9 Fresh Ways to Wear Jean Shorts for Summer 2023

A woman wears denim shorts

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No matter what the hottest trends are from one summer to the next, there’s at least one clothing item that will forever remain a staple in the sweltering season: a trusty pair of jean shorts. But let’s be honest, denim rules year-round. It it goes with practically everything, and has become something of an unspoken neutral. So then why is it such a challenge to come up with new ways to wear jean shorts every year? 

The dilemma is likely the result of one or two things: The first being that you associate jean shorts outfits with only a few very specific looks. Maybe, in your mind, jean shorts are exclusively casual, and only make sense with tank tops and T-shirts. True, this is the quintessential summertime aesthetic, but it’s not the only one. 

The second is, you’re making it more complicated than it has to be. Remember, there are no true fashion rules. You can wear what you want, whenever you want (assuming you don't have to abide by a dress code), with whatever you want, and jean shorts are no exception. So as far as we're concerned, you can forget the notion that there are limited ways to wear jean shorts. Mix and match your favorite pair with whatever is in your closet — but if you need some inspiration, check out the nine ideas below to start.

Add a Pop of Color

A woman wears denim shorts and a bright blazer

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Personal stylist Christina Stein loves pairing blazers and blouses with denim shorts. Complete the look with a pair of heels for a look she promises is endlessly stylish. 

“The combination gives a casual but tailored vibe,” she tells InStyle via email. “Instead of a traditional color though (i.e. black or navy) go with a metallic or neon color [blazer] like pink or green! Instead of a traditional short, maybe try to update it with a girlfriend or Bermuda style.”

With a Dressy Button-Down

A woman wears denim shorts and a button down shirt

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According to personal style advisor at MiKADO Personal Styling Jordan Stolch, an oversized boyfriend button-down shirt is this summer’s must-have wardrobe essential, and will pair perfectly with jean shorts. Her favorite styling technique? “Leave it open, layered over a basic tank or bodysuit, and top it off with simple sandals or tennis shoes.” 

Elevate Your Typical T-Shirt Pairing

A woman wears denim shorts and a graphic sweatshirt

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San Diego-based personal stylist and fashion blogger, Vanessa Valiente loves a graphic T-shirt and jean shorts pairing as much as the next person. But Valiente likes to keep things elevated. For starters, crop your graphic tee or sweatshirt and swap regular jean shorts for a cut-off style. Next, Valiente recommends grabbing a pair of chunky flat sandals or your favorite sneakers for a casual look but says if it’s not too hot, a cropped leather jacket and a pair of combat boots are a great way to switch things up.

Try a Tailored Style 

A guest is seen wearing grey blazer, denim shorts, cowboy boots outside Baum & Pferdgarten during Copenhagen Fashion Week

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Fashion stylist and style expert, Naina Singla loves a sleek, minimalist moment, and says you can achieve the aesthetic with a pair of jean shorts, just add a black button-down and black flat sandals into the mix. 

“If you are looking to add more texture to your look, simply bring along a raffia tote,” Naina recommends via email. “This minimalist style is perfect for weekend errands or a casual lunch with friends.”

Make It Formal

A woman wears denim shorts and a blazer

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To dress up jean shorts for a dinner date or night on the town with friends, celebrity stylist Madeleine Kennedy tells InStyle she’ll elevate the otherwise casual bottoms by pairing them with “a black blazer, corset, sling-back heels, a mini bag, and layered necklaces.”

Swap Blue for White Denim

Bella Hadid in white shorts

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White is a classic summer hue, and you could incorporate the shade into a jeans shorts outfit in a myriad of ways. Singla’s preferred variation is via white high-rise denim shorts paired with a fitted blank tank, matching white slides, and a black mini handbag hanging off her wrist. 

It’s a look she says is “simple yet sophisticated” that works for either a beachside brunch or relaxing dinner.

Balance with a Tailored Top

A woman wears denim shorts and a sweater vest

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This summer, wardrobe stylist Gabbi Maragos is all about the mid-rise relaxed fit jean shorts, especially styles that are generous in length. An oversized poplin shirt or a simple ribbed tank top are great options for daytime wear, but if you’re looking to dress up your fit, Maragos favors something a little more tailored, like a cropped vest. 

Bet on a Blazer

A woman wears denim shorts and a blazer

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For a more sophisticated look, Singla promises you can never go wrong with a blazer (a black number is her favorite)— even when pairing the jacket with jean shorts. To complete the look, Singla suggests something along the lines of a white knit top and black ballet flats for footwear. To add an element of polish, a statement belt and a black structured handbag are musts.

Lean into the Linen Trend

A woman wears denim shorts and a linen top

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“Elegant” may not be the first adjective you think of when describing a pair of cut-off shorts, but Valiente says combining the lax bottoms with a linen blend scoop neck tank and a matching linen blend blazer will do the trick. 

“Tuck in that tank and pair it with a strappy flat or chunk-heel sandal,” Valiente advises. “I often sport this outfit using light wash cut-off shorts, an off-white tank, and a blazer, plus off-white sandals for a casual chic monochromatic look.”

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