When the forecast reaches 60 degrees in Boston, you may be blinded by the sunlight reflecting off of my fellow citygoers’ legs, which haven’t seen the light of day in months.
I too am guilty of chomping at the bit to wear anything other than cords and wool stockings by the end of March, and will take the goosebumps in exchange for Vitamin D. While walking with a friend through the Public Garden the other day, we passed a group of young men with shorts of various lengths. Thanks to my trusty tortoiseshell sunglasses and all involved responsibly wearing masks, no more than a passing interest was registered between both parties. When within a reasonable distance, my friend clicked her tongue and said, “Any men’s shorts higher than the kneecaps might as well be thongs.”
As the temperature rises, there is once again a great hullabaloo over the inseam length of men’s shorts. It’s a perennial conversation that, as with my formerly dear friend and I, could cause one to question not only another person’s opinion but their entire perception of reality. The debate has taken on a new level of intensity this year, and yes, there was much hair-pulling after I knocked the iced chai tea latte out of her hand. Perhaps we’ve all seen so little of each other in person that it’s jarring to not only see people in real life, but to behold so many men who were formerly hesitant to show off their gams. Twitter and TikTok have normalized the trend, with brands like the cheekily-named Chubbies ready to supply the demand.
Not yet “thigh guy summer,” in 1953 Life Magazine reported that “male individualists” were raising hemlines above the knee to combat New York City’s ungodly summer temperatures. The Bermuda short is now an Ivy staple, and it’s funny to think of my grandfather wearing anything that was once subversive to lunch in Mashpee Commons. Madras and khaki variants appear widely (and tightly) in Take Ivy, and later actors like Paul Newman and Harrison Ford championed a closer cut and a higher crop for athletic and casual wear. At the risk of objectifying famous, professionally handsome men, this I like to call the “wawaweewa” length. Anything above a 5” inseam is best left to Europeans. The jury’s still out on an acceptable uniform sock length to wear with shorts, Grampy prefers over the calf.
At their best, shorts are the pinnacle of form and function. Like any garment, a pair that fits one’s body type anchors most summer outfits. Shorts that hit below the knee or mid-calf pose the threat of making the man wearing them look shorter and wider, even if they played college basketball. Shorts that are too short and too tight, well, I owe my friend an apology and another iced latte anyway. For me, and for others that like what I like, it’s reassuring to see that men do indeed have thighs.
That being said, there can be too much definition on a man’s body in the era of stretch cotton. There will be a learning curve, among all the other curves. — ZG BURNETT