When it comes to shorts, how short is too short?

When you’re talking about shorts, how short is too short? The perennial parent-teen debate continues as teens (and adults) are increasingly rocking super-short shorts.

The The Wall Street Journal recently rounded up the lengths of shorts at different teen retailers and polled some parents. Some readers on Facebook weren’t pleased with some of the shorts today’s teens are wearing.

“How short is short-short? The ones that only cover half of your butt? That’s not even a short that’s an underwear,” wrote Annabelle Bella.

Others put more of the blame on the retailers: “Do you have any idea how hard it is to find normal shorts? [I’m] about to start making my own and with huge pockets too!” Amy Grace commented on the post.

Facebook user Jennifer Hampton Lavoie brought a different perspective: “Or we could all stop worrying about what other people like to wear, as it’s none of your business what I wear or what my daughter wears and vice versa, and then we can get back to the real problems facing our world.”

Comparing The Options

WSJ reporter Anne Marie Chaker found shorts with inseams shorter than 3 inches at stores like Hollister, while retailer Justice said they start their shorts at 3 inches. A representative from the Gap told WSJ their shorts have always been the same length, but they added their new “shorty shorts” signs in stores to appeal to teen girls shopping at the mall.

If you’re not into pulling out a measuring tape, Maria Puente from USA Today tackled the question of how short is too short in a different way. She asked, “How to define ‘too short’? How about this: When the pockets in your shorts are longer than the shorts, hanging down below the hem.”


Tired of all the angst and the limited options, a couple of moms even started their own line of unique clothes for girls that sells pieces you can’t always find at the mall. Girls Will Be offers “Colors beyond pink, no sparkles or frills, imagery that breaks gender stereotypes, and a fit that lets girls be kids.”

Following The Dress Code

The question of “how short” certainly depends on the occasion as well. Many students are required to follow dress codes at school. While some people appreciate school dress codes, others say they disproportionately impact female students, who are often scrutinized for the length of their skirts and shorts or the width of the straps on their shirts.

At age 17, Maggie Sunseri created a documentary on dress codes that has more than 440,000 views on YouTube. She argues that there’s a dress code double standard that sends the wrong message to young people.

“It’s not really the formal dress code by itself that is so discriminatory, it’s the message behind the dress code,” Maggie Sunseri told The Atlantic. “My principal constantly says that the main reason for [it] is to create a ‘distraction-free learning zone’ for our male counterparts.”

high school classroom photo
Flickr | Governor Earl Ray Tomblin

A group of sixth graders in Maine successfully convinced their school to review its dress code this year. They made a powerful statement about a dress code that targets the girls more than the guys by wearing banned spaghetti straps to school and writing #IAMNOTADISTRACTION on their arms.

What do you think? Should teens, and adults for that matter, be free to express themselves in whatever clothing they choose? Or do we all need to adhere to a certain dress code?