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In the last five years or so, one of the biggest trends in menswear has been the promise of versatility. Activewear, with all its multi-use fabrics — merino wool, organic cotton blends, moisture-wicking polyester — has injected a performance element into everyday style, and supported a lifestyle, especially on the weekends, where new activities might be chosen on a whim and by the hour.
This notion has been shoved down the throats of consumers to the point of near-exhaustion. We’ve both participated in and lampooned brands’ favorite advertising crutches: “beach to bar,” “city to mountain” … “desert to first date.” Ok, we made that last one up.
But heavy-handed marketing aside, there is a legitimate supply of attire on the market right now that could handle an entire bucket list in a single day. As the weather started to warm up here on the east coast, I tried out a range of so-called “all-day shorts” from seven leading brands in the menswear space.
I wore each short from dawn to dusk on a weekend day with half-decent weather. Our findings, in short: while every short on this last can handle a 12 hour shift, some excel in certain scenarios more than others.
Below, we discuss each all-day short, ranking them on comfiness, fit and their all-important compatibility with Hawaiian shirts.
BEST OVERALL SHORTS: Faherty All Day Short
Maybe we should’ve seen this one coming. The best all-day shorts shorts we spent a Saturday in were Faherty’s. The surf brand basically made a swimsuit that fits and feels like a pair of tailored khaki shorts. The fabric is eco-friendly recycled polyester, and you can order in your exact waist size, so there’s no need to debate Medium or Large for hours on end. We like the mesh-lined pockets, the zippered back pocket, the lack of belt loops, the lightweight feel, and the 9″ inseam, which hits far enough down the thigh that you don’t look like a 1950’s Italian schoolboy, and high enough above the knee that you don’t look like a Midwestern dad at the state fair. The shorts are light, they repel ketchup stains (we know this for a fact), and as usual, Faherty doesn’t take itself too seriously, offering a variety of fun colors.
BEST WITH A HAWAIIAN: Outerknown Paz Short
Or a camp shirt, for that matter. When you’re wearing any variety of loud shirt, your shorts need not do any aesthetic heavy-lifting. But they should respect the summer vibes you’re adopting up top, and not feel too constricting. We recommend the Paz Short from our friends over at Outerknown, who have reimagined the stiff khaki short in a 100% organic cotton twill. These shorts feel a lot like cut-off sweatpants — there’s a drawstring and deep pockets — but look formal enough to go meet the parents in.
BEST LOOKING: Buck Mason Deck Short
These shorts just landed at Buck Mason, and if you’re at least semi-confident in your legs, you’re going to want to pick up a pair and go spend the entire day on a boat. The Deck Short adheres to the L.A. brand’s standard less-is-more approach, with a washed-in look and feel that compliments a soft tee and a pair of white sneaks. In other words, it’s an outfit-maker. Expect a cotton-nylon-spandex mixture, some quick-drying tech and a shorter inseam than most shorts on this list. All the better, just remember to reapply before you fry.
TOUGHEST: Howler Brothers Horizon Hybrid 2.0
If we’re being honest, most of the activities we “challenged” the shorts with on this list with were pretty tame. Think: commuting, barbecues, beach days. Austin-based Howler Brothers, meanwhile, makes shorts that can actually spend an entire day out in the wild, and manage pastimes and places of more consequence. We wore the Horizon Hybrid over a day at Yosemite, where the ripstop nylon shorts handled a seven-mile hike (and subsequent dip in an icy river) as well as you could hope. These shorts have pockets on pockets (literally, check the zippered stash above), so you don’t have to keep reaching into your backpack for snacks, tools and the like.
MOST ATHLETIC: Myles Apparel Everyday Short
You know those days where you wake up with a weird amount of energy and decide to ride the wave as long as it’ll go? Throw these on. They’re perfect for biking to the gym, getting a workout in, jogging to meet a friend, eating something green, deciding spontaneously to catch a ballgame … you get it. If someone woke up today from a 10-year coma, they’d assume these are just a pair of workout shorts. And they’d largely be right. The Everyday Short deploys four-way stretch fabric and mesh pocketing. But notice the lack of a logo. The neutral colorway. Myles is a joint-venture of Huckberry and Taylor Stitch, two brands that know a thing or two about style, and you can absolutely wear these shorts post-sweat. We recommend considering a size up, as they trend on the tighter side, and you can always tie the drawstrings if they feel a bit loose.
BEST FOR SWIMMING: Prana Metric E-Waist Zip
Prana has been on the multi-purpose beat longer than most of the brands represented here have existed, with a range of clothing built for yoga, climbing and the beach. The Metric E-Waist was designed primarily for the water, as a boardshort, but spend a day in ’em and you’ll see how little that designation really matters. They’re constructed from organic cotton and recycled polyester, come pre-washed (the first thing you’ll notice, they’re stupid soft), and are second only to Faherty on this list for best fit. Which is huge when you do jump in the ocean, because these shorts aren’t going anywhere. Extra points awarded too for the speckled design, though if that feels too young, Prana offers a simple blue and red.
BEST FOR LAWN GAMES: Olivers All Over Short
Sunny with a chance of Spikeball? Olivers is your move. The L.A. brand makes stretchy, water-repellent (in your case, sweat-repellent) shorts that’ll allow you to look respectable when you hand your host a bottle of wine, and still get in whatever backyard game inevitably breaks out 25 minutes later. Oh, and, we recommend wearing the drawstrings out of the shorts. They’re color-capped and offer a nice contrast with the primary shade of your shorts. We received two unexpected compliments the first time we wore ours.
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