The big short

Hannah wears ‘Amber’ linen shorts, £70, and ‘Elsie’ linen tee, £70 (roake.co.uk). This article contains some affiliate links.

My pick of the best sustainable shorts for summer (with the added bonus of an elastic waist)

If there’s one item of clothing I can’t do without, it’s a good pair of shorts. Or two. Here on the Isle of Wight, some people wear shorts all year round (not because it’s warm enough, I might add; let’s call it a lifestyle choice). For me though, shorts season starts in May (plus a few days in April if it’s warm) and runs right through to October. And now that I’m 45 (and after two years of working at home in tracksuit bottoms), it’s very important that those shorts have an elasticated waist! 

Obviously I am an advocate of slow fashion and shopping only when necessary, but my body has changed shape a fair bit over the last decade, which means I have invested in a few new pairs of shorts over the last couple of years. I had been hanging on to some shorts that I really loved for, in some cases, well over a decade, but I’ve finally admitted that they’re never going to fit me again, so I’ve donated or sold those beauties so that someone else can enjoy them. 

Whenever I buy anything new these days I do loads of research to make sure that the item in question is sustainable and ethical. And once I’d given myself a cooling off period (a few days to check I’m not impulse buying), I was thrilled with my shorts purchases. So as I’ve already done the research for you, I thought I would share it! You’re welcome…

the co-ord shorts set

‘Amber’ linen shorts, £70, and ‘Elsie’ linen tee, £70 (roake.co.uk)

I absolutely love a shorts co-ord set! I had a funny little crochet set years ago (one of the things that didn’t make the keep pile) and I haven’t replaced it, but I borrowed this linen set from my local sustainable brand, Roake, to road test for you. What’s great about Roake is that you can order this set (or any of their designs) in any of the many fabrics they have available. As well as this monochrome gingham, there is a yellow gingham and a pink/green gingham that is to die for! Plus more, less gingham-y fabrics if gingham isn’t your bag. Everything is made to order, so there’s no waste. Literally – they sell bundles of scraps so that people can use them for their own sewing projects (hello quilting fans!). Roake has just introduced co-ord bundles, which means you get a bit of a discount when you buy matching items.

I also love these co-ord options. Go as bold as you fancy!

‘Mila’ shorts with Lenzing™ and Ecovero™, £85, and matching top, £99 (baukjen.com)

Surplus cotton ‘Peggy’ set, £125 (ilkandernie.com)

‘Clay’ organic cotton shorts, £49.95, and blouse, £59.95 (wearethought.com)

The block colour shorts

Hannah wears organic cotton sweatshorts in sunny orange, £55 (colorfulstandard.co.uk). Use code HANNAHCS10 for 10% off.

During lockdown one, I discovered – thanks to Instagram algorithms – a brand called Colorful Standard. It sells, as the name suggests, colourful organic cotton loungewear, and it’s the nicest loungewear I own. I bought a pair of the unisex sweatshorts in heather grey and I have worn and worn and worn them. I actually get a bit panicky when they’re in the wash in the summer! Two years on and they’re good as new, even as one of the most worn items in my wardrobe. This summer I’m trying out the women’s sweatshorts, which are a slightly shorter length, in this subtle (lol) neon orange, and they’re just as good. My favourite way to wear sweatshorts is with a pretty blouse in a non-sporty fabric so I don’t actually look like I’m going for a run.

Organic towelling cotton shorts, £85 (nulaclothing.co.uk). Use code ENBROGUE10 for 10% off.

Since originally writing this post, I have discovered these amazing organic cotton towelling shorts from Nula. They’re available in three colours – sand, lilac and dusty pink – and you can get 10% off by entering the code ENBROGUE10 at checkout. I’ve been lucky enough to try a pair and I barely took them off all weekend in the sunshine!

Super easy to style and top of the comfort charts, here are some other options.

Retro jersey short in organic cotton, £46 (everlane.com)

Black linen shorts, £165 (katesheridan.com)

‘Sylvia’ organic cotton shorts, £80 (beaumontorganic.com)

The print shorts

Hannah wears one-off upcycled shorts by Lydia Bolton. This pair is very similar for £65 (lydiabolton.co.uk)

While I am mad for my sweatshorts, last summer I wanted a pair of shorts that I could dress up for lunch or dinner. Again, an elastic waist is essential here! So I commissioned lovely Lydia Bolton, who upcycles old fabrics into fabulous new items, to make me these shorts out of an old tablecloth. What’s great about many sustainable and upcycling brands is that they ask you to go to the trouble of taking your measurements before placing an order. This means that when they turn up they are a perfect fit and you’re unlikely to return them – good news for everyone.

For more lunch-ready shorts, read on. (Disclaimer: not all of these have an elastic waist but they were too nice not to include!)

Multi check deadstock cotton shorts, £35 (albaray.co.uk)

V&A ‘Margie’ organic cotton shorts, £89 (peopletree.co.uk)

‘Adele’ organic cotton shorts, £32 (lucyandyak.com)

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