When a guy shops for shorts, I imagine their thought process goes something like this: “I don’t want to look like I’m in Limp Bizkit in 11-inch- or 9-inch-inseam shorts, but I also don’t want to feel self-conscious about how much leg I’m exposing in the 5-inch option, so I’m going to choose the logical in-between and purchase the 7-inch choice, instead.”
However, the teenage girls and young women of TikTok want you to know that you’re wrong. There is one appropriate short-length option, and it’s 5 inches. Fine, 5.5-inch shorts are good, too.
While 5-inch inseams aren’t new, they’ve often been avoided, and this new wave of vigorous encouragement from women is evidence of that previous hesitancy. Perhaps they were seen as uncomfortably revealing, feminine or even signifying that the wearer is gay. On the latter count, it’s only natural progression that short shorts would become popular among straight men — like crop tops last year, mainstream men’s fashion continuously pulls upon trends that have been staples in queer fashion for years. Meanwhile, tiny shorts seem all the more appropriate for our current “himbo” moment.
In 2019, writer Ralph Jones wrote a defense of short shorts for luxury menswear site Mr. Porter’s blog The Journal. “After I bought my latest skimpy pair — XS — I slipped them on, stood in front of my wife and asked her what she thought. ‘They remind me of Pierce Brosnan in Mrs. Doubtfire,’ she said. ‘He wears trunks like that and he’s a bellend.’”
In reality, neither Brosnan’s shorts nor the typical 5-inch pair is all that short, particularly considering Brosnan’s are actually swim trunks. Nevertheless, the inseam is small enough to constitute a bold fashion choice. Daniel Bennett, a 24-year-old account executive at ad agency TBWA Chiat Day, went viral on TikTok early this week with his video contribution to “5-inch inseam TikTok.” In it, he depicts a scene where a man is shopping for 5-inch shorts but is afraid people will hear him asking the store employee for assistance finding them. The video currently has more than 200,000 views.
“If you’re looking at it from a social perspective, it’s probably because the majority of the people in the Hype House are the leaders of the styles that transcend down to people on TikTok,” Bennett speculates of the trend. “If someone in the Hype House is wearing short shorts and showing upper thigh, people want to replicate that.”
“I normally wear 7-inch-inseam shorts,” says Bennett. “I’ve never been a huge short-shorts guy, but I might go pick up a 5-inch pair just to try them on for the sake of it. But my current preference is 7-inch.”
I polled my Instagram followers to see what their usual short inseam length preference was, and an unfortunate 78 percent said they prefer to wear 7-inch inseams or longer. “This poll is homophobic,” Jacob Wentz, a recent grad of New College of Florida told me. “My legs are one of my best assets. I’m not gonna hide them with extended cargo shorts. Seven-inch shorts are fine, but anything more and it’s like you want the world to know you have no sense of style.”
Nevertheless, Bennett speculates that guys like him might not be quick to pick up on the short-shorts trend. “At this point, maybe I’ll wear 5-inch-inseam shorts, but I don’t see it becoming a trend for 24-year-olds and over, I see it becoming a trend for kids in high school and maybe the first three years of college,” he says.
As for myself, a fellow 24-year-old, I agree with the younger women of TikTok: Five-inch shorts look hot. “Five inches is the right answer. I wanna see some thicc juicy man thigh,” says Amanda Reed, a comedian and writer in Pittsburgh.
Thicc or skinny, I’ve personally never seen a man thigh I found unattractive. Yet, it may still be a source of insecurity for many. That seems to be the precise point of “5-inch inseam” TikTok, though — lots of guys feel unsure about wearing short shorts, afraid to show off too much of their legs, but they shouldn’t. And perhaps with some gentle (or aggressive) encouragement, they’ll finally realize that.