like a necessary evil, it’s denim shorts. They have a reputation for riding up, giving wedgies, and all-around being a survival mechanism for the summer—but not always one we look forward to wearing.
While it can be hard to find a great pair of denim shorts, when you do, chances are, they’re going to live on your bottom half for all of summer. If they’re comfortable, the right looseness, and something you feel confident in rather than dread putting on, they’re the only pants you’ll need from May through September.
Our editors are sharing the shorts that single-handedly ended our denim-short searches and spilling the deets so you can find the perfect pair too. Trust us: These are as good as they get.
The high-end dupes
I went years without finding a pair of denim shorts that I truly love, and after debating shelling out $180 for the cult-favorite Agolde pair that I thought would answer my problems, I ordered these first—and thank God I did.
These are, dare I say, the most perfect denim shorts I’ve ever put on my body. They’re the perfect compromise of not being too short or too long, and the crossed waist and raw hem are cool and effortless. I have always struggled with denim shorts because my thighs are on the muscular side, so more often than not, I feel like the fit is too tight on me and winds up being uncomfortable. With these, I don’t have that problem. They’re not too tight, not too loose, and overall just perfectly flattering. The best part? They’re a fraction of the price of the Agolde ones but truly look and feel identical. These are my favorite find of 2022 so far.
The long shorts that don’t bring back middle-school trauma
I’ve always wanted to hop onto the longer-shorts trend but have struggled to find a pair that fit me right. If they’re too tight, they give middle-school bermuda shorts PTSD, so I gave up my search last summer. Alas, when I saw Abercrombie released a pair, I decided to give them another try.
I am absolutely obsessed with these shorts. I know from experience with Abercrombie shorts that once I wear them, they’ll loosen up slightly, so while they’re a bit more fitted on my legs now, I know that’ll change when I wear them for a bit. I feel like the length adds a chicness that shorter shorts don’t have and they’re the perfect long short that doesn’t feel dated or weird and unflattering. I ordered two sizes of these, my regular size and a size up, and these are the size up. If you want a looser fit, I would recommend sizing up one size.
– Madeline, Fashion Editor
The flattering short-short
I’ve had this relaxed-fit, light-wash pair of denim shorts for literally years and they have never gone out of style or done me wrong. They’re the perfect relaxed fit to wear over a bathing suit to the beach or turn into an OOTD with a silky button-up and kitten heels. They’re the perfect amount of structured and relaxed, and they’re slightly distressed for a trendier feel but not so distressed that you don’t want to wear them around your grandma (you know what I’m talking about). I’ve tried on dozens of other denim shorts, but none can compare to my perfect go-to pair.
These are on the shorter side, but they’re not so short that the bottom of my butt cheeks risk getting a glimpse of daylight. I’d buy these again and again.
– Josie, Wellness Editor
The ultra-comfortable ones
I first tried these ’90s shorts from Zara last year when we reviewed the most popular denim shorts on the internet, and I instantly fell in love. I bought them in May, and I’m not kidding when I say they were the only pair of shorts I wore for the entirety of last summer—and I can’t wait to wear them all summer long again this year. They are truly the most comfortable pair of jean shorts I’ve ever owned. They’re a relaxed denim, the length is perfect (I’ve been loving longer shorts lately), and the fit is super flattering. Although they don’t have the frayed-hem style anymore, this year’s version is just as cute.
– Jess, Associate Editor
The affordable gems
While I understand the importance of good, high-quality denim shorts, I’ve never been able to justify it. First, vintage options take the cake every time. You can’t tell me you can find anything better than a pair of vintage Levi’s shorts. Second, I live in Chicago, and I work in an office a few days a week. A pair of jeans I can understand: I wear them all year round and I can wear them to work. But denim shorts just have never seemed like a sensical splurge.
In my quest for inexpensive shorts last summer, I ordered a handful from H&M in all their different styles and washes, and I ended up wearing these the most. They’re not tight nor do they squeeze my legs, but they’re still flattering and hug my body where I want them to. I wore these most often as a swim cover-up, but they were also perfect for throwing on for errands or last-minute happy hours. I plan to rock them again and again this summer (and even pick up a few more washes).
– Beth, Editor
The perfect mom fit
I probably ordered nine pairs of denim shorts last year and returned every single pair but these. When it comes to shopping for denim shorts, here are my non-negotiables: They must be flattering, offer a fair amount of coverage, have a high-waisted silhouette, and ultimately be pretty comfortable. These were the only pair that met my standard and they didn’t break the bank, which is an obvious win.
I love that these have a classic mom feel and are super comfortable. My favorite part is the rolled-up bottom, which automatically adds a vintage feel.
– Ashley, Branded Content Editor