I refuse to be bullied by the warmer months this year. As of today, I denounce sweating on trains in too many layers in May, getting a rash from non-stretch jeans in June, and caving to cut-offs in July only to feel like a turtle without her shell. I hereby ban myself from talk of fall until I’m far enough into September that January is a distant memory and I’m in the mood to sharpen a pencil.
I will find my summer self this year if it kills me. I will sit in a park with a 10-gallon bucket of berries and think, This is who I am. And, apologies to my pants people, but: I will do so in a pair of shorts. I must. The regulation of my body temperature demands it.
Last year, I thought I solved my summer style grudge with a pair of high-waist corduroy gym shorts. And although I wore them all season, they failed to transform me into the summer mermaid I intend to be this year lest I move back to California. I now realize that their issue was a failure to integrate with the rest of my wardrobe, preventing them from reaching warm-weather staple status. So this year, I’m looking to my tried-and-true stuff for inspiration instead. Which means I’m temporarily shelving my (so-far fruitless) attempts to look boyish in a dress and getting desert-level thirsty for utility shorts.
Utility shorts are chinos at summer camp, bless their crispy little hearts. They’re structured, high-waist, a little A-line, and usually rendered in earth tones. Add a Teva and you’re a camp counselor. Add a blouse and get a cocktail. Versatility. This is what we’re after here! But good utility shorts are notoriously hard to find, which is why, on behalf of cut-off haters everywhere, I embarked on a journey to find the best ones.
1. The Ones With the Perfect Seaming
These Derek Lam 10 Crosby shorts are a damn dream. Ringing in at $295, they are not at all cheap, but if they are good enough to change your attitude for a length of two seasons, does that make them as valuable as a good winter coat? TBD, will let you know in September. They are thicker than triple-thick bacon, stiffer than your dad’s khakis (don’t be gross), and designed by someone who knows how much you hate shorts. They’re soft but structured and perfectly A-line. Putting them on will make you feel strapped the hell in and ready to buy farm-fresh produce.
Consider these if: You have a little money to spend and are willing to put all of it into a single pair of shorts that check every single box.
2. The Ones With the Subtle Paperbag Waist
I saw these Ba&sh shorts hanging by their lonesome while I was attending an event at the Soho store and immediately said “pardon me” to everyone within earshot. I impulse-bought them the next day. They are a little thinner than the Crosby pair, which makes them feel fancier, and they hit many of the same hard-to-hit markers. They also have delightfully big pockets (a utility shorts calling card) and an elastic waist that paper-bags if you tuck, but doesn’t make a big deal about it if you don’t.
Consider these if: You’re ready to invest in some shorts that will take you from errands to dinner.
3. The Ones That Hit Mid-Thigh
These Citizens of Humanity babies, rendered in a soft, black denim, are the longest of the bunch. They are very thoughtfully designed, with little pleats and big pockets, and their dressed-up cut is a nice counterbalance to their broken in, washed-out feel. They are super comfortable, but could be an uptown girl just as easily as a downtown girl.
Consider these if: You want utility shorts with some length.
4. The Ones With the Perfect Pockets
How precious are these Uniqlo shorts? The cut, color and material are all very causal, making them the perfect shorts to throw on for a lazy Saturday morning then accidentally not take off until Sunday night. They’re also satisfyingly voluminous compared to most lounge shorts I’ve tried, and have big-ass pockets, meaning they can transition from lounging to lunch without too much trouble.
Consider these if: You want weekend shorts you can afford to buy in multiple colors.
5. The Ones That Feel Like Part of a Uniform
These Urban Outfitters shorts blood-curdling scream camp counselor to me, in a good way, which is why I challenged them to make friends with this puff-sleeved blouse while remaining true to themselves, courtesy of the Tevas. I think they did pretty well. These shorts are a little snugger than the rest, and less A-line. But they make up for that in general crispness. With their button strap and neat seaming, they feel simple enough to work in myriad indoor and outdoor situations.
Consider these if: You don’t loathe shorts, but want a nicer alternative to denim cut-offs.
And there we have it, a baby motorcycle gang of spring- and summer-ready utility shorts. Let me know which you’re into — or if you’ve solved this pickle without me, do share!
Photos by Edith Young.