The 9 Best Jean Shorts for Every Body Type and Style

Levi’s 501s are one-of-a-kind and claim their rightful place at the top of our list.

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Best Jean Shorts

Alexander McQueen / HM

Ahh, the trusty jean shorts. From the coastal-cool aesthetic of the 1960s California to the Indie Sleaze era — which, thanks to TikTok made a brief return this summer — this failsafe summer staple has cemented its place in fashion folklore. I haven’t even referenced Daisy Duke or Patti Smith or Beyoncé at Coachella or…the list goes on. Just say “jean shorts” and it’ll likely bring up your own archive of images. While we all have our favorite pair of jean shorts, it never hurts to add another to your wardrobe — especially when the styles are endless. Not all jean shorts are created equal, or worth the money, though. 

To help you find the best pair to add to your collection we scoured the internet, researched the trends, and spoke to a variety of fashion experts to find the best jean shorts that you’ll wear for years to come. Our Best Overall winner —  Levi’s Authorized Vintage 501 Shorts — are a celebrity favorite and a true classic that will last a lifetime.

Keep reading to find the best jean shorts of 2022:

Best Overall: Levi's Authorized Vintage 501 Shorts

Levi’s Authorized Vintage 501 Shorts

Levi's

What We Love: They’ll truly last a lifetime - which isn’t an easy feat in today’s fast fashion climate.

What We Don’t Love: We wish they had a wider range of washes to choose from. 

Levi’s 501s are the quintessential jean shorts — the first pair ever invented, according to the brand — and a true wardrobe hero. As Liz Power, owner of Awoke Vintage in Brooklyn reminds us; “they were originally made as practical workwear for laborers and miners so they were made to last.” Famously worn by, well, literally everyone (including Cindy Crawford, Debbie Harry, and Emma Chamberlain) 501s are an icon of American fashion. A mid-rise, straight-leg fit, each pair is crafted from authentic, reclaimed vintage denim that’s reimagined by Levi’s in-house tailors, making them both kinder to the planet and a piece of wearable history. 

Size: 24 - 34 | Length: N/A | Wash: Pre-worn denim featuring a raw cut-off hem, each pair has unique variances and natural fading, so no two look exactly the same | Details: Belt loops, button fly, hand altered with patching, chain stitched, distressed

Price at time of publish: $128

Best Splurge: Alexander McQueen Blue Trompe L’oeil Denim Shorts

Alexander McQueen Blue Trompe L’oeil Denim Shorts

SSENSE

What We Love: The shorts feature five pockets that are big enough to actually fit practical items like your keys and phone. 

What We Don’t Love: The sizes are limited.

The house of Alexander McQueen applies the founder’s precise tailoring (learnt on London’s prestigious Savile Row) to the humble short with this offbeat pair. Replete with a skirt-effect overlay, these Trompe L’oeil shorts pay homage to the early 2000s trend and the house’s irreverent approach to wardrobe staples. Instantly recognizable thanks to the designer patch on the back, they’ll elevate any outfit and will last you for years. Make the most of the high-waist and flared silhouette by tucking in a simple tank or chunky knitwear as the weather cools.

Size: 0 - 14 | Length: N/A | Wash: Washed Blue | Details: Belt loop, skirt-style overlay, five pockets, contrast stitching

Price at time of publish: $890

Best Value: H&M 90s Boyfriend Low Denim Shorts

H&M 90s Boyfriend Low Denim Shorts

H&M

What We Love: They're available in five different washes. 

What We Don’t Love: They lose their shape if not properly cared for.

Part of H&M’s Conscious Collection, this retro-inspired style is made from 80% recycled materials, making them a pretty guilt-free purchase (the $15 price tag doesn’t hurt either). Even with the affordable price, they’re made to last, thanks to their handy construction and timeless appeal — it’s a failsafe style that will work with just about everything in your wardrobe. “It’s nice to balance shorts with a baggier top to keep the look relaxed,” says Sophie Adams, a Contemporary and Beachwear Buyer at Harvey Nichols. “For a casual vibe, I would pair [these] shorts with an oversized tee.” When in doubt, pair the shorts with a simple white tank for a classic combo.  

Size: 0 - 20 | Length: Length: 9.5 cm (Size 6) | Wash: Black, Blue, Light blue, Pale blue, White | Details: Belt loops, button fly, five pockets, raw-edge hem

Price at time of publish: $15

Best Plus Size: Good American Good Icon Short

Good American Good Icon Short

Good American

What We Love: These shorts have an easy, comfortable fit with plenty of stretch.

What We Don’t Love: The stepped, frayed hem is prone to unraveling over time.

Another '90s-inspired style (the decade really cemented jean shorts in the fashion canon), Good American’s low-key pair is high on the waist and snug at the hips before falling to a breezy straight-leg silhouette. Part of the label’s aptly-named Icons collection, this pair exudes low-key cool. When selecting a size, plus-size model Kara ‘Juicy’ Johnson recommends sizing up. “You don't want them too tight on the waist. You want some extra room in the leg area as well.” As for styling, plus-size influencer and artist Jamie Hamilton suggests playing around with your footwear to keep your jean shorts looking fresh. “I love vintage western boots with cut-offs — it’s unexpected yet looks exceptionally pulled together. Conversely, wear sneakers with some slouchy socks.”

Size: 00 - 26 | Length: Inseam: 6 ¾”, Rise: 11", Leg Opening: 22 1/2" | Wash: Black, White | Details: Belt loops, button fly, five pockets, distressed details, stepped hem, chewed and frayed edges

Price at time of publish: $110

Best Petite: Topshop Petite Premium Mom Denim Shorts

Topshop Petite Mom Denim Shorts

ASOS

What We Love: The bottoms of the shorts are loose-fitting and airy. 

What We Don’t Love: They’re quite rigid at the waist — making them not so great to wear if you’re heading out for a big meal.

“Short shorts, paired with a half-tucked button-up has become my summer uniform,” says Johnson, and this pair is perfect for channeling a laid-back vibe. In a classic bleached wash with raw hems and a high-waist, this festival-ready style works with just about anything in your wardrobe. ASOS teams them with a fringed suede jacket — a classic Kendall Jenner look — and lace-up sandals that nod to summer’s eternal boho trend. When the weather cools, work this 'mom' style pair with boots - the relaxed fit is perfect for transitioning into fall. Johnson also recommends styling shorts with a graphic tee and blazer to take you into the new season.

Size: 0 - 14 | Length: N/A | Wash: Bleach Blue | Details: Belt loops, button fly, four pockets, raw-cut hem 

Price at time of publish: $60

Best High-Waisted: Acne Studios Frayed Denim Shorts

Acne Studios Frayed Denim Shorts

SSENSE

What We Love: The light wash looks great paired with trendy, bold-hued tops.

What We Don’t Love: They tend to fit slimmer frames better.

Sitting somewhere between '60s-style Bermuda shorts and '50s Capri pants, Acne Studio’s high-rise shorts are effortlessly elegant. Crafted in Italy from 100% organic cotton, they have that worn-in feel and sun-stained finish that’ll make you think of summer vacations every time you wear them. 

“I love pairing a high-waisted, slightly flared-leg denim short with a classic ballet slipper — there’s something very Jane Birkin about that combination,” says writer and vintage fashion aficionado Natalie Hughes. Hughes might have a penchant for nostalgia, but everyone is taking a trip down memory lane with the season’s must-have retro styles. 

Size: 23 - 32  | Length: N/A | Wash: Pale Blue | Details: Belt loops, button and zip fly, five pockets, contrast stitching, frayed hems

Price at time of publish: $300

Best Long: AGOLDE Ira Short

AGOLDE Ira Short

Shopbop

What We Love: They’ll take you from morning coffee run to late-night drinks.

What We Don’t Love: Slimmer women might find the butt a bit baggy.

“The biggest short trends of this season are flared shorts and Bermuda shorts. Bermuda shorts are super comfortable — they can take any look from basic to chic,” says Johnson. AGOLDE's pair is a perfect example of day-to-night dressing. Despite the raw hems and relaxed fit, they look great with a pair of mules when you want to dress them up, while the mid-rise waist and distressed details keep the vibe lowkey. Stylist Kasha Malyckyj, who works on music videos and film, recommends styling Bermuda shorts with a strapless tube top or a silk scarf tied into a top. "I'll add an oversized blazer, chunky gold hoops, mule heels and a little leather shoulder bag," she says. 

Size: 23 - 34 | Length: Rise: 12 1/2", Inseam: 9", Leg Opening: 20 1/4" | Wash: Indigo, Light Blue, Black | Details: Belt loops, button fly, five pockets, whiskering, frayed hems

Price at time of publish: $148

Best Colored: GANNI Mini Denim Shorts

GANNI Mini Denim Shorts

GANNI

What We Love: They’re made from 100% organic cotton.

What We Don’t Love: The color can rub off on clothing or even furniture

Sitting high on the waist in a joyful Pepto-Bismol pink wash, GANNI's jean shorts prove that denim is anything but boring. They’re made entirely from GOTS-certified organic cotton which, compared to regular cotton, uses 90% less water and has 50% less Co2 emissions. The key to wearing a bright color like pink for years to come is choosing a timeless silhouette — and vintage fashion store owner Liz Power says that fitted, high-waisted hemmed shorts will never go out of style. Be sure to wash this pair before wearing, though, as the dye has a tendency to rub off on clothes and furniture. 

Size: 24 - 31 | Length: N/A | Wash: Pink | Details: Belt loops, button fly, five pockets, hemmed cuffs

Price at time of publish: $215

Best Micro Mini: Diesel Blue De-Lunar Denim Shorts

DIESEL Blue De-Lunar Denim Shorts

SSENSE

What We Love: Despite being micro shorts, there’s surprisingly ample pocket-space. 

What We Don’t Love: The crotch is a very close fit, which can be irritating after a while.

We had to include a pair of Daisy Dukes — it just wouldn’t be a jean shorts round-up without them. Denim pro Diesel has the best pair in the game and the early aughts label is enjoying a cultural renaissance. Instantly recognizable thanks to the iconic branded pocket detail, this micro pair has plenty of stretch for that signature slim fit. They come in three washes — plus two quilted pairs — but we prefer the classic dark blue hue. Pair yours with the brand’s cult 1DR bag or Balenciaga’s trending Le Cagole XS for a look worthy of any Y2K princess. 

Size: 25 - 32 | Length: N/A | Wash: Dark Blue, Light Blue, White | Details: Belt loops, button and zip fly, three pockets, hemmed cuffs

Price at time of publish: $195

What to Keep in Mind

Length

From booty to Bermuda, jean shorts come in an array of lengths — and unlike most clothing items, every iteration has timeless appeal. For ultimate wearability, the classic mid-rise, mid-length (like our overall pick Levi’s Authorized Vintage 501 Shorts) is your best bet as the styling options are endless, and they suit all body shapes. 

Plus-size model Kara Johnson prefers micro shorts, but suggests going a size up for a more comfortable fit. “You’ll want some extra room in the leg,” she says. The Bermuda short is by far the trickiest length to master as it needs to hit just above the knee, so petite and tall girls alike should opt for height-specific styles that’ll cater to their shape — ASOS and H&M are great places to shop because they offer petite and tall options. 

Wash

Bleached and black washes are timeless, but that’s not to say colorful versions (like GANNI Mini Denim Shorts) should be ignored — especially when there are so many fun options and mood-boosting shades to explore. As we’ve established, denim should be washed every 10 wears, and this is extra important if you’ve opted for a vibrant style. That faded worn-in look undoubtedly lends denim a certain charm, but color-saturated styles are best when the color is vivid, so use a color-protective detergent when you do wash them. Our experts agree that the classic light blue hue is a wardrobe failsafe, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with any wash.

Silhouette

Silhouette is totally a personal preference — you should choose something that matches your style and you see yourself wearing for years to come. As Hughes notes, a high-rise pair with a slightly flared leg is an enduring style, and, what’s more, it suits all shapes. Each of our experts recommended Levi’s Authorized Vintage 501 Shorts, which is a testament to their universal appeal and versatility. If you want a longer silhouette, like Bermuda, we recommend sizing up a bit because the style tends to be a bit constricting. 

Your Questions, Answered

How do you prevent jean shorts from fraying too much?

It’s ironic that a material famed for its hardness — it was specially made in 18th-century France to be tear-proof — is most popular today distressed and frayed. Achieving that covetable worn-in look isn’t without its compromises though, as anyone who’s ever had their outfit unraveled by a rogue nail or door handle can attest. “I’ve heard of people using clear nail polish to stop denim from continuing to fray, but I would say just treat them with care — hand wash or use a gentle cycle when washing,” recommends Powers. Her key advice, though? Avoid the dryer. 

“You can also use a plastic clip to clip the ends together when washing, which will prevent them from fraying more when agitated by the washing machine,” Powers adds. Levi’s suggests only washing your jeans once every 10 wears at most (yes, really). “This increases their lifespan and saves natural resources. When you eventually launder your jeans, wash them inside out with like colors then hang them to dry,” they advise

How do you style jean shorts?

There are endless ways to style jean shorts — from keeping it casual with a t-shirt and white sneakers, to dressing them up with heels and a blouse for a night out, the options are endless. Power, who has lived through many New York City heatwaves, recommends wearing jean shorts with a loose linen button-down over a crop top or ’90s-style workout top in the summer. This look is a favorite amongst celebrities, is timeless, and exudes a laid back attitude.

As for Johnson, she says that opposites attract. “When wearing fitted bottoms, opt for a looser top. When wearing loose-fitting bottoms, pair them with a more fitted top — it's all about balance,” she says. While I’d usually agree that life is about balance, personally, I’m a fan of a baggy shirt and short combo.

Ultimately, what’s key here is getting the fit right, which, as Hamilton acknowledges, is easier said than done. Sometimes sizing up is the best thing to do — even if that means the shorts are a bit baggy in the waist. To fix this, she recommends adding a vintage belt. “I like gold metal belts with hidden stretch,” she says. Hamilton also recommends putting the button through the belt loop before buttoning the shorts. “No-sew buttons are also a simple fix to make the waist of the shorts fit tighter or looser. This is such an easy solution that I wish I had always known about!” 

Why Trust InStyle

Mischa Smith is a freelance Commerce Writer for InStyle, where she covers fashion, drawing on her experience as a Womenswear Editor at luxury retailer Harvey Nichols where she profiled designers and covered global fashion weeks. 

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