The 90s were a wonderful time for a lot of things: the US economy, legendary sitcoms, steroid-fuelled home run records.
But you know what went through a real rough patch in the 90s? Menswear.
From Jerry Seinfeld’s billowing shirts to Matthew Perry’s billowing hair, it’s kind of like men just decided “You know what, we’re really sorry, but we’re taking a decade off. See ya in 2001 when Ocean’s 11 comes out.”
And nowhere was menswear’s “[email protected]¢k-it” attitude more apparent than in shorts. You can blame the last bow of the 20th century for the rise of the baggy, ill-fitting and often extraneously pocketed “shorts” that unfortunately still adorn the quads and (sigh) shins of some men today.
Fortunately, the world of menswear finally regained its footing in the 21st century, and outlawed the board short, swinging back toward slimmer-fitting, knee-exposing, stylish shorts—much to the delight of our calves.
In this post I’ll outline what I look for in a good pair of shorts, and explain why Banana Republic’s flagship short is one of the best bets for your buck (at least in my humble opinion).
Banana Republic has changed up their branding a little bit.
For years, they had both a line of chinos and a line of shorts they called Aiden. Currently, they still have Aiden chinos, but no longer brand any of their shorts as Aidens.
They still sell the shorts, which are the ones reviewed and referred to below, they just don’t use that name anymore
To make things a little bit more confusing, it looks like they do use the name Aiden to refer to the shorts they sell at their discounted Banana Republic Factory stores.
I have less firsthand experience with shorts from BR Factory, but based on my experience with other clothes from the Factory line, most of what’s written below likely applies to BR Factory shorts as well.
OK, with that clarification out of the way, let’s take a look at how stylish shorts should fit, and what makes Banana Republic’s work so well.
Banana Republic Short Review
Everything you need to know about BR’s flagship shorts
First Up: How Your Shorts Should Fit
Slim and Trim
Generally speaking, your shorts should follow most of the same rules as your pants: you want them to be slim and follow the sweep of your quads pretty closely down to the bottom, leaving only about an inch or so of room between your skin and the shorts.
By contrast, the baggy shorts of the 90s tended to cut a silhouette that looked more like a skirt than a shortened pair of pants. Cinched at the waist, they flowed out almost horizontally, meaning that when the wind picked up your legs looked like a schooner setting sail (never a great look).
Just look at that picture in the introduction above. That guy could practically fit two of his legs in each leg of those shorts. Why would he want to do that? I don’t know. But then I also don’t know why he’d want to wear those shorts to begin with…
Hit Just Above the Knee
Not only were the shorts of the 90s too wide, but they were also way too long. You want your shorts to hit just above the knee when you’re standing up straight.
Any longer and you’ll quickly venture into the perilous territory of capri pants; any shorter and you’ll look like Richard Simmons in an early 80s aerobics class.
Got Cargo? Call Fed Ex
And finally we come to one of the least necessary trends in menswear’s history: the proliferation of pockets.
Sure, cell phones came into popularity in the 90s after overcoming the Zack Morris largesse of the 80s. But other than that, did men really have more to carry than they did in the 60s, 70s or 80s? And even if they did, why would they think their thighs were the appropriate place to carry it??
Guys, I can’t stress this enough: if you were meant to transport cargo with your body, you’d have a pouch, like a kangaroo. But you don’t (I hope?), and you shouldn’t try to force the issue by slapping a giant pocket on your shorts.
Skip the cargo shorts (and cargo pants, for that matter) in favor of a traditional five-pocket pair. If you have a lot to carry, you can grab a pretty stylish shoulder bag on Amazon for less than 150 bucks.
Why Banana Republic’s Aiden Shorts Work So Well
(Sorry, sorry, the shorts formerly known as Aidens)
With that explanation of what to look for (along with an admittedly slightly long-winded explanation of what not to look for) out of the way, let’s break down what makes Banana Republic’s shorts such a great option.
The Perfect Cut
I oscillate between a size 32 and size 34 depending on the brand, fit, cut, etc.
In these shorts I opted for a 32 and found them almost perfect. They were a little tight at first, but I figured they’d stretch a little over time, and that’s exactly what happened. Now I can wear them with or without a belt, with zero fear that they’ll slide down.
The first thing I noticed when I tried on the shorts was how closely they matched my aforementioned conception of the ideal short. When I first pulled them off the rack they looked a little too wide, but once I tried them on that worry evaporated – they perfectly wrapped around my thighs and cut just the right silhouette.
At 5’9″ with a 30″ inseam, I also found the size 32 waist offered the perfect length. Mine hit just above the knee, pretty much exactly like the model they show on their website. (Although my legs are admittedly much, much hairier.)
As with many BR products, their shorts comes in a wide variety of colors. Personally I own them in a classic khaki color, an off white and a blue. All three fit the same and it’s nice to know I’ve got a go-to pair that I can wear with literally any polo or button-down shirt.
In addition to a variety of colors, you can also get the Aiden in multiple fabrics. They offer seersucker (great for especially hot climates), cotton (all three that I have fall into this category), and “luxe stretch” options.
The Right Price
(And Frequent Sales)
If you go to a major department store, you could easily spend 100 bucks on a designer pair of shorts this stylish. But BR’s always been good at offering affordable, but still well made and stylish options.
BR’s shorts start at about 60 bucks, but frequently go on sale, making them available for between 30 and 40 bucks, depending on which model you look at. Considering that I’ve had the same pair for three summers now and don’t see any signs of wear and tear, I’d say it was 30 bucks very well spent.
Summing it All Up
This summer, skip the skirt-like board shorts and opt for a slimmer, more stylish option. Check out Banana Republic’s website or head there in person to pick up a pair of shorts (on sale, if you play your cards right) and enjoy the summer in style.
Now that you know how to rock a pair of shorts the right way, don’t forget that your shorts are just one piece of your summer get-up. Even if they fit perfectly, if you’re not nailing the rest of the details, you’re not going to look your best.
To find out how you can step up the rest of your warm-weather look, check out this post to learn how to go sockless this summer. And to find out which details will keep you looking your best year round, check out my email series below.
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Irreverent Gent founder Dave Bowden is a men’s style specialist, an Amazon bestselling author, an unrepentant introvert, a (patient, if long-suffering) Toronto sports fan and the husband of a wonderful (and fortunately much more patient) wife.