Shane Watson: There IS a cut-off for denim shorts…

There is a cut-off for denim shorts: How to dress like a grown up with SHANE WATSON

  • Instead try shorts that are loose-fit, light and breezy in cotton, and elastic-waisted 
  • READ MORE: My five suitcase essentials for summer

What kind of a shorts woman are you? 

Are you: a die-hard shorts lover who wears them at some point every summer, has a favourite faded linen pair that are now 20 years old and is always happy to learn of a new shorts style (my friend Nicky)?

Do you hate shorts, believing them the devil’s work and the only fashion item that excludes all women who don’t have long legs and a birthdate post 1975? (My friend Jo).

Or do you love shorts — but by shorts you mean denim cut-offs, the ones that feature loudest in your summer memories, along with string bikinis, the smell of Hawaiian Tropic, chlorine and patchouli?

So you’ve given up shorts. You’ve had to reluctantly concede time’s up for short shorts and nothing quite hits the spot like a faded frayed cut-off. (That will be me).

Reese Witherspoon looks cool and casual in a pair of white shorts with a blue and white checked T-shirt 

American model Kate Upton looks smart in a beige and white Alberta Ferretti shorts suit paired with nude heels 

Kate Middleton opted for mid-thigh tailored white shorts with gold buttons, which she paired expertly with a relaxed navy and white stripy jumper 

The question is worth asking as it’s the quickest way to determine whether or not it’s worth giving shorts a go this summer.

We’ll take it as a given that the Jos are sticking with skirts and dresses as they have for the past 30-plus years. 

The denim cut-offs tribe will do what we always do, revisit the holiday box containing them, wonder if they’d work under a long, open shirt dress then put them away again until next year, just in case by then something has changed.

This isn’t an age-related decision, to be clear: you can definitely wear cut-offs in high summer for as long as you feel comfortable. 

Nancy Shevell, Mrs Paul McCartney, will be wearing hers this summer for sure, and she’s 63.

However you do need legs you’re happy to have on show all the way up, which most women past their mid-50s do not. 

Denim cut-offs don’t need to be Brazilian-model brief, but any longer than high mid-thigh and you’re in Bermudas territory which — best you can hope — makes you look like a SeaWorld attendant.

Still there’s a part of every retired denim cut-off wearer that is still shorts-curious and we’re not immune to shorts envy in a heatwave so we keep abreast of shorts trends.

Jennifer Aniston embodies cool and casual in her relaxed drawstring cargo shorts and white tank top 

Eva Longoria’s bright pink shorts suit paired with perspex heels is an excellent alternative to a dress on a summer’s evening 

Nicky, who is 59 but crucially has the legs of a colt, looked wonderful in loose-fit, above-the-knee, white linen shorts last week — for something similar try Cos (£55, Sadly these are not for me.

I not only feel like I’m dressed for a day of sightseeing in extreme temperatures then back to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a hem length a few inches above the knee focuses attention on my croissant knee area which is tantamount to self sabotage.

So the options are twofold: both of them loose-fit (never fitted on the leg), light and breezy in cotton, and probably elastic-waisted for that relaxed feel that also happens to be the current look. (Don’t be put off by elasticated waists. They’re no more intimidating than drawstrings and more flattering than front pleats).

First up is a longer, knee-covering slightly A-line style from Zara (£22.99, This one is khaki and like many shorts this season has a matching shirt (£22.99), which is the smart way to wear them.

Otherwise, for those who still have the legs for shorter shorts, there’s a new look in town which is again elastic-waisted and boxer-short style.


  • Go for a high mid-thigh or on-the-knee length.
  • Keep the fit loose.
  • Try an elasticated waist.
  • Go for plain cotton.

These are the ones currently bedding in as the easy shorts you can wear anywhere, provided they’re in quality cotton. 

I can confirm Nicky is embracing the look, maybe not at work but at the weekend and on holiday, and has already bought herself a longer linen pair not dissimilar to her floppy whites, in lime green (£12.99,

She’s also threatening to get Boden’s pretty shorts in a pink and grey stripe (£33.60, 

For anyone tempted, even if it’s just poolside, Cos has a seersucker drawstring pair that could double up as your best pyjamas (£45, and £59 for the shirt,

I’m watching from the sidelines. But if you want to give cut-offs a last shot, try Boden’s beach shorts (£48,

Wear them in the garden when no one’s looking.

I might.

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