Up here in the northern hemisphere, we’re well into the warmest part of the year. Some call it summer; others know it simply as Baggies season.
For a rapidly growing group of nylon shorts-enthusiasts, Patagonia Baggies are the only pants that matter at this time of year. If you don’t already own some, you’ll almost certainly have seen them around. They’re the colourful, slightly flared short shorts that the clothing world has lost its minds over in the last couple of years.
Their specs are as follows: They come in an array of cheery colours and bold patterns and you can get either a 5 or 7-inch inseam (the women’s ones also come in a so-called ‘Barely There’ 2.5-inch variety). A word to the wise, though: You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who gives a hoot about the 7-inch ones. After all, TikTok taught us all long ago that the only inseam that matters is 5 inches long.
Patagonia makes Baggies from recycled nylon, now using 52 percent less water and releasing 18 percent less carbon than in earlier version of the garment. This pushes up the price somewhat, as with any Patagonia’s product, meaning these colourful bottoms retail for $55, or £50 if you’re in the UK. Which is a price point that might have you wondering what the hell all the fuss is about.
It’s a good question, and one that everyone from The Wall Street Journal to The Cut has been trying to answer over the last year. Baggies were originally conceived nearly 40 years ago back in 1982 by Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard. He was after a pair of shorts with mesh pockets that were big enough to hold two tennis balls. He also wanted them to be fast-drying and durable enough to take a beating during outdoor activities. As with any of Patagonia’s iconic designs, Baggies were conceived as a no-frills solution to a real-life problem.
Chouinard was clearly not alone in his desire for a good pair of all-purpose shorts. Baggies have been the constant companion of countless outdoorsy types for going on four decades now (just consult the company’s own photo history of the garment as evidence). But they didn’t go fully mainstream until a couple of years ago, in part thanks to their popularity with celebrities like Kanye West, Jonah Hill, and Jacob Elordi. Then there’s been the rise of gorp- and normcore as cultural phenomena to consider. And the pandemic certainly didn’t hurt, which had us all ditching formalwear for no-fuss, casual comfort. Speaking just for myself, in the context of a global health crisis, a colourful and fun bit of clothing went a surprisingly long way toward lifting one’s spirits.
There is certainly a kind of alchemy to Baggies, some magical combination of form and function that has you reaching for them day after day as you’re getting dressed. The fabric feels somehow perfectly soft and roomy, while practical details like the mesh lining means you can just as comfortably laze about on the sofa as jump in a lake at a moment’s notice (not something I’m likely to do just now, but it’s always nice to have the option). As for the fit, Emilia Petrarca put it best:
‘What differentiates Baggies from other shorts is their silhouette. The nylon fabric gives them a sort of stiffness, meaning they flare outward and float elegantly around your leg, instead of rubbing up against it — almost like a hoop skirt. The hem slopes downward toward your crotch, as opposed to cutting straight across, which helps give someone like me the illusion of thigh muscles. And their five-inch inseam is the perfect length: short but not too short […] All in all, I find them flattering, which is not something you can say about a lot of hiking shorts.’
There’s also the fact — unlikely as it might seem for what at a glance reads as a gaudy pair of board shorts — that they go with just about everything. Look on Instagram and you’ll find guys pairing them with T-shirts, OCBDs, Western wear, sweatshirts, Cowichans, sandals, sneakers, fancy loafers, you name it. Who could have predicted that some cheeky tennis shorts would become the plain white T or bluejeans of summertime?
But, rather like the VW Beetle, the iPod Classic, or a pair of Chuck Taylors, Baggies seem to have managed right out of the gate to nail an iconic piece of design that hasn’t needed much tinkering since. Which is why a pair of shorts that’s nearly 40 years old can consistently sell out and (as with so much vintage Patagonia) birth a healthy resale market.
I’ve always been a fan of short shorts. I’ve worn them my entire life, first growing up as an Afrikaans kid (for whom they constitute de facto traditional garb alongside bare feet and crewcuts), and then over the years as a teenager and adult, where they’ve morphed into a personal uniform for warmer weather. I also spend a lot of time outdoors and own roughly my body weight in Patagonia products. So when Baggies finally became available in the UK earlier this year (previously frustrated Brits had to content themselves with airing their grievances on Reddit), I immediately filled my cart with every pair I could get my hands on. And, lest there be any confusion, I didn’t find out about their newfound availability via social media, brand newsletters, or any other menswear-related channels, but rather from obsessively refreshing the ‘shorts’ section of Patagonia’s EU site, as I had been doing for months.
So, should you need me any time in the near future, I’ll just be at my computer patiently waiting for the next restock.