Short Shorts on Men: A Social Necessity

What Women Really Think
May 15 2014 4:54 PM

How Men Can Fight Sexism by Wearing Very Short Shorts

140515_DX_BillClintonAlGoreShorts
Al Gore and Bill Clinton, doing what they can for the cause.

Photo by Tim Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Who wears short shorts? This summer, men wear short shorts, according to a delightful fashion dispatch from the Wall Street Journal’s David Colman.* “In the past few years, the low-water-mark length of a 15-inch-or-so inseam receded to knee-length (11 inches), then a knee-baring 9 inches, then to a quadriceps-exposing 7 inches and on to the newly fashionable thigh-flaunting 5 inches,” Coleman reports. “If men's shorts were a glacier in Greenland, scientists would be freaking out.”

Amanda Hess Amanda Hess

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 

Is this a fake trend story? God, I hope not. It’s high time we banish the Kevin Federline manpri for good and usher in Bob Benson’s cheeky abbreviated khaki. Jezebel’s Dodai Stewart is with me. “Since the turn of the century—the late '90s, early aughts—we have been plagued by unsightly shorts. It's unclear who is to blame. Hip hop? Rave? Surfers? Skateboarders? It doesn't matter, really. The hideous trend slithered onto men nationwide, curling its tentacles around the legs of innocent dudes and sheathing them in the most terrible way. And it's held on for so long,” she wrote. “Bring up that hemline!” she compelled the men of summer. “Show us your legs.”

Not everyone is on board. “We love @Jezebel but this post is not only wrong, it’s dangerous,” Mother Jones magazine squealed. Another armchair hemline measurer was more to the point: “Men in short shorts, it's just wrong. Don't wear short shorts out, your balls need to breathe and we don't need to see it. God.”

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If short shorts on men are dangerous, then I welcome a state of emergency. The shorter short can, of course, make for a compelling visual—think Daniel Craig emerging, boy-shorted, from the sea in Casino Royale—but short shorts on men also confer social benefits to everyone. In a world where women’s bodies are often dismissed as “dangerous” and “wrong” when exposed, girls are made to pass fingertip hemline tests to gain access to middle-school classrooms, and authority figures claim that these rules and regulations are put in place to protect girls from boys, pulling the short short onto the other leg implicitly dismantles these sexist structures. Craig’s ocean scene wasn’t just a proud moment for short-shorted men everywhere—it helped to restore the cosmic balance between cheesecake and beefcake in the Bond universe.

And a man needn’t reach Hollywood levels of fitness to contribute to the effort. To the contrary! All body types are welcome in this Campaign for Short-Shorted Men. The Huffington Post may have called resurfaced photographs of Bill Clinton and Al Gore hitting the 1992 campaign trail in itsy bitsy running shorts “embarrassing,” but in my view, discriminating against the body of the short wearer would be antithetical to the very spirit of the hemline lift. 

So bring on the Luke Dukes. But hold off on accepting the news that socks with sandals are suddenly fashionable—that story is totally bogus.

* Correction, June 5, 2014: This post originally misspelled the last name of Wall Street Journal reporter David Colman.

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 

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