I like all the bright colors in the video for this remix of "Country Shit," a song by one of my favorite young rap artists, Big K.R.I.T. I like the green trees and the red fruit punch and the shiny interiors of the tricked-out Cadillacs with their wobbling woofers. And I like guest rapper Bun B's matching attire: blue cap, blue shorts. And I like that Bun B's wearing shorts, too.
I have thus far remained silent on the great Awl shorts debate. (Topic: Should men ever wear shorts?) I can see good points to both sides of the issue. Balk's view (against) reinforces something I remember reading in an interview with David Chase, creator of "The Sopranos." He was talking about how some real-life members of the mafia had contacted him early on in the making of the show, to mostly express support, and to tell him he was getting things right. But the one thing he got wrong, they said, was in the episode when Tony hosts a barbecue in his back yard and wears shorts. (Was it the pilot? With the ducks in the pool?) It was flower-print shorts, I think, too. Jams, maybe, even. And David Chase said that the real mob guys were like, "No. That's not realistic. No boss would ever wear ever wear shorts in public." Maybe the lower-level guys would, like Paulie or Pussy or something. But not Tony. Not a boss. Not even in New Jersey.
And that made sense. And it gave me pause, me being in my 30s at the time, about wearing shorts out on the streets in New York. I'm not a gangster, and I don't fetishize criminality, or aspire to any kind of tough-guy thing, or even go for, like, the idea of gravitas so much. But when it comes to dressing—when it comes to being a man, actually, I guess, as specious as it is to adhere to these kinds of traditional codes about things—I'd rather be like Tony than like Paulie. Who wouldn't, right? Paulie's a goofball. Tony is the single greatest character ever written for television.
So after reading that David Chase interview, I thought to myself: I'm a grown man. It's maybe time to start dressing like one. Maybe I need to get a wardrobe of summer pants. Light cotton or linen or something. ("Slacks," as my mom would call them and make me laugh.) So the choice, come summertime, wouldn't be between blue jeans or corduroys and shorts. Which, when it gets to be summertime in New York, and so uncomfortably hot like it is today, is really not a choice at all. I'd rather go to lunch in a Speedo than corduroys today. (Don't worry, I won't.)
So I got a couple pairs of light khakis that I wore sometimes. But not that often. I pretty much stayed wearing shorts in New York in the summer. (Even to an office, on the rare occasions that I've gone into one in the past ten years—and this, I know, would get a scolding even from pro-shorts Choire.) I always felt a little guilty about it. A little silly, knowing that to any high-ranking mafioso who I might unknowingly pass on the street, I might as well be wearing a beanie cap with spinning propeller blades on top. And then, more recently, Balk issues his dictum, and makes a pretty persuasive argument about it being my job as an adult, as a man, to suffer and sweat in long pants. (Sorry, Drew Magary at Deadspin, he'd say, "That is all.")
I even got a couple new pairs of light pants a few weeks ago, with the thought in mind that, having turned 40 this past winter, I really should be dressing more like a grown-up. Still though, last week, when it was so hot, welcoming us to June, those pants stayed in their dresser drawer. In the daytime, at least, in that disgusting heat and that tropical humidity, out on the street, in public, I kept to my shorts. (Cut-off corduroys, actually. Kind of slobbish, I know. But it's hard to find shorts-made-as-shorts that I like at all. They too often blouse out in a SpongeBob SquarePants kind of way. Or have too much sticking or something. Yes, it's like they're made for little boys.)
And now I see Bun B in this new video, wearing various pairs of shorts—khaki cargo ones, in some scenes, along with the cap-matching blues. Bun B is a hero of mine for his rapping skills, and Tony Soprano-like in his way. And he lives in Port Arthur, where I know it gets very, very hot. And I'm happy to see him dressing for the weather. Comfortable enough in his adulthood, his masculinity, his don-status, even, to expose the lower half of his legs.
It's supposed to be 94 degrees today. If you see me on the street, I'll be in shorts. Like Bun B.