Style / July 2017

How to Wear Shorts

Why do shorts get so much hate? The unfair discrimination against this ever-so-practical summertime garment must end, argues the author.

President John F. Kennedy lounging aboard his yacht, circa 1962.

Paris. Men’s fashion week. Summer. Must’ve been six, seven years back. There I was, rockin’ an Al Bazar seersucker DB, trad Brooks OCBD and repp stripe tie, rad red-white-and-blue Tod’s Gomminos, and technicolour madras Ralph Lauren shorts. Street style snappers absolutely losing it for the outfit.

I felt like a god, wind in the (leg) hair, cool as ice in every sense of the word… Only to be utterly cut down to size when the maître d’ at a St Germain café looked askance at my pants and haughtily sneered, “Mais non, monsieur. You may not enter this establishment — in those shorts!”

Dress codes and restrictions have loosened immensely — some would say, to a tragic degree — in recent decades. Only a handful of restaurants and hotels today demand that gentlemen wear a jacket and tie. With denim’s elevation from blue-collar workwear staple to handloomed Japanese selvedge, artisanal designer attire, jeans have become acceptable virtually everywhere. Even The Ritz Mayfair has relaxed its century-long denim prohibition. Sneakers are also omnipresent, now banned only at certain nightclubs.

Shorts, though? They’re the final frontier, the one men’s garment that continues to be almost universally considered too casual for anywhere situated more than a few metres from a body of water or athletic arena. It’s ridiculous. Just as a man can look marvellous in a well-cut pair of jeans, T-shirt and sneakers, so too can he look terrible in a cheap, ill-fitting suit. A suit which would, nevertheless, get him past the technicalities of virtually any dress code (with the exception of Soho House New York’s, designed to despatch with braying, power-suited Patrick Bateman types).

The same goes for shorts. They cannot simply be dismissed categorically. They can look goddamn fantastic.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.