Friends, I have finally seen the light. For many years now — without ever understanding the full implications of my actions — I’ve been wearing jean shorts.
It all started back when I was a teen, hacking off the legs of my torn up skinny jeans in summer because regular shorts just weren’t metal enough. But then, like the proverbial frog in boiling water, the garments in question somehow stuck with me into adulthood without me ever noticing.
I bring all this up because jean shorts are having a moment this summer. Several pieces about their recent revival in menswear have appeared in major publications, including GQ and the Wall Street Journal. What struck me about these editorials was not so much their announcements of the return of jean shorts — you’ll remember, I’ve been a fan since my wayward youth, so their appeal was hardly news to me — but rather the tone the articles struck. The view expressed with unnerving unanimity was that jean shorts were, simply put, ridiculous. ‘Isn’t it hilarious how these silly shorts are somehow back in fashion,’ they all seemed to sneer.
If my life were a movie, this moment of wide-eyed realisation would have been shot in one of those vertiginous close-ups where the camera zooms in while the background pulls away. ‘Of course! Jean shorts are ridiculous,’ I’d cry, throwing my phone across the room as I fell to my knees, keening in despair as I grabbed at my abjectly jorted thighs.
The signs have been there all along. I’ve seen old photos from the ’70s of barbequing dads in denim cut-offs which bared every inch of their shaggy shanks. I remember the dubiously hemmed JNCo variety that ballooned their way through the streets and playgrounds of my youth. I can picture with crystal clarity the movie poster for the Adam Sandler vehicle Don’t Mess with the Zohan. It’s as though the universe has been imploring me to see reason for years, but all that time I just kept going blissfully about my business in fraying, thigh-length denim.
Cognitive dissonance is what it was. Of course I thought denim dads with half-inch inseams were risible. Naturally I rolled my eyes wherever I spotted someone bench-pressing in cut-offs. It goes without saying that I sniggered at the sight of Andre Agassi playing tennis in stonewashed shorts. They were all patently ridiculous! Never once did I pause to consider, however, that I was one among them, counted as one of their laughable legion…All this time the call had been coming from inside my Levis Strauss.
I’d constructed an elaborate maze of self-deception. I always referred to them as ‘cut-offs’, for example. Never ‘jorts’ or ‘Daisy Dukes’. Had I even once thought to call them what they were — DENIM SHORTS, for goodness’ sake — I’d have stopped dead in my tracks. ‘Cut-offs’ were cool, they spoke of youth and rebellion, of motorbikes and Lucky Strikes. I identified with the devil-may-care wearers — the metal-heads and rock stars, with Patti Smith and Debbie Harry — when, of course, my milquetoast nature and rapidly-ageing body sent a different message altogether. Channelling Bob Weir, I thought my jean shorts shouted DEAD; it turns out they were jorts and only spelt DAD.
Jean shorts seem to trigger something deep inside of us (on men, at least; they have fit comfortably in women’s wardrobes for decades). It isn’t just the paternal associations and memories of trends gone by. It’s not simply that denim is woefully ill-fit for warm weather. It somehow registers as absurd in a precognitive way. We instinctively know that a fabric intended to be tear-proof should not be fraying above a knee; that a garment that was first marketed as ‘waist overalls’ in 1873 should not cover so little.
Fortunately for me, though, the tide has turned and jorts are back. Trendsetters like Justin Bieber, Shia LeBeouf, and Tyler, The Creator wear them now. You can buy them for north of $700 from Kapital or Vetements. They’ve gone the way of New Balances and fanny packs, turning from tone-deaf to trendy. As Jacob Gallagher puts it: ‘In the world of men’s fashion, what was once mockable is now covetable.’
So where does that leave me, you ask? It turns out that the selfsame trend that first sent me spiralling would come to galvanise my prior convictions. Having gone through a dark denim night of the soul, I’ve emerged again, filled with new confidence. Which is to say, I have seen the future and in it I’m wearing jorts.
Now, some might argue that this is one more instance of willful ignorance on my part, yet another message from the cosmos left unheeded. But to you, I say: Hearken the wisdom of all those Boomer gams of yesteryear. Like the dads in Daisy Dukes who came before me, I’m here to declare that I’ve found a look and, God help me, I’m sticking to it. So, should you ever need me in the summertime, you’ll find me over by the grill alongside the other old men, cradling a cold one and sporting a perilously fraying inseam.
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