A Manís Guide To Wearing Shorts
by Antonio Centeno
Art of Manliness
Few items in
a mans wardrobe seem to elicit as much debate as shorts do.
Today well uncover just why that is, and then offer some guidelines
on the how, what, where, and why of wearing them. Guidelines Im
sure will be much debated! Lets get right to it.
some men reluctant to wear shorts?
Why is there
so much confusion about such a simple garment?
In the late
19th and early 20th centuries there were a number of English words
for shortened mens pants. Knickerbockers were
baggy pants that gathered below the knee, covering it. Shorter,
tighter-fitting trousers that ended at the knee were knee
pants. Short pants sometimes meant knee-pants
and sometimes meant shorter garments still.
All of these
varieties were clothing for boys, both unofficially and
as part of many school uniforms.
Grown men didnt
start wearing shorts outside of extremely hot climates until after
World War II, during which soldiers stationed in the tropics had
been issued short trousers both for comfort and to ration cloth.
In the post-war
years, shorts caught on as a specific uniform for some kinds of
sports and recreation. They werent fashion items or clothing
that could be worn outside of a specific athletic activity
much the same way that a bikers spandex shorts and jersey
wouldnt be worn off the bike path today. Tennis players might
wear shorts on the court, but would clean up and change into trousers
before socializing afterward.
Shorts as a
piece of comfortable, casual summer wear for men did not show up
until the 1950s. Even then championed by trendsetters in
Hollywood and other men in the spotlight the idea took a
long time to catch on as normal. There are still plenty
of men alive today who remember shorts being basically clothing
for young boys.
a modern addition to a mans wardrobe and thus are still finding
acceptance. Although common everywhere in North America, they are
not common wear in many other parts of the world (to include hot
while shorter trousers have gradually become acceptable in most
arenas, athletic shorts went through a major shift from short, boxer-style
shorts to longer mesh shorts in the 1980s. These days its
unusual to see the extremely short athletic shorts that end as soon
as the hip turns into the thigh, though some runners do still wear
them. For team sports, mid-thigh or longer has become the rule.
at the end of the day, still have a boyish association. Thats
no longer a cultural expectation, and no ones going to think
youve lost your mind if you wear them. Clothing manufacturers
love the idea of being able to sell men even more pieces of clothing
each season, and men love the cool comfort shorts provide, so that
genie is unlikely to ever go back into the bottle. But it is still
something we, particularly if youre an older man, instinctively
think of as boyish, even when were not conscious
of making that judgment.
a casual piece of menswear. So when to wear them?
answer is two-pronged:
theres a good reason to (temperature, environment, location)
youre not conducting business or attending a formal ceremony/event
with family and friends is always a good default category for shorts
times. Beaches, private parties, outdoor sports and recreation,
and anything else purely for fun and not in the company of strangers
or business associates is definitely in the clear.
situations, of course, need appropriate weather: wearing shorts
when its cold out is going to draw attention. Wear them when
its hot enough that you really want them, and switch to light
trousers as soon as its bearable.
In our modern
world it also seems worth saying that a man who plans on leaving
an air-conditioned house to get in an air-conditioned car and drive
to an air-conditioned building can endure wearing trousers no matter
what the weather is like. At the point where you have that much
climate control you might as well wear the sharper-looking garment
that better compliments your build.
The only people that can violate these rules are Californians. Please
Skip the Shorts
of any kind call for trousers. Even if its just an informal
game of golf, wear a pair of light trousers instead of shorts, regardless
of whether other men are wearing shorts or not. Take a cue from
the pros here (the exception being John Daly).
Any sort of
structured event outside the immediate family and close friends
is also a time to avoid shorts. Even casual luncheons, picnics,
weddings, or other outdoor, summery sorts of events should merit
light trousers if youll be meeting strangers or relatively
shorts anywhere a jacket or blazer is expected. If the situation
calls for that level of formality, it also calls for more formality
than shorts offer. A few cultures have exceptions to this (shorts
with blazers and ties are acceptable business wear in Bermuda, for
example), but in most of the world it looks both out of place and
a bit confused.
aware of wearing shorts when traveling the world. In many countries
it clearly marks you as a tourist and may draw unwanted attention.
How to Wear
As a lesser-worn
piece of menswear, shorts prompt all kinds of questions: How long
should they be? How baggy? How many pockets? Belt or no belt? And
Should Shorts Be?
that your knees are visible or just slightly covered if standing
still. Long enough that youre not showing the world you rarely
tan your thighs; if I have to be specific, I would go more than
2-3 inches above the knee, depending on your proportions. Barron
from the Effortless Gent backs me up here.
the knees has ceased to be shorts. Those are high-cut
pants, which is something else entirely (and not very flattering).
do come up to mid-thigh should be limited to lightweight athletic
shorts, and should only be worn in athletic settings.
Running shorts get more leeway than casual shorts because the expectation
is that youre not going to walk into a store or restaurant
wearing them. Exercise devotees should bear this in mind, and should
go home and change (and shower) before inflicting themselves on
the public outside of gyms, courts, or bike paths.
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© 2012 The Art of Manliness