How to wear shorts to work – rules, how to style, and best ones to buy

Work and a heatwave do not go well together.

Commuting, being stuck inside in front of a laptop and trapped in long trousers is far from enjoyable. 

With the UK reaching record temperatures this heatwave, there’s also a real risk of overheating. 

But stuffy office dress codes and unspoken etiquette all too often keep you restricted to a pair of formal trousers or – shudder – a full-on suit.

If you want nothing more than to free your legs in a pair of shorts, we understand.

Here’s what your rights are, and some tips on styling them for a day in the office. 

Can I wear shorts at work? 

‘People should check with a manager or with HR if unsure of the dress code on a hot day,’ says Hannah Copeland, HR Business Partner at employment law and HR support firm WorkNest.

Most companies are going to have a dress code policy, and it is important to stick to it – or you risk getting in trouble.

Even though it’s not unreasonable to want to be cool while working, ‘continual violation of a dress code could be dealt with as a disciplinary matter’, Hannah says. 

It is worth asking if this applies in such extreme temperatures. If your employee is unsure, don’t be afraid to flag that this is a welfare issue. 

Hannah agrees that ‘a dress code may need to be adapted during very hot weather’.

She adds: ‘Employers should take a balanced and mindful approach to ensure comfort and health for their employees.

‘You should also address other ways to keep the workplace cool. 

‘Employers must also be mindful that if they go too far in dictating a dress code, they may be discriminating against a protected group. 

‘For example, stating that “backless tops” should not be worn may impact women more than men, because women are more likely to wear this type of garment. In this case, it would be better to explain what the general expectations are with regard to clothes which expose the skin.’

How to style shorts at work 

If you get the go-ahead from your boss, steer clear of short shorts – think formal office attire, not poolside on holiday vibes. 

Brand and style expert Nick Eade says to find shorts of the perfect length, you want to be able to fit one hand between the fabric and your knee when you sit down.  

For the office, a pair of smart shorts (so linen, cotton or chino over denim) with a turn-up on the bottom are perfect. 

One of the main things to consider is the colour of your shorts, Nick says.

He adds: ‘If you are working in an environment that is quite dirty avoid light colours and also make sure the fabric is absorbent – so cottons are great.’

Now, you’ve got to make sure the whole outfit looks good together to keep it looking sophisticated. 

When it comes to shoes, a pair of smart-looking trainers are going to work the best.

‘Smart trainers with running socks can look good as can white shoes with white socks with a dash of colour,’ says Nick, adding that Socksy and the London Sock Company are great places to treat yourself to fancy socks. 

Not allowed trainers at work? That’s going to be trickier to style, but not impossible.

Nick says: ‘If you really  have to go with a more tailored approach,  wear the shoes with short socks and even with a flash of colour.’ 

On top, Nick suggests a fitted plain colour tee or a button-down shirt with short sleeves. Pop on a belt to break up the look. 

Where to buy the best smart shorts for men

You know what you want, now where can you find it? Nick gave us the lowdown. 

‘Zara Man do some great styles for all shapes and sizes and at great prices,’ Nick suggests.

‘Reiss is great for a smart look but their new collection with model Oliver Cheshire’s brand CHE is a perfect for a work-to-wine transition.

‘COS do great socks to suit all styles and their casualwear is great for men to wear to work. There are currently some great sales on Mr Porter and Asos to fit all kinds of budget.’

Here are some specific recommendations: 

Zara’s Slim Fit Chino Bermuda Shorts 

Buy now for £29.99 from Zara

Cos Regular-Fit Shorts in Dark Green 

Buy now for £45 from Cos

Buy now for £49.95 from MB by Moss Bros

Jack Wills Slim Chino Shorts

Buy now for £32.00 from House of Fraser

Cotton Rich Stretch Garment Dyed Shorts

Buy now for £29.50 at M&S

Buy now for £28.00 from River Island

Purple Tapered Fit Unlined Suit Shorts

Buy now for £25 from River Island

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