Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Jorts aka Jean Shorts

How to make the perfect jean shorts.

Cut-offs. Jean Shorts. Jorts.

I have one summer staple that gives me style anxiety.

Jean shorts.

Or jorts. Whatever you prefer.

I prefer jorts.

Every year, I think I’ve found the perfect pair… and then no. They’re either to long, too short, too uneven (damn you, cut-offs!), too tight, too dumpy or too unflattering on my strong-but-short legs. I realize everyone’s style is different, as is everyone’s body type. But honestly, I don’t even have a clue as to what I should be looking for. At all.

So I reached out to some jort-savvy friends. I did some jort research. Based on all my findings, I think I finally have the perfect pair…. which you can see at the end.

Meet the Jortsperts

Truth be told, I haven’t purchased a pair of jean shorts since the 5th grade. Had the most amazing pair of Guess white denim shorts with red polka dots and I wore them All. The. Time. Haven’t seen anything like this in my adult years and refuse to settle for anything less awesome.

Abby Schwarz, Yelp San Francisco Community Marketing Director / Jorts Enthusiast

I will reveal myself as an old fogey by saying this, but I believe that denim shorts should hit mid-thigh. Period. I do like the look of a raw edge and believe that there’s absolutely no reason to buy pre-frayed jean shorts. 

– Sally McGrawAlreadyPretty.com / Stylist / Freelance Writer

Try on all of the jean shorts, cheap… long… expensive… short… find the ones that fit you best. I feel unlike jeans, it’s possible to find cheap shorts that fit well. I’ve found some of my favorites at Forever 21, while more expensive brands like Citizen of Humanity fit funny.

Liz Doyle, Fashion Editor @ MSP Communications / Creative Consultant 

The first battle with jorts is finding jeans that you like the fit on…. especially if you want them to be light in color and vintage looking.

– Hilary Hannon, Judicial Law Clerk / Basketball Enthusiast / Jorts Maker

The Deal with Store Bought Jorts

We all want to bring a homemade pumpkin pie to Thanksgiving. But sometimes, store bought is just as good and way easier. Same goes for jorts. Here’s some faves.

At $168, these are a little spendy, but pretty great. | piperlime.com

These Old Gravy shorts are cute & almost free. | oldnavy.com

Distressed black jorts | gap.com

Preppy, chambray style. | levis.com 

These look darn near perfect to me. | jcrew.com
Longer & stronger | madewell.com

Cute mid-thigh distressed number | piperlime.com


If James Dean wore jorts. | levis.com

Classy Canadian jorts tuxedo. | jcrew.com 

Slouchy city.  |  madewell.com

The Best Jorts for Your Hot Bod

During my jorts research, I’ve noticed every Pinterest photo makes jorts look super flattering….mostly because every photo features a tan 19-year-old with legs all the way to her ass. Though technically my legs do go all the way to my ass, figuratively, they don’t. Some suggestions on length and style.

* * *

The angle-cut, super-short versions look about as comfortable as denim diapers to me, and the 2″ ones tend to show actual human buns when viewed from the back. My eye has yet to adjust to the self-hacked, long denim Bermudas that seem to be having a resurgence: I flash back to Ione Skye in “Say Anything,” and I’m not ready to go there yet. Mid-thigh is a length that works for most women regardless of age, shape, or personal style.

– Sally McGraw

This really is a body by body thing. I have shorter legs and a longer torso, so while some people might deem short jean shorts to be age inappropriate (whatever, I’m only 32) they are actually the most flattering on my legs and balance out my proportions. Longer bermuda shorts are a no go for me.

– Liz Doyle

When in doubt, go longer and higher waist. Nothing worse than shorty shorts that are too, too short! Or seeing a muffin top hanging out over a pair of perfectly good jorts. American Apparel is making some super high waisted jeans/shorts as of late, which is pretty awesome for hiding a belly and looks retro!

– Abby Schwarz

An excellent jorts fit round-up from the folks at popsugar.com, featuring 11 body types.

Cut-offs: What to Look For

I’ve always had this picture of what my perfect jorts might look like. You might want something a little different, but here’s a few tried-and-true rules for finding jeans that will make great jorts.

A bit 90s, a bit loosey-goosey, not too short or too low in the waist.  |  weheartit.com

* * *

My best advice is to purchase a pair of soft, used jeans from a thrift store and DIY at home. Here in SF, the Crossroads Trading Co. in Pac Heights carries some of the best denim in the city. Lots of name brands for under $30, so you don’t feel too guilty if you mess up your crafty efforts at home. Make sure they fit in the waist, but have some “give” around the upper thigh. Not too baggy, but not too tight.

– Abby Schwarz

The first battle with jorts is finding jeans that you like the fit on. Not tight around the waist and a little bit of room in the legs…. especially if you want them to be light in color and vintage looking. You need to try on a bunch. I like Goodwill or Nu Look Consignment in Minneapolis.

– Hilary Hannon

Thrift jeans make the best cutoffs, and Levi’s, if you can find them, are the holy grail. Look for a pair that is kind of “boyfriend” style, sits nicely on your hips/waist (buy a size or two bigger), make your butt look good (duh!) and are a little loose in the thighs. Unless you are really thin, skip the tight jean shorts. 

– Liz Doyle

Brit & Co offers a bunch of great jorts advice. The gist: for a looser fit, buy jeans in a non-stretchy material. Longer jorts can have a little stretch and should be more snug (duh). Find jeans with well-proportioned pockets…too small = big butt. Too large = flat butt. 

DIY Jorts: Best Practices

So you have the perfect pair of jeans. Time to break out the scissors. Of course, this is the point at which I always mess it up. Do you cut straight across? At a slight angle? Cut through the both sides of the leg at once, or do front, then back? Here’s what these jorts experts say.

* * *

Step 1: Try them on first and mark your ideal length with a Sharpie or fabric marker on the outside and inseam.

Step 2: Take ’em off and draw a line across both legs. It doesn’t have to be super straight, just straight enough.

Step 3: Cut away. You can start a tad longer than desired length and cut as you go.

Step 4: Try them back on and make sure the desired length is achieved.

Repeat Steps 1-4 as you see fit, then run those bad boys through the dryer at least twice to get the frayed look. Frayed denim is very forgiving of cutting mistakes!

– Abby Schwarz

Thrift a pair of jeans in a wash that appeals to you and that hit you as high/low as you’d like. Put them on, eyeball where you’d like them to end, then cut 2-3 inches lower than that. This gives you the option to cuff, and also a little leeway. Better to cut them too long the first time and trim again than cut them too short and create uselessly short shorts. Also, the raw edge will make them appear a bit shorter than when they’re first cut. Throw them in the washer to enhance the fray. Wear and enjoy.

– Sally McGraw

Decide how you will wear them. Long, short, or my personal fave, rolled just once. Try them on as jeans and have a friend or roommate mark where you want to have them hit on your leg. Take them off, fold in half and cut on that line. I typically like to wash a few times to get the perfect amount of fray. Please, keep an eye on that fray and keep it trimmed. It’s a little awkward when the strings start looking like they belong to a tampon rather than your jean shorts.

– Liz Doyle

Always measure (and even mark) twice, cut once. You can always cut shorter but never start over once you cut them too short. And then run then through the wash! That’s the best way to loosen them up and fray the edges. If you are worried about them fraying too much, sew one line of stitch around the leg, about a quarter or half inch up so the fraying will end there. To hold cuffs in place, stitch vertically along each seam in the outside (and inside if you want) of the leg.

– Hilary Hannon

Too lazy to make your own jorts? Check out this awesome Etsy shop that makes jorts from high-waisted Levi’s.

Customizing Your Jorts

Maybe regular ol’ cut-offs aren’t enough for you. Here’s a few ways to distress or dress ’em up.

* * *

For distressing I use the blade of a scissors run across the fabric like I am “shaving” it to break down the denim is you want distressed or hole-y areas.

– Hilary Hannon

Some festival-ready jort ideas from the good folks at Free People.

Of course, this post is not Buzzfeed-proof! Here’s one million (or 26) ways to DIY your denim.

I Make DIY Levi’s Jorts

With all this new info fresh in my brain, I set out to make the perfect jorts. Because I wanted a Goldie Hawn in Housesitter look, I kept these things in mind: Search for the holy grail (Levi’s). Buy two sizes bigger than normal. Make sure they are loose in the waist and legs. Go for a longer zipper. Not stretchy with butt pockets aren’t too big or small.

Miraculously, I bought the first pair I tried on– a pair of Levi’s 505s from Buffalo Exchange in a size 32, which is actually quite a few sizes bigger than normal, but check your ego at the door! They were $12 and gave me serious mom butt.


Hawt mom jeans.
You kids want some bagel bites?

I decided to go for a little longer jorts that I could cuff once– 15 inches from the waistline. I marked them with chalk.

He's a puppy and a tailor!

Warren was super helpful and not in the way at all.

Warren says, give me the GD scissors!

Next, I took a deep breath and cut through the front & back of the jeans in one fell swoop.

The jorts point of no return. 

Then I did the same thing on the other leg. I resisted keeping the excess denim, because that’s what hoarders do and I am trying to not be one anymore.

Warren inspects the jorts.

Time to lightly distress. I took sandpaper to the unfinished hem.

Sandpaper... not just for wood anymore. 

Just a light fray. Who knows what'll happen to these bad boys once I toss 'em in the dryer. 


So very 90s!

Kelly Kapowski, eat your heart out!

Okay… so when I finally tried them on, I was like YAY! But now I think they might be too tight in the leg. Ugh!!!! I’m not giving up so fast, but this might be my jorts mistake of 2015.

We’ll see.

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So jorts. Yay or nay? Have any good tips and tricks for finding or making the perfect pair? Comment away!

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Comments (10)

  • Jen S 5 years ago Reply

    I’m a totally NAY on jorts because I’m plus sized but they look totally cute on other body types.

    I have to agree that your jorts are too tight in the legs, but do you have to roll them? I think you need to get a bigger pair to cut up. keep trying! you’ll get it!

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago Reply

    Yes– I think the rolling is part of the problem. I swear the seemed roomier when I tried on the actual jeans. Then suddenly…. POOF! Tight as hell. Who knows. I am going to try a different pair, if I can even find one. Damn you jorts! WHY CAN’T I QUIT YOU?!

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago

    Anyone want a size 32 Levis 505 pair of jean shorts? fjdksldfjsaklfdjsak;fskl;

  • Cindy 5 years ago Reply

    Usually I would say a big HELL NO! to jorts but, I am totally going to try this with a pair of pants that I hate–frump town. I want to burn them anyway, so why not? I’m plus size and have muscular legs, so I’m wondering if snipping the outer leg, along the seam, might be how I go? I had a pair of jorts in high school that I lived in that were like that. That said, I maybe shouldn’t take advice from HS-me…

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago Reply

    I say give it a whirl! I’m not sure on snipping the outer leg. I used to have a pair like that too… but also in HS. What if you cut them like this chick (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/96897829455681108/)? Just ignore the fact that her legs are sticks.

  • Ashley 5 years ago Reply

    I made a pair last year but they are VERY short…they’ll be worn more as a beach cover up. I was totally thinking about the mid thigh length possibly ending up too tight if I did this…I am thick in the thigh. I do like longer shorts in general, though. Yours look good!

    It was great to see Sally McGraw contribute here! I LOVE her blog. I think she give down-to-earth advice on personal style that is useful to all body types. I hadn’t put together that you are both in Minnesota until just now!

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago Reply

    Sally is awesome!

    As I keep going to CrossFit, my thighs keep getting bigger. Not in a bad way at all, but in a way that made these jorts feel a wee bit uncomfortable. I might make them a bit shorter and not roll, just to see how it goes.

  • Esther 5 years ago Reply

    Maybe you can retrieve the scraps out of the trash and try this, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/298082069059024260/ , with the leftovers instead of the lace to loosen the legs and bit….

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago Reply

    Interesting idea, though the denim is long gone. 🙂 Oopsies!

  • Becki 5 years ago Reply

    Cute post!

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