Thursday, May 12th, 2011

The Final Word on Men and Shorts

Look down. Can you see your knees? Today's a Thursday, so then you had better either be south of the 30th parallel north—Shreveport, say!—or "working at home" and totally naked.

Because if you're in the office, and you work anywhere but the International Society for the Advancement of Shorts, you should go home and change.

The question has even been asked: can a man wear shorts at all, ever, anywhere?

At work, of course, no! Not even on a casual Friday at Casual Friday Inc. On the street, in the city? Well… here is where opinions become complicated.

On a recent spring Saturday afternoon, a clerk at a swank Madison Avenue store was actually grateful to receive a visitor in shorts. "Finally, someone in shorts!" she cried. It was nice out. And it was Saturday. And no one was wearing shorts. Yes, it was prior to Memorial Day. But the shorts were very dignified. Really, they were short trousers, which is to say, they were an actual garment, made by an actual person.

This matters, because the shorts you're probably wearing, well… get the lighter fluid! Sorry!

Civilized society's aversion to shorts is in part an opposition to the hideous epidemic of every dude's current weekend uniform of the baggy cargo shorts. You guys wear these all the time and you look like garbage in a garbage sack in a sea of other identical sacks of garbage. Lazy is as lazy wears. Even if you're really hot, we're looking at you then looking down at that sea of brown swimmy gross sackcloth around your business area and we're writing you off.

Sure, there are those that maintain that shorts can never ever be worn. And Barack Obama almost never wears shorts. Tom Ford says they are only for the beach or the tennis court.

But I'm going to tell you a secret. I enjoy a good expedition in shorts, no matter what the haters say! It's high spring! Summer is breathing down the back of our knees. Now would be an ideal time for you to take a little cheap shopping expedition to find some comfortable shorts.

A few brief suggestions:

• Why not have a nice pair of garden party shorts, in seersucker or madras? You can wear them ironically at parties in Brooklyn! They should come circa knee-ish. They should be pretty and well-fitting. Also, there is really no such thing as "ironically" wearing shorts. You are in them or you aren't. We can pretend though. Except when Thom Browne is involved…. I guess it is a bit ironic.

• "Designer" shorts can be unexpectedly tricky. Like, Rick Owens is pushing this, this year.Yeaaaaah, no thank you.And yet, these checked Etro shorts? Adorable!

• And of course there are cheap versions of shorts that actually fit or actually look good. Your Target mileage will vary, but aim for something that falls off and isn't like a utility belt that had intercourse with a feed bag.

Listen, some days we all want to schlump around. But unless you have a laundry bag on your shoulder, there's no need to actively repel people's interest in you. Unless you need to do that of course. Some of you—yes you!—are just so stunning that we need to deface ourselves for the public good.

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94 Comments / Post A Comment

A representative from the International Society for the Advancement of Shorts will be visiting you shortly.

Br. Seamus (#217)

Shorts? No, not even in the face of Armageddon. Never compromise.

SeanP (#4,058)

Even if you're really hot, we're looking at you then looking down at that sea of brown swimmy gross sackcloth around your business area and we're writing you off.

Oh no, Choire's writing me off!

If I could interject with a rare moment of seriousness: yes, I agree that shorts are not considered appropriate attire for work. Which is too bad, because it's literally destroying the world. Because (in part) shorts are unacceptable work attire, we keep our collective air conditioners set too low, which burns up too much fossil fuel, and… you know the story.

Much of our sartorial etiquette is based around pretending that we still live in the British isles, which is a folly that even the Brits don't subscribe to (witness "Bermuda shorts" – and Bermuda doesn't even get that hot). If we could just dress for the actual weather, we could save a ton of money, and oh, by the way, strike a blow against global warming. But I guess that would make Balk cry, so it's out.

jolie (#16)

Nice to see that Alex has been demoted from a 'who' to a 'that'. Seems about right.

@jolie All for you.

keisertroll (#1,117)

@Choire Sicha When he's in New Orleans, Alex is a "Who Dat".

KarenUhOh (#19)

But answer this: a razor, or a depilatory? I mainly mean for hair removal, although, as a weapon?

Vicky (#7,168)

@KarenUhOh Ooooh, a mace-Nair hybrid. Burn their eyes, then smell 'em from a mile away.

GoGoGojira (#2,871)

@KarenUhOh Whatever Gilette makes

cityrat (#3,566)

Unless you are employed by a parcel or postal service, within one hour of being engaged in an athletic activity or visiting a beach or generally recognized sunbathing area, or under the age of 14, no, never.

laurel (#4,035)

OK, but: how great are Postal Service shorts? That soft French blue melange, with the more solid stripe down the side, like tuxedo pants? And my mailman? She's a lady. Who wears culottes. Postal culottes. I feel lucky just to know her.

SeanP (#4,058)

@cityrat that is ridiculous. Any activity that involves being outside in long pants during the daytime in the summer, anywhere in the US (except maybe the northwest) for more than the briefest period of time is going to 1) make you miserable and 2) leave you visibly sweaty. Which is also not that fashionable.

facepunches (#7,757)

All I can think of was Hitler's mad ranting in Mein Kampf about how much he hated the city because he couldn't get a suntan on his knees. Pants, claimed Hitler, were part of the Jewish conspiracy.

Kevin Knox (#4,475)

Just get yourself some nice linen pants, guys.

@Kevin Knox : Linen pants are not only stylish and comfortable, they're MEANT TO WRINKLE. Genius!

Rod T (#33)

@Kevin Knox
There are no linen pants that are nice.

Kevin Knox (#4,475)

@Gef the Talking Mongoose: (That was a large part of the initial attraction, yes.)
@Rod T: Obviously you have not looked hard enough. And you live in New York! For shame.

bennimaddi (#314)

i am beautiful no matter what they say.

deepomega (#1,720)

You are welcome to wear shorts, just as you are welcome to wear a cell phone holster on your belt. But don't be surprised when people treat you like you look.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

I thought there was something about not treating people like they look … ?

Kevin Knox (#4,475)

@Tulletilsynet I think it's okay to abandon that rule if you think they look trashy … ?

Tulletilsynet (#333)

@Kevin Knox

Bobby Womack (#4,074)

I don't get the hate. When it's 100 degrees out and all the women are in skirts and shorts, there's no reason I can't be in adult-looking shorts. Cargo shorts, no. $300 Etro shorts, also no. But somewhere in the middle is a pair of well-fitting shorts without a thousand pockets that don't drop to my shins and look just fine, thank you.

SeanP (#4,058)

@Bobby Womack Amen. I sometimes wonder of Balk, Choire, et al, have ever been outside. At least in the summer.

anthonytx42@twitter (#234,410)

@Bobby Womack Well said. I live in Houston. The average high in August is 95, with the average humidity hovering over 90%. Pants aren't going to cut it. Cargo shorts are awful (but seemingly everywhere), but I'll wear those over jeans when the heat index is well over 100!

bytehead (#4,763)

I live north of 30 (30.1 something…) It's 85 degrees. I'm wearing shorts.

And since my latest shorts are probably five years old, designer shorts are for the youngsters anyway.

Could you, at some point, address beach robes (for men)?

@NotAndersonCooper I'm saving all my energy for the inevitable what-is-the-appropriate-lounge-kimono-length debate.

jolie (#16)


ejcsanfran (#489)

@My Number Is My Address: the hem of one's lounge ensemble should extend one inch beyond the lowest point of one's sack.

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

Form the ice-age, to the dole-age
There is but one concern, I have just discovered

Some shorts are better than others

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

@whizzard I'm sorry for that.

@whizzard <3

Matt (#26)

"the fuck you can't just leave out JORTS" – Kim Thayil

djfreshie (#875)



falseberry (#11,323)

Thank you for this! But, but, but:

1. You didn’t mention denim shorts! Which are the very very worst. Never acceptable.

2. Madras shorts = frat, which for some of us won’t fly.

3. What of the Utilikilt? This the offspring of a 3-way between a feedbag and Carhartt overalls and a tam o’shanter, yet it’s earnest in a way cargo shorts are not. Does the awesomeness of men-in-skirts offset the dreariness of a roomy airy garment with many pocketses? (Probably void everywhere but Seattle. I’ve never seen one in Brooklyn, certainly.)

propertius (#361)

@falseberry I never thought I'd like the look of kilts until I saw the ones Vivienne Westwood did one year.

As for Utilikilts – maybe with a pair of matching knee pads?

wiilliiaamm (#225)

I have shorts on right now. Ok. wait. Now I'm not wearing shorts because Tom Ford said I cant.

Brian (#115)

PS: Calf raises (one-legged if you're nasty) are a simple yet effective anytime exercise and will make all the difference.

lempha (#581)

That Rick Owens jawn on a dude with some nice thick calves with pretty high tops + invisos, and a not-tight green polo–I'd be into it.

Lisanti (#13)

Anxiously awaiting the Balk counterpoint.

Leon (#6,596)

I read The Awl because I like my booze to be brown, my mouth to be smokey, and my pants to break appropriately around the top of my shoe. Please stop breaking my heart.

KenWheaton (#401)

I will wear my cargo shorts. On my bike. On your sidewalks. With mandals.


KenWheaton (#401)

@Choire Sicha With what? Your pedestrian's pants? I think not. I said GOOD DAY SIR!

freetzy (#7,018)

When gardening in white tie and tails, if your monocle should fall into your watering can, today's fashionable gentleman is wise to throw his inlaid chestnut derby cane in disgust at a nearby Irishman or dog using only his right hand.

melis (#1,854)

@freetzy One never uses a chestnut cane in full evening dress, peasant.

zoom (#10,138)

Thanks heavens for the 30th latitude disclaimer. I mean, it's cool in Ft. Worh right now, but tomorrow promises to be stifling.

Oh no! I am at the 32nd parallel. I'm filing this under "Things I know but will choose to ignore"

zoom (#10,138)

Thanks heavens for the 30th latitude disclaimer. I mean, it's cool in Ft. Worh right now, but tomorrow promises to be stifling.

Oh no! I am at the 32nd parallel. I'm filing this under "Things I know but will choose to ignore"

I'll be rocking Bermuda Business Attire from Memorial to Labor Day, and you will thank me for it.

@joeks@twitter (#10,808)

I had never heard of "Etro" so I went and found those shorts online. They were $350.

You rich people are adorable. So many opinions on so many things!

Oh darling, no—you're not supposed to pay retail for them!

City_Dater (#2,500)

You can try and try, but as long as some low self-esteem women out there will flirt with anything male, even a man wearing ill-fitting cargo shorts, straight men will not believe you.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@City_Dater So true!

(Where are these women of whom you speak to be found?)

ehcotton (#358)

Ok this should settle it for all you shorts haters. Look at the man in the following link. Tell me he looks bad in his shorts. Just try to say it.

hungrybee (#2,091)

@ehcotton I am troubled by this look, but that's more because of his choice in footwear.

@ehcotton : He looks fine, but I have to ask — how did they get that lifesize backdrop of Greene Street to stand up without rippling? I mean, it must be super windy on the beach there.

ehcotton (#358)

@hungrybee the footwear is unfortunate. Can we get an Awl post about huarache shoes?

semiserious (#2,430)

I have lived south of the 30th parallel my entire life. Right around the 27th in fact, and I am inclined to believe in the virtue of man shorts. Yet, I can't really get down with how fashion magazines portray men in shorts. What is with the blazer-shorts combo? And always with nice leather dress-ier shoes.

They're casual wear and should be treated as such. Don't try and compensate. Look nice, but commit to the casual. Otherwise it does look ridiculous.

Also, never attempt to wear shorts to a club or bar (unless you are prepared to commit to a very strong look).

MythReindeer (#5,553)

Here are some words, for this debate and its promoters: just shut the fuck up already.

iantenna (#5,160)

i rock old dickies cut off at the knees. DEAL.

Team Choire > Team Balk (on this subject)

HOWEVER, a very important additional request: Please weigh in on the subject of shoes that may be worn with said shorts, should one choose to wear them. (Worthy of a separate post, next week?)

JoshUng (#11,371)

My rule of thumb was always "if you are paying to be where you are at, don't wear shorts." I'm not concerned about work, because if its a big deal, it's usually in the dress code.

Besides that, when did it get forgotten that one of the main purposes of clothing (after covering up) is comfort. It's breezy by me now, but there are days where it's 100 and muggy, you be the dope with long pants on, I'll be the comfortable one without the sweaty ankles.

skyslang (#11,283)

Y'all are crazy. Tan, muscular legs in shorts? Awesome. Nothing better.
Why do you all want men to cover everything up? Are we sure Choire isn't straight? Or a Mormon?

BadUncle (#153)

The only reasons you should wear cargo shorts are:

1) You're walking your dog (the pockets hold poop bags, your pants-phone and a flask).

2) You're a lesbian. So they should be camo patterned, too.

Kevin Knox (#4,475)

@BadUncle They can be useful at outdoor parties where you don't want the hassle of a bag but you still need somewhere to keep the forementioned flask, AND your lighter and your drugs and your keys and cellphone because the last time you put all that stuff into a proper carrying-type receptacle you woke up with it all damp and covered in sand and smelling of bourb…
No, wait, actually I think I just need to re-evaluate my life.

MyName (#10,197)

Okay, if I can't wear shorts, can I still break out a KILT?

GoGoGojira (#2,871)

@MyName That's even worse.

SeanP (#4,058)

@MyName You can wear either one (but not both).

jolie (#16)

Riddle me this commentariat: How much would you pay to see Alex and Choire battle this out in a vat of Jello? Serious answers pls.

I'll start: $75 (if a drink ticket or two were included).

@jolie I propose this as entertainment for the next Bawl. We will charge a cover, naturally.

BadUncle (#153)

@jolie Yeah, but they have to be in ball-squeezing 70's jogging short shorts.

jolie (#16)

@Clarence Rosario That's why I'm asking?

@jolie I, er…um, reading is fundamental…

@jolie: I would pay handsomely for this. And I would spectate handsomely by not wearing shorts.

Pierce (#3,939)

Feel really sad for men who can't enjoy the pleasure/comfort of shorts. And leather sandals.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

If you asked me what I was wearing, I'd have to look.

Lisanti (#13)


Lisanti (#13)

Let's also keep in mind I live in a godless place where men wear flip-flops with long pants ALL YEAR LONG.

kpants (#719)

@Lisanti Try living in Portland, where men wear sandals with socks. ALL YEAR LONG.

When does someone get to tell assholes to quit with the Yankees-cap-and-business-suit thing?

Tulletilsynet (#333)

@andrew graham
Here I was going around thinking I was a complete fashion antinomian, but yes. There are absolutes.

@andrew graham But we're fine with Red-Sox-cap-and-business-suit thing, right?

zidaane (#373)

If it looks to be chilly on the water and I'm going to be on a sailboat after sundown I will pair a matching jean jacket with my jorts and saddle boots.

Craig Brownson (#4,257)

I'm sure we can all compromise and wear these all summer?

As someone that is both living well below the 30th and also happens to rock a fantastic pair of calves, I've actually been looking for a good pair of shorts, something that cuts off just above the knee, and actually fit and don't poof out like crazy. I'm also looking for shorts that can be afforded on a government salary. SUGGESTIONS MUCH?

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@Quarterly Prophet J. Press walking shorts.

DavidBatchelor (#12,356)

Just as well I am wearing the right shorts. Some people still screw it up though with their choice of foot wear.

Melissa89 (#12,359)

I like the style of those Etro shorts. Really fancy

georpostleth (#12,361)

Y'all are crazy. Tan, muscular legs in shorts? Awesome. Nothing better.
Why do you all want men to cover everything up? Are we sure Choire isn't straight? Or a Mormon?

runsinbackground (#10,344)

I have nice shorts like in the picture there and they hit *right at* the knee when I'm standing, so they're a little bit up my thigh if I'm sitting. Is this acceptable? I promise I have nice legs because I ride my bike all the time.

Rosebud (#4,107)

@runsinbackground Hot. Pics please.

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