Whether you’re headed to a beer garden or a casual wedding, the best shorts for hot weather are made with breathable fabric in a looser fit. Some have performance tech, others are built for lounging, but they’ll all work hard to keep you comfy when the mercury’s rising.
Some of the best materials for hot, humid weather include natural fibers and moisture-wicking synthetic blends. It’s smart to have a few different pairs so you’re totally covered no matter the activity. Here’s a breakdown of how they stack up:
- Cotton: Soft, strong, breathable, and cheap, cotton can be woven into iconic denim, rugged canvas, or crisp twill. Another seasonal fabric that feels casual yet polished is seersucker, which is actually made from cotton, but has a subtle texture very much in line with linen’s ease.
- Linen: The king of warm-weather fabrics, linen is cool and lightweight yet surprisingly strong. It’s famous for its tendency to wrinkle, which may be a feature or a bug depending on your aesthetic.
- Bamboo: Softer than cotton yet just as breathable and even moisture-wicking, bamboo-based fabrics will keep you cool, dry, and ridiculously comfortable. It’s clutch for loungewear and sleep shorts since the fabric is so light and thin.
- Performance fabrics: Made from polyester and nylon, they’ll offer serious sweat-wicking and sometimes even sun protection. Of course, if your workout has specific needs — like cycling — you’ll want a dedicated pair for that, but an all-purpose gym short for hot weather is going to see a lot of use.
As for the cut, shorts marketed with a “classic” fit are going to have just enough airy ease without the risk of feeling like cling wrap around your legs. Most pairs hit the knee, but for those who prefer a shorter inseam, there's an option here that is practically made for heat waves. For your convenience, all inseam lengths are listed below.
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1. The linen pair
- Inseam: 9 inch
Tap into Italian menswear’s sprezzatura with these sharp, tailored shorts that look nonchalantly lived in, with slash pockets and welt buttons. There's not a belt loop in sight for a clean, relaxed finish. Linen blended with budget-friendly rayon yields a lightweight fabric that actually keeps you cool, and the spacious straight leg on this pair is always ready to stretch out. "They don't look like comfort-wear but are the most comfortable shorts I've ever owned," an Amazon reviewer noted. "Nice for a variety of activities." If your vacation mode is more California than Capri, the brand also offers a casual drawstring linen beach short.
- Available colors: 5
- Available sizes: X-Small — XX-Large
2. The dressy pair
- Inseam: 9.5 inch
For a versatile pair of chinos, Dockers Perfect Shorts are a practical option for warm-weather events. The 100% cotton twill features trouser-like details like buttoned welt pockets. And the dedicated smartphone pocket might be the century’s most brilliant life hack yet: It's tucked discreetly to one side for drop-in storage that's easily accessed. "Great pair of shorts," one reviewer commented. "The fit is perfect. The length is just right, riding just above the kneecaps. The pockets are deep and will hold large phones." Still not sold? More than 600 Amazon reviewers described these shorts as "perfect," so they really do live up to their name.
- Available colors: 9
- Available sizes: 28 — 44
3. The short pair
- Inseam: 5 inch
For those who want as little fabric as possible touching their body, these short shorts are abbreviated yet plenty wearable with their 5-inch inseam. They're sturdy enough for a few outdoor adventures in a breathable cotton blend, but the crisp chino detailing cleans up nice for the afterparty. (They do require ironing to look their best, according to some reviewers.) "These shorts are amazing, very light and perfectly suited for hot weather," one fan reported. "I don't know how I ever survived the heat before discovering these shorty shorts. I'll never wear long/cargo type shorts ever again."
- Available colors: 18
- Available sizes: 28 — 42
4. The denim pair
- Inseam: 10 inch
Levi’s 505 shorts are a warm-weather version of America’s most iconic denim. Their straight leg is cut with just a bit of extra room, so there’s no need to seek out a looser short, but you don’t have to worry about them looking baggy. The utilitarian, 100% cotton denim is hardy enough to withstand an afternoon outside, yet classically casual when you want to grab dinner. Translation: you'll wear them just as often as your go-to full-length pair.
"The fabric, stitching, appearance and durability of my jeans, both full length and shorts, continue to meet the high standards I have for Levis products," one buyer confirmed. "These shorts fit me as expected, and look and feel great." If you're looking for just a hint of stretch in your shorts, also consider the 405's in the same listing, which feature 1% elastane in the cotton blend.
- Available colors: 7
- Available sizes: 29 — 44 (short, regular)
5. The athletic pair
- Inseam: 7 inch
These running shorts have an all-purpose build you can wear comfortably through a range of workouts in lightweight synthetic materials that wick away sweat. Mesh panels on each leg create extra airflow to cool you down, and the built-in briefs underneath allow a full range of motion while providing support. This pair includes two basic pockets plus a zippered stash in the back, and an adjustable drawstring inside the elastic waist. "I was initially concerned that the inseam would be too long (I'm a runner, and tend to like slightly shorter inseams to allow freedom of movement), but the material is so lightweight that I barely notice it," a fan remarked. "The back pocket is not quite big enough to comfortably carry my phone (Galaxy S4), but it works great for carrying keys, some cash, or some energy bar pouches."
If you are looking for a shorter inseam, consider this popular 3-inch pair, also with built-in briefs.
- Available colors: 16
- Available sizes: Small — 3X-Large
6. The hard-working pair
- Inseam: 8 inch
Ruggedly breathable in cotton canvas, Wrangler’s cargo shorts have six low-profile pockets that hold what you need without adding bulk, which lets you wear them on or off the job a little more flexibly. Velcro closures on the pockets keep everything you're carrying secure yet easy to access. There’s a bit of elastic hidden in the waistband, too, for a comfortable fit.
"Perfect for daily casual wear or outdoor work," a reviewer praised. "These are well-stitched and seem to be really solid quality... 5 stars for being good quality, comfortable, fitting well, looking great on and for being a good value."
If you want something even more indestructible, Wrangler’s Riggs Workwear carpenter shorts are made with treated heavyweight denim and offer utility loops for whatever you need to keep handy.
- Available colors: 6
- Available sizes: 30 — 54
7. The UPF 50 pair
- Inseam: 12 inch
Whether you’re exploring off-grid trails or city streets abroad, Columbia’s Silver Ridge shorts pack a classic look with extra features that are ready for anything. The nylon fabric is moisture-wicking to help you stay cool and dry, with UPF 50 sun protection. An elastic waistband and crotch gusset offer the move-with-you flexibility for extreme adventures, with plenty of secure pockets all lined in mesh so everything you’re carrying stays with you when the action picks up.
"With 95+ degree days, the shorts were perfect. My travel party was literally dripping after our run to catch a train and the pants dry in a light breeze almost immediately," one fan reported after a test drive through Europe. "Washing them in the sink was easy; wash in the evening, dry by morning. It was also very nice to have the more secure zippered pocket for wallet, phone, etc."
- Available colors: 14
- Available sizes: 30 — 54 (regular, big and tall)
8. The lounge pair
- Inseam: 9 inch
Not only are these sleep shorts absurdly soft, but they also keep you cool on sweltering nights. The bamboo-based fabric feels like butter going on and has all the breathable benefits of cotton, with a little sweat-wicking mixed in. There's an elastic waistband with a backup drawstring for an easy fit, plus two deep pockets on the side. "These deliver," a reviewer wrote. "Lightweight and breathable, and somehow always cool. Can't go back to other pajamas anymore."
Some reviewers were comfortable wearing them to the gym or for travel, and you might find yourself coming up with your own excuses to wear them off the couch as well.
- Available colors: 4
- Available sizes: Small — XX-Large
9. The seersucker pair
- Inseam: 11 inch
Lean into the season with this pair of seersucker shorts, which has subtle stripes that go with everything. The cotton blend has a vintage look with a smidge of stretch for ease, while the polished look can transition fine to a rooftop bar. "Light, breathable, and durable," a reviewer commented. "Good room in the butt for comfort. Great for sitting, biking, and walking. The short is lightweight, just right for the hot summer weather here in South Carolina."
- Available colors: 6
- Available sizes: 28 — 42