My Search For Not-Too-Short Denim Shorts

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I’ve been on a mission to find the perfect pair of not-too-short shorts.  The pair I can wear while picking up my kids from school, the pair I can sit down in cross-legged without fear, the pair that won’t leave the back of my thighs exposed, thus imprinting every pattern of seat top into them.

But it’s tricky!  Right now, shorts are ping-ponging between two extremes:  denim underwear and mom shorts.

Long time readers know I love my denim underwear, but it’s not something I reach for everyday.  Yet the Mom Shorts….there’s nothing wrong with them, per se, but I’m not quite ready to go there.

So now that mom jeans are cool, are mom shorts the new mom jean?  It certainly looks that way.  Have you seen The Mom Shorts video, done to the tune of an old New Kids on the Block song???  And I quote:  “they go great with a little tankini down by the pool.”    OMG DYING.  The Holderness Family rocks my world.

In addition to pockets (the need is pointed out in the video, haha) I’d like something with a little bit of an edge.  Something cool or tomboyish – not overly preppy.  It’s really hard to balance out a pair of preppy shorts in general, and trying to offset the khaki, mid-length mom short is a bigger challenge than I’m up for.

So.  Below are a ton of denim short options – most of which meet my criteria.  I tried on almost every length, ranging knee-length to juuuust below denim underwear, at price points from $30 – $200.

The Shortest Pairs

Not denim underwear territory, but still above mid-thigh.  Here are the ones I tried…

**The Best:  DL1961 Shorts**

If you follow me on Instagram, (@shanachristine), you know that these DL1961 shorts are my favs of the bunch. A perfect rise, super soft, they’re short enough to be sexy, but long enough to sit cross-legged on the playground.  And?  The distressing is spot-on.  (More sizes available at Revolve or Zappos.)

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*RUNNER UP:  Joe’s Jeans Rolled Shorts*

The rolled-hem shorts by Joe’s Jeans are insanely soft.  Cuff ’em, keep ’em long – both work.  I was actually kinda shocked by how much I liked these super-soft shorts.  I don’t typically go for plain, dark blue….but the higher rise feels a little more modern, and I loved the roll.  Size down, though – I’m waring a size 24 for reference.

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AE Midi Shorts

AE’s midi shorts have, in general, decent washes and cool distressing.  My issue, I think, is that my bum looks like it’s circa 2003 when we were squeezing ourselves into low-rise jeans and everything just squashed out.  For the record, I’m wearing a size 2, and may have been happier with a 4?

On the upside, they’re cheap, and the wash mimics designer denim.  Worth a try?

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O’Neill Short-Shorts

These O’Neill Beach Cruiser shorts are super cute, but have a major case of Juniors sizing.  SIZE THE EFF UP.  Then, conceivably, they’d be cute.  These are slim through the leg – no belling out over the thigh (but probs best on skinny thighs).   NOTE:  The shorts I tried on are almost sold out, but try these – same brand, similar cut.

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Madewell High-Rise Shorts

These Madewell high-risers remind me of a vintage pair of Calvin Kleins that I inherited from my mom.   Like the vintage pair, they have a really high rise which can be sexy or matronly, depending on your perspective.  Personally, I’m ‘meh’.  I like the vintage pair better.  Also, one must decide if high-rise shorts on a hot day are *really* what you will be reaching for.  (I’m wearing a size 24 – they run a size big.)

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The Mid-Length (or Boyfriend) Shorts

**BEST BET:  Rag and Bone Boyfriend Shorts**

These Rag and Bone Boyfriend shorts are my long-time favs.  I bought a majorly distressed pair last summer, and wore the heck out of them.  They look good with flats, heels, etc.  Even the bum isn’t bad – which tends to be the Achilles heels of both boyfriend jeans AND boyfriend shorts.  So.  If you can swing the price, these might be the only shorts you need this summer. But size down – these shorts run really, really big (I’m in a 24 for reference).

Shopbop carries a slightly more distressed wash if anyone is interested.

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*Runner UP:  Treasure and Bond Cuffed Boyfriend Shorts*

The surprise of the bunch was these Treasure & Bond Cuffed Boyfriend Shorts.  They’re soft, comfy, have a good wash, and a decent rear-view.  These a really solid choice for a longer, slouchier short.  Go with your typical size – I’m wearing a size 25 for reference.

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*HONORABLE MENTION:  AE Tomgirl Shorts*

AE makes their version of the boyfriend short, The Tomgirl Short, in a ton of different washes AND fabrics.  Their distressing and wash look much more expensive (think almost as good as Rag and Bone), but the fit is not nearly as good.  Worse, depending on the wash you choose (and the amount of stretch in the fabric), the fit changes drastically.  Still.  If you can figure out your size, these are really great shorts.

AE Tomgirl Shorts – NO Stretch

It seems that if the shorts are made out of 100% cotton, they run large.  Below, I’m wearing a size 00 (although a 0 would’ve been more comfortable).

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AE Tomgirl Shorts – WITH 1% Elastane

In these shorts, I needed a size 2 – I think they run more true to size.

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One Teaspoon Chargers

One Teaspoon, reigning champ of the denim underwear, actually makes a longer short!  But true to form, they retain they’re denim-underwear vibe, and the result is more like….a denim diaper?

But here’s the thing:  I freaking love them.  They are not the sexiest shorts I have, in fact they might be slightly man-repelling, and they are stiffer than I like my shorts to be, so they’re kind of awkward….but in a good way.

I suspect most of you will be rolling your eyes.  That’s fine.  I know there’s someone out there all YES, S, I GET IT.   The wash I’m wearing is long gone, but I kinda love this one at Revolve or this one (no distressing but cool wash) at Amazon.

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Paige Jimmy Jimmy Boyfriend Shorts

I had high hopes for these Paige Jimmy Jimmy Boyfriend shorts.  And they are great shorts.  The reason they weren’t my favorites is because they are too….middle-of-the-road in every category.  They’re shorter than most boyfriend shorts, but longer than typical cut-offs.  The rise is fine, and they’re nice and soft, but the wash is neither distressed nor plain.

In short (haha), they are completely forgettable (admittedly, this might also make them very versatile).

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Long Shorts

**BEST BET:  AG Nikki Shorts**

Gang, there’s something that feels really fresh and modern about AG’s Nikki shorts.  They’re a slim, knee-length short that comes in differing amounts of distressing.  I’m totally hooked.  Below I’m wearing the AG Nikki in SunBleached Destroyed, but the less-distressed (but still SO good) is this one.  All of the function of mom shorts, but with a completely different vibe.

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Annoyingly, these shorts are almost completely sold out, but they’re the most similar to skinny jeans.  I wonder if you could just hack and old pair off at the knee?  Here are a few other similar pairs (the dark one by Hudson has a cool, Tomboy vibe).

 

Anyway, more on these shape later, you guys.  I’ve been messing around with styling them – a little tricky, but I’ll throw some stuff up on Insta (@shanachristine).

 

Which denim shorts are your favorites?  Any that I missed?  Help a mama out, and feel free to leave links in the comments!

xo,

S

ps.  I’m wearing the shorts with these Rebecca Minkoff gladiator sandals (SO comfy), and this Eileen Fisher linen tank (which is now on sale for 40% off!!).

 

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About Author

Shana founded The Mom Edit in 2008. She lives with the love of her life (his name’s Mike) and their two crazy boys in downtown Philadelphia. She loves a good styling challenge (her engineering side shows eventually), appreciates kindness, and usually picks scotch over wine, sneakers over stilettos, and denim-underwear, always.

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26 Comments

  1. Christy Hartman on

    I’m tall with really long legs so I have to be pretty careful about length. I usually won’t go any shorter than a 4″ inseam. A little tip, Zappos is the only retailer I’ve found that allows you to filter by inseam length. If I’m looking for shorts, that’s where I go.
    Shana, you forgot to mention the trick to sizing shorts, you typically need to go one size up from your jean size. I basically didn’t wear shorts until I learned that truck from this site.
    My favorites in this bunch are the Rag and Bone boyfriend shorts. They are perfect for anyone with muffin top issues. And the Joes rolled cuff shorts are comfy. But my go to shorts are the Rag and Bone, expensive but worth it.

  2. Maybe it’s because I watched Dirty Dancing so much in middle school, but I will forever love knee length jean shorts. (Just tried to look up photos and Baby actually wore multiple lengths of jean shorts, but the look I tried to copy back then was her knee length cut offs and white Keds). Plus I really have never been comfortable showing my thighs. I surprisingly often get complements on my knee length shorts, and usually I just cut off my old jeans, I have a hard time finding decent pre-made shorts. When I saw your AG shorts on IG I immediately tried to find them, but like you said- sold out! At least in the size and color I wanted 🙁 I’ve been waiting for this post. Thanks!

    • I hear you!!! Although I hadn’t made the Dirty Dancing connection as to why I prefer longer shorts. 😉

      Shorts have been a problem for me the past few years with my large thighs. If they’re too loose they make me look quite wide but if they’re too tight it’s, well, not good. This post is awesome! The ones I want are also sold out in my size but now at least I have a better idea of what I’m looking for.

      • BethB, thighs are the rub here, too. (#funnynotfunny) Thanks to Scotti’s post about AE tomgirl jeans I went in to try on their tomgirl cut offs and they are PERFECT for thicker thighs. I bought the second pair Shana is wearing above and actually feel pretty damn good in them!

        • Maggie, did you need to size up in the tomgirl cut offs? I’m 5’7″, 145lbs and typically a pant size 8/29, but also have thicker thighs that don’t work with most shorts. I’m wondering if I should size up to a 10 in these? Thanks!

          • Laura, I am also 5 ft 7 and a size 8 and I did size up to the 10. The 8s fit easily but the 10s gave me extra room in the thigh and a noticeably longer inseam. They’re big in the waist but well worth it for the legs!

  3. I buy men’s jeans at the thrift store that fit in the waist and then cut them to exactly the length I want. I’ve lost patience trying to find women’s shorts that fit in the waist and length.

  4. lilchickshan on

    I was on the hunt for something similar with 2 kiddos and a lot of playgrounds to cover this summer and ended up with the Hudson Croxley cuffed shorts. Soft and comfy, covered enough to sit and play but not too short. Also I think the back pocket detail is flattering on the bum. I found during my try-ons that the ones with really soft denim worked the best. I ended up in my normal post partum size which I’m hoping will fit as slouchy boyfriend like jeans when I finish nursing and hopefully drop another size to my normal one (like next summer).

    http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/hudson-jeans-croxley-cuff-denim-shorts-stella/3449787?origin=keywordsearch-personalizedsort&fashioncolor=STELLA

  5. Where were you a month ago when I was looking for denim shorts with these exact parameters??? Not too mom and not too hootchy. I’m tall, I’ve got booty and I chase 2 toddlers around. Thank god Nordstrom has free shipping and returns cause what the actual EFF would I do if I had to shop in store and go through time misery? Anywho…… 9 pairs later I landed on Caslon Rolled Denim Boyfriend Shorts. The perfect mix of cute and practical (and my butt isn’t hanging out!). And after ordering Hudson, AG and Rag & Bone amongst others, the $58 price tag was such a win I bought both colors!

  6. I love my Rag and Bone shorts and have the ones who reviewed as well as the super distressed ones you love. Just bought the AG Nikki shorts you recommended to change it up a bit. Thanks so much for the great review!

  7. My fave shorts are old Citizens Z pockets! I hacked them off kind of mid length and cuff them. So soft because I wore the heck out of them back in the day. So an alternate suggestion is go to a good 2d hand store and see if you score!

    • Just adding vintage men’s 501s can also look cute hacked off. But fabric is stiffer so need to be really worn in when you buy them!

  8. Shorts can be such a pain. I usually get my short 1 or 2 sizes bigger because most just dont have enough thigh length! I commend the women who can wear super short shorts but alas i am not one of them. These seem like great options and all look relaxed. I like the above the knee Bermuda-esck shorts too.

    http://www.ebatotes.com

  9. I just started wearing shorts conisistently this summer and I love them! Before I was always in skirts and dresses prob because i was always preggo or recovering. I bought some shorts from jcrew but my faves have been my cut-offs inspired by @encapsulated_me on IG because she’s my wardrobe spirit animal.

    My babysitter wears mom jean shorts that verge on uncomfortable (imo) and it is definitely her look. What look is that? This is an honest question. Floral baby doll dresses, Levi mom jeans, tube tops… all with a nose ring. I’m more fascinated than flabbergasted and I love her to pieces just wondering what that look is. She’s also 24ish…

    • I’m blushing @houseofboys!! You are too lovely

      I’m also howling. Mom jeans and baby dolls…sounds like a choker and a pair of flip flops away from my high school/college patchouli-wearing Dead-going (ripjerry) 90s… Somebody pass me the brown lipstick!

  10. Thanks for this post. I have two pairs of denium shorts (old Loft & old GAP sexy boysfriend) but I only really like one of them. I have been looking for another pair that I love and I think those Treasure & Bond shorts might be it! Super excited to try them! & love the price!

  11. I had the worst trouble finding jean shorts this year! Too short or too mom, and always gapping in the back! Finally ended up with Banana Republic roll-up shorts. They stretch out too quickly for my liking, so I have to wash them more than I think you should with denim. But no gapping, the roll lets you adjust the length, and the striped is so cute! http://bananarepublic.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=1061784&vid=1&pid=307571002 Reminds me of when I used to dress my son in railroad overalls 🙂

  12. Hi, I’m an avid follower of your blog and am not only interested in mom fashion, but also ethical consumer choices within the slower fashion industry. Since I know many of the writers on this blog have written specifically about this topic, I thought I would share a link about jean manufacturing that was of great interest to me and may be to other readers as well. Included in the article are various links to companies that I’d be interested in learning more about on your blog. I’m a mountain girl in Wyoming so Patagonia might even be the only one I have heard of at this point! It also includes a link to Project Just’s guide to companies that are making a posiitive difference in the world of fashion through improved environmental, labor, and business practices. Hope it helps and thanks for all of your advice on this awesome site! It’s made a huge difference to me in the transition between working single in my twenties to mother of 4 with a total different body and taste in my 20’s still..I mean late err…30’s:)

    http://www.refinery29.com/2016/06/113127/ethical-clothing-costs

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