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The Best Denim Shorts for Summer 2021

I tried over 15 pairs of denim shorts, and today I’ve got my annual denim shorts review and comparison ready to share with you! I will also be sharing non-denim shorts, but the focus of this post is the best denim shorts for summer 2021.

Shorts can be tricky, so I hope this post makes your quest for the best denim shorts this summer a little bit easier.

The Best Denim Shorts for Summer 2021

First, let’s discuss what to look for in a pair of denim shorts. If you missed it, you may want to read my Dos and Don’ts for Wearing Shorts. In that post, we discuss the importance of finding your ideal inseam, and how to find a flattering fit by paying attention to leg opening and rear pocket placement.

Also beware of the cuff. Some women don’t like cuffed shorts because it draws attention to the area of the leg where the cuff sits. I don’t mind because that’s generally a thinner part of my body, but it’s something to keep in mind if you carry weight in your thighs.

Denim short trends this spring-summer season are all over the map. I’m seeing everything from distressed cut-off shorty shorts to tailored Bermuda shorts and everything in between, so wear the styles and fits that look best on you and make you feel your best. And if you don’t like shorts, no worries! Check out my Casual Alternatives to Shorts.

Okay, let’s get started. I tried a bunch of different lengths and styles of denim shorts to give you lots of options.

The Best Denim Shorts for Summer 2021

For size reference, I’m 5’5″ and around 137 pounds, and all of the shorts in this post are a size 6 or 28 unless otherwise noted.

Gap 4” High Rise Button-Fly Denim Shorts

at Gap

  • Fabric: 99% Cotton, 1% Elastane
  • 4″ Inseam; 11″ Rise; 23″ Leg Opening

This pair of cutoff shorts has a modern high rise with button fly. They’re stretchy and comfortable and fit close to the leg. The rear pockets are placed rather far apart, but otherwise, they look good.

I like this medium indigo wash; it’s very versatile. These are clearly a more casual style due to the lighter wash and raw hem, but without the distressing that some people dislike. They run true to size; I have the 28.


Gap 5” Mid Rise Denim Shorts

at Gap

  • Fabric: 99% Cotton, 1% Spandex
  • 5″ Cuffed Inseam; 9 1/2″ Rise; 23″ Leg Opening

These are a good classic pair of cuffed shorts with a slightly darker wash than the ones above. They come cuffed to a 5″ inseam, but they aren’t sewn so you can wear them longer, if you like.

I didn’t realize it, but I actually had them triple-cuffed, so they’re showing shorter in these pictures than they are on the website. They also run true to size; I have the 28.


Caslon Rolled Denim Boyfriend Shorts

at Nordstrom

  • Fabric: 99% Cotton, 1% Elastane
  • 4″ Inseam; 8 1/2″ Front Rise; 23 1/2″ Leg Opening

These shorts are very similar to the Gap pair above, but the cuff is sewn in place so you can’t unroll them unless you cut the stitches. They’re soft and comfortable with a versatile mid-indigo wash. You will definitely want to size down in these, though. I’m wearing the 27, and I almost think I could get away with the 26.


KUT from the Kloth Catherine Boyfriend Shorts in Concept

at KUT from the Kloth // at QVC

 

  • Fabric: 98% Cotton, 2% Spandex
  • 7″ Inseam; 9″ Rise; 20″ Leg Opening

These are a solid choice for medium-length shorts. They fit fairly close to the leg, and they have moderate distressing for a laidback casual vibe. I’ve had this pair for a couple of years, and I wear them when I want a pair of casual denim shorts that are a little more modest than my short shorts. They run true to size; I’m wearing the 6.


Gap 9” High Rise Destructed Denim Bermuda Shorts

at Gap

  • Fabric: 99% Cotton, 1% Spandex
  • 9″ Inseam (8″ with a single cuff); 10 1/2″ Rise; 19″ Leg Opening

I’m pretty impressed with the fit and wash on these longer shorts from Gap. They’re still not quite Bermuda length (10-11″) but they’re long enough to offer plenty of coverage.

The fabric is comfortable and doesn’t bag out with wear. These are new to me this year, but I’m definitely keeping them. They run true to size; I have the 28.


AGOLDE Parker Shorts in Swapmeet

at Shopbop // at Evereve

  • Fabric: 100% cotton
  • 3″ Inseam; 11 1/2″ Front Rise; 24″ Leg Opening

These shorts are not for everyone, but if you love a distressed cut-off short, these are the ones to have this season. I saw them around last year, and I thought they were too short and too distressed for my liking, but this year I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

Whelp! I have to admit it. I’m a fan. These are pretty much the perfect beachy summer shorts, and they’re a lot more comfortable than I expected for 100% cotton shorts. They’re true to size; I have the 28.


KUT From The Kloth Jane Denim Shorts in Instruction

at Evereve

  • Fabric: 99% Cotton, 1% Spandex
  • 3″ Inseam; 10 1/2″ Front Rise; 24″ Leg Opening

If you like the looks of the AGOLDE Parker, but the price tag has you choking on your lunch, try the KUT from the Kloth Jane. These have a similar vibe and almost identical measurements — just a slightly lower rise.

I actually think I like the wash on these a little better than the Parker shorts, and they have a hint of spandex for added comfort. These also run true to size; I have the 6.


Madewell High-Rise Denim Shorts in Watt Wash

at Madewell

  • Fabric: 92% cotton; 6% hemp; 2% elastane
  • 3″ Inseam; 11″ Front Rise; 24″ Leg Opening

These jeans are shown worn full-length on the website, but when they arrived in the mail, they were pressed with a single cuff, so that’s how I photographed them. They would have a 4″ inseam if left un-cuffed.

I like the light wash and the way the high rise and magic pockets hold in all my fluff — they definitely feel different than the Parker shorts, which have similar measurements. These shorts run true to size; I’m wearing the 28.


J.Crew Denim Short in White

at J.Crew

  • Fabric: sotton with stretch (no further info is given)
  • 3″ Cuffed Inseam; 9 1/2″ Front Rise; 24″ Leg Opening

These were probably my most worn white shorts last season, and I’m so glad they brought them back this year. They’re soft and comfortable and on the thinner side for denim, but not see-through.

My only issue is that they don’t stay cuffed. I ironed these before this shoot, and as you can see, they still went a little wonky. I think this year I might just iron them without the cuff and wear them like a 4″ cut-off.

Either way, I do like these shorts, and having the option to wear cuffed or not is nice. They’re TTS; I have the 28.


AGOLDE Parker Cutoff Shorts in Tissue

at Shopbop

  • Fabric: 100% cotton
  • 3″ Inseam; 11″ Front Rise; 24″ Leg Opening

I liked the Parker in Swapmeet so much that I ordered this white pair during the Shopbop sale. I’m not as crazy about this pair, though. They bulge a bit in the zipper area and kind of remind me of a diaper, lol! My return window has closed, however, so I guess I’m keeping them. Maybe with an iron, they will look better. These are also true to size; I have the 28.


Wit & Wisdom Ab-Solution Denim Shorts

at Nordstrom

  • Fabric: 51% cotton, 24% Tencel® lyocell, 22% polyester, 3% spandex
  • 7″ Cuffed Inseam; 9″ Front Rise; 20″ Leg Opening

This is another pair from last year; they’re a really nice option for a mid-length white cuffed short. Since we were dining outdoors so much, I wore these quite a bit. I liked having an option for a more leveled-up dinner out look.

These shorts come in several different lengths, and I’m pretty sure I linked the correct ones. It says they have a 9″ inseam with rolled cuffs, and I think they  measured them without the cuff. I measured mine, and all the other specs are correct (9″ front rise and 20″ leg opening.) If you like the style and fabric and the Ab-Solution waistband, they also have a shorter option and a longer option.


PAIGE Jax Knee Shorts

at Zappos // at Amazon // at Saks

  • 98% Cotton, 2% Spandex
  • 10″ Inseam; 9″ Rise; 18″ Leg Opening

And now for a true Bermuda short, I like these because they fit close to the leg and end an inch or two above the knee. When Bermuda shorts are too wide and/or too long, they read really frumpy, but I feel like these are classy and elevated.

The fabric is comfortable and stretchy, and they are not see-through. The cuff is stitched down, so it stays in place, which is another plus. See how I styled these  shorts three ways in this post.


Joe’s Jeans The Ozzie Jean Shorts in Dusk To Dawn

at Bloomies // at Shopbop

  • Fabric: 98% cotton, 2% spandex
  • 4″ Inseam; 9 1/2″ Front Rise; 23″ Leg Opening

I love this pair for a washed black denim short, and the 4″ inseam is very comfortable. They fit nice and close to the leg, and they have a good bit of stretch for added comfort. See how I wore them HERE.

These shorts are currently on sale at Bloomingdale’s — take 25% off with a Bloomingdale’s Credit Card or take 20% off no matter how you pay.


Gap 4″ High Rise Denim Shorts With Washwell in Washed Black

at Gap

  • Fabric: 99% cotton, 1% spandex
  • 4″ Inseam; 11 1/2″ Front Rise; 24″ Leg Opening

I ordered these to have a lower priced alternative to the Joe’s Ozzie. These have almost identical measurements, just a higher rise and a slightly wider leg opening. They’re also darker and a bit stiffer, but they are a great option for under $50 (currently on sale!)


And that’s a wrap! Of course there are so many more options out there… in fact, I got in a pair from American Eagle after we took these pictures that I want to show you. But hopefully this gives you a place to start! If you have any questions about fit or sizing, I’m happy to answer in the comments.

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photos: Alison Cornell

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24 thoughts on “The Best Denim Shorts for Summer 2021

  1. Wow, so many denim shorts (my favorite summertime attire!). You and Allison must’ve had so much fun taking all these photos! Thank you for styling each pair with the same t-shirt and in the same location, really helps in seeing the differences in the shorts! I love how you dressed up the Paige Jax Knee shorts in white. Stunning! Now, I just need to continue with my self-tanning regime! 🙂

  2. Thank you for SHARING some lOnger OPTIONS. I’ll be pLacing an order today! I feel the best in the 7 & 9”. I’ll leave the 3” or shorter ones for my 18 year daughter And her friends. Have a Great weekend.

  3. This post is just what I needed! I switched my closet over 2 days ago and had a couple of items (shorts in particular) that I knew should have been retired from my wardrobe. I guess when packed away my summer clothes last season with nowhere to go or be seen I hung on to a few things thinking I’d make the choice later. It’s funny how your first instinct should be listened to, I immediately thought why did I keep these.Thanks for all the information on shorts! Hoping to find the perfect white pair.

  4. For me, the Agolde Parker are worth the investment – they are so super flattering! I bought them last year cringing at the price but they are the only jean short I need. They’re perfect. You could also try Everlane, their jean shorts were pretty popular. Great post!!

  5. Even though we have snow here in south central Georgia more than I wear shorts away from our little neighborhood, I want to thank you for doing this post, and compliment you. You standing the same way for each pair of shorts and having Alison take the pictures gives us a true comparison. I have a pair of darker denim W&W Bermuda shorts that are extremely comfortable. For anyone looking for some nice pull on shorts that won’t break the bank, I recommend the Kim Rogers at Belk. They have stretch to them, but don’t stretch out and are comfortable for an extended period of time. I’m a happy camper because it was 45 this morning and the high will be in the 70’s today, with very low humidity. I wish you a beautiful day!

  6. A really great selection of shorts Jo Lynne. Thanks. I especially appreciate you showing the longer 7 inch legs. I’m only 5 4 so everything will be longer on me and if I cuff them it looks better. Have a great day.

  7. Great post. Ordered the Jane shorts from Evereve. Love the look and wash! Excited to get them because I live in denim shorts in the summer.

  8. I agree RE: the Caslon sizing! Initially I ordered one size down as recommended but after keeping them on for an afternoon I ended up exchanging for even another size down.

  9. This is a great post! Thanks for showing both the front and the back views as well as posing the same for the shots. It really helps to compare and contrast. I love the Kut from the Kloth Catherine boyfriend style shorts – in my cart! All of the white shorts are winners too! Now if only the warmer weather would come our way! Its cool here in the 50s.

  10. I’m probably in the minority, but I like the shorter shorts best….not daisy dukes, but 3-5”, Anything longer just looks frumpy on me, probably because I’m shorter, 5’4…I just think the more leg showing the longer and less stumpy legs look.😀

  11. Wow!!!! Great post. Very helpful for sure. Could you please send me the link to the post where you show or tell how to cut off jeans? I want to cut off a pair with a raw hem. I’ve done it before, but forget if I do both legs together or separate. Thanks Jo-Lynne?

      1. Thanks Jo-Lynne. Hope to cut my jeans off soon. They just were at that odd length as I’m only 5’3”. I need them to look more cropped. :).

  12. These are great options and they all look good! I do agree about the white pair that bulge in the front. I just ordered a pair of white denim shorts with the frayed hem from aerie to try! I’m only 5’3 so I don’t care for my shorts too long they cut me off but yet I still want and need by booty coverage 😉.. it can be hard to find the right ones .

  13. Hi Jo-Lynne, what is that nice grey t shirt you are wearing with all these shorts? Is it the same one in all these pics? It’s very nice!

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