Are shorts really too casual for England?

Somewhere on the Rick Steves' website I read that Americans wear shorts at home much more than Europeans do. They are much more common in the U.S. I sure wear them a lot. I was planning on taking a couple of pair on my early June trip to London and through England to wear when it was warm enough, but are they inappropriate, not due to temps, but due to custom? Will I feel "naked" and inappropriate in them? Ann.

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
3415 posts

You can certainly wear shorts just as you would in the U.S., but you are likely to be cold.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8735 posts

As the previous poster said, there is no problem with wearing shorts if weather permits. But it probably won't permit.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
2258 posts

I have seen people wearing shorts in the street in January. Not something I would choose to do, but no one is going to care about it.

Posted by Patty
Steilacoom, WA, USA
721 posts

My husband wears shorts any time he can. That said, I don't ever remember him wearing them on our trips to the U.K. I'm not sure how long your trip or how much luggage you're taking, but either one pair or two pair and plan to layer more heavily on top.
Have a great trip -Patty

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
9942 posts

How short? I'd bring one pair or shorts, especially if you're going to a beach at some point. Brits are plenty used to tourists wearing whatever they want, but shorts would not be my first choice in London when popping into churches, parliament, air-conditioned museums, and evening theaters. For the past few years, capri-length pants have been my more everyday choice in Europe and dressier, knee-length shorts would be pretty similar.

Posted by a.jenson
77 posts

Thanks to you all for your comments. All my shorts are knee-length and I'll have alternatives when it's chilly so it sounds like I will be comfortable in shorts. Ann.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
6594 posts

A few years ago I visited London for the first time in quite a few years. I was surprised by how poorly dressed so very many of the local woman were. I am used to seeing fairly stylish clothing in all parts of Europe, but those English ladies would have been right at home at Walmart. That's when I stopped worrying about my wardrobe for UK trips.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
1399 posts

Well, as Paul Krugman, Nobel-winning economist has noted in the New York Times, English politicians have decided that imposed austerity is the right treatment (economically and morally ... ) for the Financial Crisis. Now their unemployment rate is higher than ours. It's "Call the Midwife" time all over again. The sad part is that both history and recent results show that austerity is the wrong treatment.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
1063 posts

That would be the same Krugman who in the 2010 general election told people to vote Labour. Not surprising he is still trying to push the anti-austerity line; sadly for him (but not the rest of us) even Labour have stopped listening to the old Keynesian. I wonder if he forget to mention in his newspaper article that the UK unemployment rate is one third less than the overall EU rate (and is falling, not rising), or that UK GDP growth this year is expected (by the IMF) to be higher than that of the US or any other G7 country?

As for it being "Call the Midwife" time again - we wish. The period when that series is set had unemployment of around 1%.

And to go back to the original question - wear shorts if you want to; in London likely nobody will notice let alone care.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
14140 posts

As to the original question
......Americans wear shorts at home much more than Europeans do. .......
The answer yes we do. In our experience, Europeans tend to dress less casual in the cities than do Americans in general. As others have said, you can wear shorts and probably no one will care. But you will tag yourself more likely a tourist than not. How you will feel will depend on you. I would be uncomfortable because I do not like to stand out in a crowd.

I watch two Southern Baptist ministers being denied admission to the cathedral in Milan because they were wearing shorts. (How did I know they were Southern Baptist? Because they protested in very loud voices with heavy southern accents that they were Men of God and SB ministers. The guard was unfazed.)

Do what you want. But I would not recommend wearing shorts for any reason other than being at the beach.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
13907 posts

I was at a National Trust property today and saw a middle aged man wearing bermuda shorts and leather sandals. And two - yes, two - cardigans.

It was a lovely sunny spring day. Temp was about 15 C - (59 F). There was a Mustang (Ford Mustang) club visiting (also 1 superclean aqua T-Bird, 1 Camaro, 2 pickups, and several Dodge Challengers and Daytonas - how they all snuck in who knows) at the time.

Draw your own conclusions.

Posted by debbiesue22006
43 posts

You are a woman, and you know: there are shorts, and there are shorts. Wear the kind that you might see at a conservative golf resort. Bermuda shorts with a nice shirt and good shoes. Maybe only pack one pair.

I have been to London countless times; you see women in everything you would see here. And the comments about the temps are correct--you may be cold. Then again, it may be hot and humid, as it was in 2010 when I was there last! Take a waterproof jacket and an umbrella, no matter what.

Have a wonderful time. London is one of my favorites.

Posted by a.jenson
77 posts

Thanks again everybody! Interesting how we got off into "Call the Midwife" -- one of my very favorite shows -- and British politics. Every now and then I tune into the Prime Minister's Questions show on CSPAN-TV, so I actually could follow what was said here in the forum on Britain's rebound and the issues between the parties too. Ann.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
4039 posts

"those English ladies would have been right at home at Walmart"

I agree with Chani. I thought the same.

My good friend who is British lives near Portsmouth (in Gosport) and she wears shorts a LOT... and just about everywhere.

And PS... I love "Call the Midwife"!!

Posted by Cindy H
San Jose
145 posts

You can certainly wear shorts. My question is why would you when there are better alternatives? Capris, skirts and skorts are dressier yet achieve the same purpose. They may be worn in a broader range of dress (like out to dinner). When I travel I want my clothing pieces to earn their place in my bags by functioning in multiple scenarios.
Have you considered knee length skorts such as the Athleta "Whatever" skort? It is a little expensive but is worth every penny. The technical fabric is soft, light, dries quickly, doesn't attract dirt. The multi-panel cut is extremely flattering on most figures.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8198 posts

In cities, I'd go business casual or you will look really out of place. In the country or at the beach, you can wear shorts when the weather calls for it. It's rarely hot enough in England to wear shorts, but I still pack a swimsuit (that can double as shorts) in case I have a chance to swim.

Posted by Mira
631 posts

They are appropriate, but not as common as home, in my experience. Will you see locals wearing shorts? Sure, but not as frequently as Americans. Early June will likely be too cold. London has June average temps in the low 60s, which I think is too cold for shorts. Farther north will obviously be colder (on average). If you won't be cold, then wear them…but I bet you won't see many people in shorts in that weather. Some fashionable young women wear dressy shorts with heels in summer, but general casual walking around shorts aren't all that common, especially on men.

In London you will see people in everything under the sun, but the average will be a little dressier than most places in the US. I wear jeans and nice blouses, and ballet flats or ankle boots. If I hit a heat wave, I wear casual skirts or dresses. I personally dislike shorts (not a fashion thing, but a I-look-awful-in-them thing), and find skirts and dresses more comfortable in hot weather anyway. But hot weather is not likely to be a concern in June in England!

These "what to wear" discussions boil down to 2 philosophies - one is wear whatever you want, no one cares. The other is that, while no one cares, some people feel better looking somewhat in-line with their locale and trying not to stand out too badly. So wear shorts if you want, no one cares, but you may stand out, which only matters if you care!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
6030 posts

Jeans and shorts are very different things. I'm not saying shorts shouldn't be worn, as that is a personal decision. Jeans are worn by many people who live in Europe. They are not just worn by tourists. Yes, locals sometimes wear shorts, but not to the degree that they wear jeans.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
14140 posts

In fact, you will look more like a local wearing jeans since jeans are pretty common place. Ten, fifteen years that wasn't the case but it has changed a lot in the past few years.

And Brad is very correct about business casual for male especially for older males. Teenagers and young 20s can get away looking sloppier than the middle aged.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
6030 posts

Thank you Frank. And I don't wear jeans to try to blend in. I wear jeans because I like to wear jeans. It just so happens that many Europeans do too. Maybe some older people don't wear jeans as a rule, but I've worn them my whole life. I never saw my parents wear them, so maybe it is a generational thing.