There are a lot of men's activewear options and it can be overwhelming to even begin to research new gear.
With an onslaught of social media ads thrown at us each time we open our phone, it's difficult to know what is quality gear vs generic wholesale items with a logo thrown on them.
We've made a list of things to consider when buying shorts to fit your lifestyle.
The toughest one to get right, especially when buying online.
Do you prefer longer shorts? Shorter shorts above the knee? Ones that land mid-thigh?
What type of exercises are you doing? Are you a casual fitness-doer, runner, weightlifter, or yogi? This will change what type of shorts you should look for.
It's important to consider your activities.
Casual fitness-er? There's a trend in shorts now to sit just above the knee at about 9" inseam.
Runners? Tend to get shorts between 5-7" inseam providing coverage but enough room for comfort and flow during long runs. Loose flowing with enough space for the legs to move freely.
CrossFitters or weightlifters? Seek shorts durable enough to withstand barbell rub, chalk, light enough to withstand the toughest hero WOD, and of course, they have to shape the glutes and show off those quads.
Yogis? Also 5-7" inseam, typically with a side slit on the outside of the legs to allow the shorts to flow freely during different postures and lay-flat waistband that doesn't cause unwanted pressure during particular movements.
Gone are the days of baggy gym shorts flopping around everywhere. We can all picture it... phone in pocket, flopping all over the place uncontrollably, getting dangerously close to hitting precious cargo.
We've found the most popular shorts are more form-fitting than baggy, but not too tight. You don't want shorts getting stuck on your thighs during squats or a run, but you can't have them looking like 1800s baseball pants.
When buying online:
Look for companies that show multiple models with different body types on their site, have size comparisons to commonly known brands, and most importantly, have a generous exchange policy.
You should feel 100% confident investing in an online brand to provide you with a great experience and product that fits your body.
To liner or not to liner?
After tons of research, we have the answer... it's totally up to the preference of the individual. It's such a split decision and very much a love-hate relationship.
Some guys love liners and will never wear shorts that don't have them and some feel liners are the worst thing since nighttime retainers.
Look for liners that are light, don't smush the goods, don't ride up too much, don't chafe, but also don't pull your waistband down. We believe liners should act like your favorite boxer briefs and keep everything where it needs to be while staying breathable.
This allows for a great fit without feeling like a sauna down below.
For workouts and strenuous activity, you'll want to find a more technical fabric like poly, poly blends, or a nylon blend. These will last longer, keep the integrity of the fabric, stay light & breathable during activity, and will be easier to wash out any gunk that may accumulate during all that hard work you're putting in.
Fabric technology has come a long way. They come with all kinds of treatments/additives (think water repellent, anti-static, anti-smell, etc) and a lot of these will come standard now.
The hand feel of fabric is a huge thing (the biggest thing for me). Hand feel is a term used in apparel to describe to obvious - how the fabric feels on your hand. Is it soft? Rigid? Does it flow, stay stiff, keep shape?
For active shorts, you'll typically want something that feels soft on the hand, flows with your body (and almost feels like it's one with your body), yet keeps its shape.
Poly blends that include about 80-90% poly with some stretchy material like elastane are some great combos to look for. Nylon shorts typically have a bit more rigidity and may be better suited for a hybrid-style short.
You can tell a lot from the weight of the fabric, too. GSM means grams per square meter. A lightweight pair of running shorts will have material around 110GSM and more rugged, thicker shorts will be around 180-220GSM.
140-170GSM is a nice range for weight for general athletic shorts. It provides some more grit to the fabric (if you are doing things like cleans, burpees, or kettlebell work - anything that rubs and tugs on the shorts during use), but is light enough to dry quickly and not feel like you're wearing cargo shorts.
Look for shorts that are purpose-built. By that, we mean designed with an activity in mind, not just a simple design with a logo thrown on.
For weightlifting, make sure the stitching is quality and that the fabric won't pill or tear when repeatedly rubbed against. For running, there should be a secure pocket for phones/valuables that doesn't bounce and is in a location that doesn't impede natural movement (think along the outside of the leg by the head of the femur). They should be light enough to dry quickly and there definitely shouldn't be any chaffing.
Double-check product reviews to see if people make specific comments about good or not-so-good durability. Any issues with material/stitching/trim breaking down?
4. Functional features
The waistband is a critical piece we examine on all shorts. When you get moving and working out, do the shorts stay up on their own? Do they require the drawcord to be tied tight just so you don't moon the neighbors?
We're a bit maniacal about pockets, too. How big are the pockets? When you put your phone in your pocket, does it get lost in the abyss? Does it turn sideways and awkwardly bounce around on your leg when you walk? Does it pop out of the bottom of your shorts all the time?
- Look for shorts with a well-designated, secured pocket for valuables. Runners’ shorts commonly have this pocket horizontally set above the tailbone and below the waistband. Often, you'll find an 'envelope pocket' in one of the front leg pockets to stash some keys in for the run.
- You'll also see pocket sleeves in the liner on the outside of the leg. You'll have to lift up your shorts each time to get your phone out (awkward) and most of the time these liners are made from ultra-stretchy material (for comfort), so if you do any rigorous activity, your phone will be bouncing around often causing the liner and shorts to be pulled down. Annoying to have to adjust those babies up all the time.
- Our favorite it the tight zipper pocket on the upper leg, set right along the femur. This provides a secure stash for your phone to keep in place during runs or jumping around, but since it's aligned with your femur it moves naturally with your body. Lunges, squats, and stairs = no problem.
- It's also out of the way when you sit down and unlike similar pockets that are located on the thigh, you won't get poked in your hip by your phone.
The liner dilemma. We touched on this above, but your liner should be unnoticeable. It should keep all the goods in place, while not riding up or causing any chafe. 'Flatlock' stitching is something commonly used in undergarments to provide a frictionless feel and design - this is super important for a liner.
Avoid the gimmicky liner phone pockets (though they look pretty cool on Instagram ads) and opt for one designed to keep things cool, in place, and comfortable.
Sustainability is a hot topic and a broad term often thrown around by companies for marketing gimmicks that tend to eco-wash, but we won't dive into that... we can save that for another article.
The apparel industry is typically a gross contributor to environmental pollutants, so we believe it's important to consider sustainable options whenever possible.
Fabric technology has come a long way in the last 5-10 years and quality fiber from recycled plastic is indistinguishable from its virgin counterpart.
But when it comes to researching shorts to purchase, look for companies that use recycled/up-cycled materials and have certifications like Standard 100 by OEKO TEX. This is one of the world's best-known labels for textiles tested for harmful substances.
Does the brand explain its commitment to sustainability on its website? More importantly, do they detail what steps and measures they take to do so vs. just saying they do?
Look for companies that use eco-packaging (compostable, reusable, recyclable, recycled), minimize their carbon footprint through offsetting practices, donate to non-profits that support environmental growth initiatives, and are as transparent as possible with their manufacturing process.
It takes a bit more time to find the right gear made the right way, but we feel the time investment is it's worth every second.
Making custom-developed gear with sustainable material takes a long time and costs more than the alternative, but it helps contribute to happier customers and a better planet.
Opt for gear that is made with purpose and is designed for those that value quality first.