Is wearing shorts at work ever truly appropriate? This might be the number one question we ask ourselves as the hot, sunny summer weather takes over. As much as we want to stay cool at work in the heat, we also want to remain polished and professional. The typical solution to this problem is work dresses and skirts, because there’s nothing worse than stuffy suits, button-down shirts, and heavy trousers in sweltering summer weather. But when you’ve run through your skirt and dress assortment and want to explore another option, shorts seem like the answer—and they can be, if done correctly.
This season, short suit sets and smart shorts in longer lengths are available in neutral shades, soft hues, and menswear-inspired checks. With clean lines and tailored silhouettes, they’re perfectly polished for work, though there are a few tricks to keep in mind when styling them for a professional setting.
Here, we’ll break down three simple rules for wearing shorts at work. Trust us: the only commentary from human resources will be complimentary.
1. Length and Fit
Short inseams, denim cut-offs, and fitted shorts are perfectly acceptable for off-hours, but when wearing shorts for work, opt for longer silhouettes and styles that don’t hug your figure too closely. Tailored lines will maintain a professional look with a looser fit. In terms of inseam, stick to lengths that are five inches or longer.
2. Fabric, Color, and Pattern
To keep shorts from feeling too casual, consider both fabric and pattern. Mid-weight styles that are lined will work best in a professional setting, especially if you choose a lighter color like white, ivory, or pastel shades. Speaking of color, don’t be afraid to experiment with punchier shades, but remember that it’s best to reserve neon hues and more playful patterns for vacations and weekends. Still, patterned shorts can certainly work at the office—heritage checks and classic stripes are both great options.
3. Pieces to Pair
When wearing shorts at work, it’s important to maintain balance. Long-sleeve blouses and blazers in lightweight fabrics temper the effect of shorts at work—tanks and bohemian tops are better suited to free time. For shoes, stick to simple silhouettes, whether you prefer a classic pair of pumps, smart sandals, loafers, or flats.