Why men need to reclaim their right to wear shorts in the office – and beyond
It is time to fight back, brothers. Make like Pharrell and bare your knees with pride
Wednesday 22 April 2015 14.28 BST
Tom Ford may be a branding genius but he is not always a brilliant source of life advice – this is a man who has four baths a day and doesn’t know his own phone number. His rules include the edict that men “should never wear shorts in the city”, and where popular opinion is concerned, that is an argument he seems to be winning.
I should know. I’ve been wearing shorts all month – and the reaction I get is so weird that persevering with them has started to feel like a political act. when I enter the office, female colleagues feel impelled to exclaim, “Ooh, you’ve got your legs out!” as if I’ve come in a Peppa Pig costume, rather than simply dressed weather appropriately. Outside of work, friends have been catcalled for baring their knees. It’s as though wearing what are essentially just shorter trousers is an affront to traditional masculinity. The reasoning seems to be that shorts are childish or not formal enough. Even designer Raf Simons – a man who knows a thing or two about elegant dressing – has had his shorts treated as breaking news; when he wore them during recent documentary Dior and I, the fact that his legs were visible was described by the film’s director as a psychological “turning point”.
But since when did being uncomfortably hot equal looking masculine? Imagine if people began declaring that women should wear bobble hats in summer, or they would look like idiots – this is the kind of rubbish we are dealing with. It’s also symptomatic of a much wider problem in men’s fashion, which is that it is either treated as a comic curiosity or something that must be handled with extreme dexterity otherwise you can be publicly shamed.
So, I say, fight back. It’s time to end this tyranny, and accept that man cannot live on trousers alone (especially during the forecasted heatwave). I hereby declare short season officially open.
Thankfully, renegades such as Pharrell Williams are doing noble work to spread acceptance of short-wearing men. He memorably catapulted the formal short to prominence last year, wearing a tuxedo jacket with Lanvin shorts to the Oscars, and a similar Adidas short-suit to this year’s Grammys. Nicknamed the king of men’s street style, Nickelson Wooster is another high-profile shorts advocate, looking neither childish nor unmanly in his trademark collection (the stern expression helps).
On the catwalks
The spring/summer 2015 men’s collections were awash with shorts, from military inspired short-suits at Commes Des Garçons to loose-fit ones paired with oversized knits and tailored jackets at Bottega. The Paul Smith show had a relaxed bohemian vibe, with billowing shorts in satin, and E Tautz showed voluminous pleated pairs with built-in belts. Even Cerruti 1881 Paris abandoned its usual sharpness in favour of slouchy shorts – providing the missing link between tailoring and sportswear. Forget cargo shorts and England strips, shorts can be a stylish addition to any man’s wardrobe – and stop you developing heat rash in the process.
What to buy
The gateway short
After last summer’s splurge of short-shorts on the high street, there are more looser and longer styles now available, which are a bit easier to pull off. For an unfussy affordable pair, head to Uniqlo, where chino shorts in an array of colours will set you back £19.90 They’re cut just above the knee, allowing you the option to roll them up should the mood strike. For simple, masculine styling, team with a grey marl sweater, converse and a denim jacket.
The Nu-Lad short
American brands like Tim Coppens, Alexander Wang and Public School provide a good route in for anyone who is nervous about trying the trend out, by doing the urban street luxe thing so well. For London-based alternatives, check out Christopher Shannon and Nasir Mazhar.
The jazzy short
If you fancy pushing the boat out, team a patterned bottom – such as this Tomorrowland pair, or a failsafe pinstripe – with a plainer top. For the truly brave, experiment with print clashes as Frank Ocean does, and he never looks less than exemplary.
The City short
At the smarter end of the spectrum, Reiss does a tailored pair in light check which shouldn’t feel too out of place in the office. (Look away now, Tom.)