The 20 Best Denim Shorts of 2021 for Grown-Ups

Is there an outfit they don't work with?

denim shorts
Edward BerthelotGetty Images

Like a breezy dress or comfortable sandals, denim shorts are a summer essential. We're not (just) talking about Daisy Dukes, also known as the booty-skimming jean shorts you wore for every summer activity in the mid-'00s. Today's jean shorts are all grown up, and—yes—can even be worn to work, if you know how to style them. (Though if you're looking for itty-bitty options to throw into your carry-on for a day at the beach, those styles have only got better with time, too.) In short (get it?), there are no downsides to them: You can denim shorts dress up or down, and they seem to get comfier with each and every wear.

Still, as with jeans, there are a lot of options available. Some are super-short and flirty, some hit mid-thigh for a work-appropriate look, and others range from mom jeans-esque to distressed black denim. You can pick from low-rise or high-waisted styles, and there are endless washes, styles, and lengths to peruse. We know finding the perfect denim that looks good and feels good can be a pain, and that's why we've done the hard work for you.

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Vintage Feel
Denim Workwear Shorts
Courtesy
Madewell madewell.com
$74.50

Your soon-to-be favorites, these denim shorts by Madewell have the perfect loose fit through the thigh and feature flap pockets in the back that give it a slight vintage feel. 

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Grey Wash Denim
Tahiti Frayed-Hem Denim Shorts
Courtesy
Raey matchesfashion.com
$102.00

We love this conventional gray-wash denim with subtle distressing. For a chill weekend vibe, wear this style with a vintage band tee, sneakers, and a pair of cat-eye sunglasses

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Go-To Denim
Charlie Denim Shorts
Courtesy
Reformation nordstrom.com
$46.97

These mid-rise shorts are perfect for hot summer days, whether you're walking along the boardwalk or lounging in the grass at a park. Style with a vintage tee and pair with minimalist sandals; don't forget to top things off with a bucket hat.

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For Summer
Women U Denim Shorts
Courtesy
Uniqlo uniqlo.com
$39.90

The perfect weekend-ready shorts under $40. I purchased these at the start of spring, knowing they'll be my go-to staple all summer song. Featuring a deep-blue wash, a high-rise waist, and a straight leg silhouette, these shorts are destined to be your summertime staple as well.

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Eco-Friendly Denim
OG Shorts
Courtesy
EB Denim revolve.com
$215.00

Want to get yourself a piece of Hailey Bieber's closet? These upcycled jean shorts by EB Denim are reconstructed from vintage Levi 501s and restitched in the front and back for a slightly different silhouette to your typical shorts. 

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Raw-Edge
Raw Edge Denim Shorts
Courtesy
3x1 farfetch.com
$260.00

These 3x1 raw-edge cut-offs are made to be well-loved. The light stonewash can easily be paired with a graphic tee, an oversized blazer, and a kitten heel for a night out on the town.

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Distressed Denim
Misfit Denim Shorts
Courtesy
KSUBI saksfifthavenue.com
$190.00

Your go-to for off-duty denim, these ultra-distressed shorts have heavily shredded holes for a broken-in look. Wear over your bikini with sandals and shades for a day on the lake. 

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Lived-In Denim
Cai Distressed High Waist Denim Cutoff Shorts
Courtesy
EDWIN nordstrom.com
$76.80

For bottoms that already have that lived-in quality, throw on this pair from EDWIN. The relaxed fit and frayed edges can be worn with a simple ribbed tank for a casual day look. 

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Date-Night Denim
Lexi High Waist Denim Cutoff Shorts
Courtesy
LE JEAN nordstrom.com
$118.80

This pair of LE JEAN shorts are perfect for any off-duty outing. The frayed hem and faded finish can easily be dressed up with an espadrille and a flirty top for a summer date night. 

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Tie-Dye Denim
The Barrow High Waist Cutoff Denim Shorts
Courtesy
BLANKNYC nordstrom.com
$88.00

Give your summer wardrobe some whimsy with an tie-dye pattern that you don't have to DIY.

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Patchwork Denim
Patchwork Denim Shorts
Courtesy
Re/Done farfetch.com
$287.00

These patchwork shorts by Re/Done are even cooler than than their typical pairs of reconstructed denim. Use the French-tuck technique and tuck a white button-down into these high waisted shorts for a relaxed look. 

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Paper-Bag Shorts
Denim Cuffed Paperbag Shorts
Courtesy
FRAME intermixonline.com
$198.00

A paper bag waist will add interest to your typical denim. Pair this light wash denim short with a simple bodysuit and an slip-on sandal to add some flair to your basics. 

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Culottes
Grace Shorts
Courtesy
SLVRLAKE slvrlake-denim.com
$269.00

This denim short-culotte is a winner for casual Fridays at the office. Pair them with a structured blazer, a pair of kitten heels, and personal jewels, like a signet ring or delicate necklace.

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Dark Wash Denim
Sydney High Rise Short
Courtesy
Etica eticadenim.com
$128.00

I loved my black short shorts when I was 15, but now I try not to wear anything that might reveal too much. As an alternative to my black shorts of yesteryear, choose these simple Etica denim bottoms.

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Summer Essential
Distressed Denim Shorts
Courtesy
Citizens of Humanity farfetch.com
$194.00

A tried and true summertime essential, these C.O.H. denim shorts have the perfect amount of fading and distress for a worn-in feel.  Team these shorts with a simple tank or triangle bikini top for a day in the sun.

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Belted Denim
Leon High-Rise Denim Shorts
Courtesy
Boyish Jeans farfetch.com
$180.00

If you're looking for denim shorts in an unconventional design, here's a pleated pair from Boyish Jeans. It has a loose fit around the legs, but a high-rise belted waist to emphasize the narrowest part of the body. 

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Relaxed Fit
Brooke Wide-Cut Denim Shorts
Courtesy
Denimist farfetch.com
$272.00

The relaxed style denim is a summer wardrobe staple. This is a universally flattering option that can be worn for any activity, from backyard BBQs to running weekend errands. 

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White Wash Denim
The Teaser Donut Roll Denim Shorts
Courtesy
MOTHER intermixonline.com
$168.00

The journey to finding white denim shorts is like buying a pair of white jeans: difficult. But Mother Denim may have solved all of our struggles with these crisp white shorts. They're neither too long nor too short and sit slightly higher on the waist. Wear them with a simple ribbed tank for day and a sexier bodysuit for night. 

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Biker Short Denim
Gia Glider Cruiser
Courtesy
Liverpool Jeans liverpooljeans.com
$68.00

If you're seeking a pair of cute biker-style denim shorts, Liverpool offers a relaxed fitted option in a light blue classic wash. This pair comes with worn-in details that will look even more faded over time. 

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Fold-Over Denim
Criss Cross Upsized Denim Shorts
Courtesy
AGOLDE intermixonline.com
$168.00

Refresh your denim wardrobe with AGOLDE's signature asymmetrical zip-fly shorts. This bestseller got a revamp this summer with their borrowed-from-the-boys silhouette and upsized feel. 

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