Sunday, June 10, 2007

The correct use of shorts

Like most grown men in the 1950s, my father didn't own any shorts. They were a garment that his generation associated with a recent unpleasantness with the Japanese. Thankfully it wasn't warm when Macmillan was Prime Minister, so he could get by.
His son, however, tends to rely on shorts from May to October. A trip to the shops yesterday provided an opportunity to see how different groups of modern British men are reacting to the current stifling temperatures. Silver haired members of the regiment of the retired turn out (or are, one suspects, turned out) in the biscuity shades decreed by Marks and Spencer, their feet forced into trainers held in place with velcro.
Meanwhile the look for the young father seems to be the polo shirt, the wrap around shades that cricketers use to project inscrutability and then the cropped trouser which terminates a foot above the sockless trainer.
I'm not sure about this. Fathers, I feel, have a social duty to look reliable. This used to mean a pipe. Obviously that is never coming back. But there is something faintly disreputable about this look (or at least the cropped trouser element of it). Maybe it's the piratical connotations or the echoes of the footballer on holiday. There is something about it which is not altogether right.
When the Englishmen of 1940 got their legs out it was in order to frighten Rommel - not to look like S Club 7.


  1. Anonymous5:28 pm

    I work for a local authority that has a dress code. That dress code excludes shorts. However I and a few others feel that tailored shorts are quite acceptable in the summer heat, especially in offices where there is no air conditioning but there are PC's, printers and photocopiers pumping out heat raising the temperature to unacceptable levels.
    We had disapproving looks from management, but no challenges - yet.

  2. Anonymous6:47 pm

    I think you'll find that a father's first duty is to dress in such a way that his child(ren) are embarrassed to be seen in public with him. Those unflattering almost-shorts achieve this aim admirably. My own opinion is that no man over the age of 25 should be seen in shorts unless he is engaged in some kind of sport. (Trips to the shops don't count.) Dare you answer the question we are all asking though - socks or not?

  3. Anonymous8:21 pm

    My father (now 75) always wore shorts with socks and sandals, which, God help us, yesterday's Guardian tells me is fashionable!

    What is the point of those 'shorts' which finish just a few inches from where a normal pair of trousers would be? They can't be much cooler (in the original sense), can they?

    And as for those wraparound shades, you're right about cricketers wearing them. I can't stand them as I always associate them with Botham, who I really can't stand.

  4. Anonymous8:22 pm

    Under no circumstances give in to the appalling 3/4 length trouser with sockless trainers below look.

    You are absolutely right to feel some unease. It is, I'm afraid, the summer uniform of the oik and is often combined with a cropped head and a female friend with a glottal stop and a packet of fags.

    Like you, I felt the need for some new shorts today. After visiting the usual High Street suspects, nothing available was right.

    Dark shorts are a non-starter for English legs. (This is a dangerous time of year to expose them without fear of ridicule or a few secret pre-exposure sessions in the garden). Shorts with great big pockets on the legs are passe and only for the young. High waisters with a shirt tucked in? No thanks. Best bet is a traditional stone or light olive.
    Consideration has to be applied to suitable footwear next. Any sort of heel or high rise to the side or front turns legs into coke bottles.
    Today, you could see a large number of males with flipflops on their white, hairy and probably unwashed feet, promenading along Richmond Embankment as if it were Spain.

    In the face of these uncouth masses, one must maintain a certain dignity in one's apparel to rise above the hoi-polloi without appearing foppish.

    This usually means a discreet retreat into the traditional short hovering vaguely around the mid to lower knee implying some sartorial insouciance about the whole matter and a pair of carefully scuffed, flat boat shoes or similar. White socks with any combination are a sign that the wearer has problems. Black socks and shorts are punishable by hanging.

    In summary, a good pair of shorts are a rare find and to be treasured for years. That's why I'm sitting here in a pair with frayed edges.

    Today, The Duke wore jeans and was bloody hot.

    Let me know if you find a good pair.

    Until then, I'm considering adopting this look.

  5. The Duke Wore Jeans? That's a thought I hadn't entertained for nearly fifty years. I rushed to You Tube hoping there would be a clip but sadly there wasn't.

  6. Anonymous9:10 pm

    There is absolutely no excuse for a human male over the age of 5 to wear a trouser which ends halfway between knee and ankle.

  7. Hear, hear! I have a picture of my Royal Engineer pater with his colleagues in WW2 at the Black Pyramid in Egypt. The only time I ever saw him in shorts, and a damn good thing, too. But on the distaff side, I shan't see 40 again, but I found myself driving today whilst wearing a bikini top and jeans. Is this acceptable for elderly ladies?

    Incidentallly, can't get enough of your usage of the word 'biscuity'.

  8. Anonymous9:44 pm

    There is absolutely no excuse for a human male over the age of 5 to wear a trouser which ends halfway between knee and ankle.

  9. Anonymous12:22 am

    I'm all for the short shorts, isn't that from Bonzo's? Anyway shorts should be short, not just badly fitting trousers!

  10. In the 50s Dads didn't wear shorts and Mums didn't wear trousers. I can remember my best friend's mum turning out in a pair in about 1965. She called them "slacks".

  11. Nothing wrong with 3/4 length trousers when you have bad legs (like me). Why make everyone else suffer? I'm not comfortable with public nakedness. I'm British.

  12. Three quarter lengthy trousers make legs look stumpy. You'll never catch me in them, or shorts (unless swimming) and definitely not mandals either.

    I stay indoors and pray for winter.

  13. Anonymous1:42 pm

    So, the plumber blog numbers are being beaten by the one on shorts! Why don't you put a man in shorts with a plunger on the cover of Word and then you'll mint it. Or even better, Leonard Cohen in shorts fixing his sink.

  14. Listen, there's a lot of rot being spoken here about the three-quarter length trouser. Frankly, a decently tailored pair with a pair of Birkenstocks - never, never sockless trainers - is a perfectly acceptable summer look for the middle-aged man.

  15. Anonymous4:03 pm

    It's a shane that Birkenstocks were't around when this was filmed.

  16. Anonymous4:32 pm

    I realised I'd become a man when I knew I would be happy to wear socks, my MBT sandles and above the knee shorts to work, and not worry about what the younger women in the office think. I don't of course, but I would if I wanted to.

  17. The Al Green clip is extraordinary. The shoulder bag makes me think he was doing it for a bet.

  18. Anonymous7:52 am

    Good Job! :)