Types of Shorts - Styles, Materials, and More!

person wearing lime green athletic shorts

No matter where you go, you'll see someone wearing shorts.

Shorts are an incredibly popular garment in our culture. There are so many different shorts out there. Each variety is made unique by its style, cut, length, function, material, and so much more. While it isn't possible to go over all of the types of shorts here, let's touch on a few key styles and what makes them so prominent.


Athletic Shorts

Athletic shorts are mainly designed for workout wear. While there are specific shorts made for particular activities, all athletic shorts should provide a range of motion, comfort, and moisture regulation.

The best athletic shorts feature moisture-wicking fabric. This fabric is usually a blend of different synthetic materials. Polyester, nylon, and Spandex are some common examples.

Biker Shorts

A hallmark of 80s fashion, biker shorts are as fashionable as they are practical.

Biker shorts are usually form-fitted and compressing. These shorts should be long enough to gerund your skin from the seat of the bike.

Biker shorts comprise several sections called panels. As a general rule, the more panels, the better. Many bike shorts also have lining and padding as two extra layers of support and protection — but that’s mainly for people who are cycling long distances.

Some comfort-focused biker shorts even have side pockets in the panel (plus a zipper pocket). With athleisure-style biker shorts, you can bike to brunch, look incredibly fashionable, and relax for the rest of the day — a win/win.

It's up to you what kind of bike shorts you want to wear.

Running Shorts

A high-quality pair of running shorts are typically made of the lightest material possible.

Running shorts provide protection from weather and other natural hazards. With durable and lightweight materials, these shorts protect off-road runners from the elements.

Ideally, running shorts will be lined on the inside to prevent a need for underwear. In addition, shorts for running should feel lightweight and allow for easy movement and a full range of motion.


Many consider athletic joggers to be pants. In fact, as long as they're cut above the ankle, joggers can be shorts. A well-made Capri jogger will be loose — but secure enough not to fall down during activities like running or playing sports.

Unlike many other types of athletic shorts, a jogger isn't necessarily made from synthetic fabrics. Cotton, merino wool, and French terry fabric joggers are some of the most popular styles in today's athleisure market. Joggers can, of course, be made of synthetics or moisture-wicking materials, but that's not always the case.


Undergarment Shorts

Undergarment shorts are really just underwear with legs.

These shorts are usually designed with comfort in mind and are made of soft materials like cotton, TENCEL™ Modal, nylon, polyester, and Spandex. The two most important factors to look for when choosing fabric for undergarments are softness and breathability.

Boy Shorts

Boy shorts are a type of underwear that offers more coverage than your typical pair of briefs.

These shorts are usually cut above the hips and end at the upper thigh. They fit as snugly and, therefore, tend to fit well under activewear.

Boy shorts are the go-to for folks who want an alternative to their brief collection. While boy shorts are typically cut fairly high up on the thigh, they can also be cut lower and at varying lengths.

When deciding what length to get your boy shorts, think about your needs and reasons for purchasing a pair. Many people enjoy fun patterns and colors on their boy shorts, as this garment tends to have a playful appearance.

Boxer Shorts

Boxer underwear got its name from the boxing attire of the 1930s. Now, almost a century later, the name remains the same!

Boxers are characterized as baggy and loose-fitting. They tend to be longer than most other underwear and are made of thinner and lighter fabric. In addition, boxers facilitate easy movement and tend to be extra breathable.


Trunks share many things in common with boxers, but they also have similarities to boy shorts.

Trunks tend to be a bit more fitted than boxers. In addition, trunks are generally cut shorter than boxers. At the same time, boxers are longer and looser than boy shorts.


Adventure Shorts

When we talk about adventure shorts, we're talking about shorts that are durable and safe to wear out in nature. From hiking to rock climbing, these shorts can keep you comfortable out in the elements.

Cargo Shorts

Cargo shorts are all about those pockets. Who doesn't love pockets?

Though relatively plain, these shorts are classically cute and ultra-functional.

Tough enough to guard against those nasty scrapes and bruises and versatile enough to carry around your everyday essentials, cargo shorts are a wardrobe essential.

Hiking Shorts

Hiking shorts should be lightweight, durable, and fast drying. The best hiking shorts allow a wide range of movement and help you stay cool. They should offer some protection from sharp foliage and stray insects. And if you get wet after crossing the occasional creek or two, the hiking shorts should dry off quickly.

Honorable Mention: Capri Pants

Capris are shorts that go a few inches past the knee — they’re the happy medium between shorts and pants.

These pants can come in lots of styles and fabrics, from leggings to sweats to jeans. Capris can help you create a classy summer look that you can still take on that nature hike.


Swim Shorts

Swim shorts are exactly what they sound like — shorts made for swimming or other aquatic activities.

Since swim shorts are designed with function in mind more than form, they tend to be durable and better suited to sports. However, these shorts still look fashionable on anyone.

Swim Trunks

Swim trunks are lightweight swim shorts that usually fall above the knee. They are often made of nylon and have a mesh lining on the inside. Like all swimwear, they're fast-drying.

Board Shorts

Board shorts are a form of outerwear designed for surfing. Some people prefer to wear them over a tighter-fitting swimsuit. For example, our Swim 7" Board Short in Island Shade is UV-protecting, has multiple pockets, and is OEKO-TEX Certified for a fit you can count on.

While board shorts were initially made for surfing, as the name suggests, they're also perfect for swimming, water sports, and other seaside and nature activities. You can even wear them out and about as a fashion statement — just saying.

Swim Shorts

Swim shorts are a shorter type of swimsuit than board shorts or trunks. An ideal pair of swim shorts are durable, moisture-wicking, super soft, and as cheerful as a rainbow — the Swim Shorts in Black Rainbow.

The shorter length of these shorts makes for minimal resistance when moving through the water. They're ideal for all those folks who are looking to beat their personal best in the lap pool or chill and read in a lounge chair.


Casual Shorts

Casual shorts — doesn't that have a nice ring? It sounds like lazy summers, lemonade, and sunglasses. In this case, we're referring to any shorts that you could wear for just about any occasion. However, these shorts aren't designed for intense physical activity.

Bermuda Shorts

This style is a classic.

Bermuda shorts fall just above the knee, often have a rolled hem, and are made of cotton. They're also called walking shorts, thanks to their easy, breezy feel. When styling Bermuda shorts, keep it classy and casual — these pair remarkably well with an untucked button-down and a nicer pair of sandals.

Paper Bag Shorts

These are a more recent addition to the world of casual shorts but an influential one nonetheless. These shorts are usually made in an A-line cut with a fastening belt at the waistline.

When the belt is tightened, it creates pleats. The pleats make the shorts look a little like a paper bag — hence the name.

Baggy Shorts

You know those ratty old shorts that are way too big for you, have moth holes, and are too covered in your dog's hair to ever get all of it out? These are the shorts you refuse to throw away when there's nothing better than sitting on the couch all day.

Those are your baggy shorts. They might be a bit oversized, and they aren't something you'd want to wear out on the town, but they still have a special place in your wardrobe — and your heart.

Baggy shorts have made a comeback in the world of fashion thanks to the rise of the Y2K revival trend, and we're happy to see them back. If you're feeling bold enough to add them to your next OOTD, we fully support you.


Some Love for Shorts

All in all, shorts of all styles are wardrobe staples. What's not to love about them?

We talked about shorts made from cotton, nylon, polyester, and mesh. We talked about shorts made of synthetics and natural fibers. We talked about loose shorts and fitted ones as well, covering just about every style under the sun.

If you love shorts too, there's bound to be something on this list that sparked your interest. If so, make sure to check out our collection of active bottoms for our take on some of the best-selling styles on this list.


30 fun ways to get 30 minutes of physical activity today | Queensland Health

The Benefits of Trail Running | TM Parks Foundation

12 Benefits of Swimming: Weight Loss, Health, and More | Healthline

The Brief History of the Bike Shorts | nss magazine