How To Measure The Inseam and Leg Opening On Shorts may earn a small commission when you use one of the links on this page to purchase.
inseam outseam and leg opening measurement diagram of shorts

Shorts are one of the simplest garments around but just because they’re simply designed doesn’t mean you can just slap on a pair and call it day.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, to successfully pull off a pair of shorts you’ll need to have some understanding of the inseam, outseam, and how you can get a feel for the leg hole width and total leg hole circumference.

So let’s jump into it with everything you need to know about measuring a pair of shorts to get the right fit. You can use the table of contents below to navigate and find exactly what you’re looking for as quickly as possible.

What Is The Inseam On Shorts?

Just like on a pair of pants, the inseam of shorts is measured from the crotch (sometimes called the rise) to the bottom of the shorts along the inner thigh. With pants, you can choose from dozens of inseams to match the length of your legs and while you do have some options with shorts they typically fall into a handful of standardized lengths.

For women’s shorts, lengths usually fall into three main categories:

Of course, there are far more inseam lengths than that with plenty of variation in between but those are the most common and most popular sizes. As a woman, you’ll usually want to avoid going shorter than 2 inches as anything shorter than that can lead to some unwanted “wardrobe malfunctions”. It’s also usually best to avoid the range of 8 to 9 inches as this can leave you with a bit of an in-between look that can be hard to pull off.

For men’s shorts, there’s even less variety and they typically fall into the following categories:

  • Short – 5 to 7 inch inseam
  • Standard – 9 to 10 inch inseam

Again, you can find more variation but in most cases, those are the inseams you should expect on most men’s shorts. Usually, running shorts and some swim trunks will fall into the shorter range and the standard 9 to 10 inches are common across shorts of all kinds.

Shorter men can get away with shorter shorts (and it may even make them look taller) but bigger guys will want to stick with the 9 to 10 inch inseam and keep the end of the shorts above the knee.

How To Measure The Inseam Of Shorts?

Measuring your inseam is pretty straightforward and all you’ll need is a measuring tape or anything of a known length.

If you don’t have a measuring tape, then you can get creative!

For example, a credit card is 3.375 inches long so it can work in a pinch. A dollar bill is 6.14 inches and there’s a good chance that you have one of those two forms of currency or a trusty measuring tape around the house!

Once you’ve decided how you’re going to measure, here’s how to take the inseam of your shorts:

  1. Lay your shorts down on a smooth, flat, and stable surface. Smooth out any wrinkles by ironing or throwing your shorts in the dryer for a few minutes.
  2. Lay your measuring tape (or improvised tools) at the bottom of the crotch and measure along the inside leg of the shorts. You can follow the pink line labeled “Inseam” in the image at the top of this page.
  3. Run the measuring tape along the inside leg until you reach the bottom of the leg.
  4. That’s it! That’s the inseam of your shorts!

If your shorts are available online, the product description will usually list the inseam. If they don’t, check the questions section of a site like Amazon as it’s likely someone else had the same question.

Still, it can be useful to quickly measure the inseam once the shorts are in front of you since many brands misreport their inseam by as much as an entire inch in some cases! By measuring the inseam yourself, you can get a feel for how that particular brand runs.

Is Measuring The Inseam Any Different Between Women’s and Men’s Shorts?

When it comes to measuring the inseam, there’s no difference between women’s and men’s shorts. In either case, you’ll start at the crotch and measure to the bottom of the inside leg.

What Is The Outseam On Shorts?

The outseam runs along the outside of the legs and from a construction perspective, it’s the line of stitching that connects the front and back leg panels. Simply put, the outseam is the measurement of the shorts from the hip to the outside bottom of the shorts.

While there’s a lot of variation when it comes to inseams, outseams are usually long enough to match the inseam- especially when it comes to men’s shorts. Women’s shorts may have some more variation here but not much.

How To Measure The Outseam On Shorts?

Once again, you’ll need a measuring tape or you can improvise with a dollar bill (6.14 inches) or a credit card (3.375 inches).

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Lay your shorts down on a smooth, flat, and stable surface. Remove any major wrinkles.
  2. Lay your measuring tape at the top of the hip.
  3. Run the measuring tape along the outside leg until you reach the bottom. You can follow the pink line labeled “Outseam” in the image at the top of the page.
  4. That’s it! That’s your outseam!

How To Measure Leg Hole Width and Circumference On Shorts?

Leg holes are unfortunately not commonly listed on a product description and for guys with big thighs, this can make buying jeans or shorts quite the hassle. Women may have the same problem but because tighter shorts are more acceptable for women it’s sometimes not as big of a hassle.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to measure leg width and while you might get some strange looks it can be worth it to bring a tape measurer when shopping. Sure, you could try on a dozen shorts but it’s much faster to just take a quick measurement.

It couldn’t be simpler to get both the leg hole width and circumference- here’s what you need to do:

  1. Remove any major wrinkles and lay the shorts on a smooth flat surface.
  2. Measure at the bottom of the leg from the outside to the inner edges.
  3. Double that measurement to get the circumference of the leg openings which tells you how large of a circle the leg openings make.
  4. Compare the circumference of the shorts to the circumference of your own legs and decide if it’s a good fit.

I know it sounds simple but it’s often overlooked and just doing this in the store can save you a ton of time! But of course, you need to know how to measure your thighs for this to be useful!

How To Measure The Circumference Of Your Thighs

Everyone knows their waist measurement (or at least their pant size) right off the bat but most folks don’t know their leg circumference even though this number is just as important to finding shorts that fit!

Make sure you measure at the thickest part of your thigh (usually around 3 to 5 inches below your crotch) in order to really understand how your shorts will fit. This video does a great job walking you through the steps and how you can pull this off with a piece of string, a cord, or a similar type of item:

Always Measure With Your Shorts Off

I’m not saying you need to be pantless when you measure shorts but you shouldn’t be wearing the shorts you’re trying to measure! It is possible to successfully measure the inseam or outseam while wearing the shorts but it’s not easy.

And there’s almost no chance of measuring the circumference leg openings of your shorts while you’re wearing them!

Closing Thoughts

Shorts are great and one of the best trendy fashion options for both women and men of all sizes!

But getting a length that doesn’t work for your body or even worse a leg opening that’s way too tight can make shorts uncomfortable and downright unfashionable.

While manufacturers are good about sharing the inseam length, the leg hole circumference is usually harder to find but you now know how to quickly measure it on the go. That means no more shorts that are too tight for your thighs!

What do you think? Did you find everything you were looking for?

Camila R.

Camila is a body positive blogger and fat activist that's focused on helping people of all sizes live life big! That means accepting yourself at any size and just enjoying life! She lives in New Mexico with her husband and two chihauhuas.

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