We are all slaves to fashion, whether we admit it or not. My question is, why is the master so ‐‐ well – brutal?
Your editor went shopping for shorts. It was a 110‐degree day in Phoenix and my current wardrobe of shorts looked a bit threadbare. I visited all of the places one would look for fashionable shorts, such as Walmart, Target, JCPenny, and Ross.
What began as a predicament has ended up as this rant.
Now, to make this clear what I was looking for ‐‐ it was shorts. I was not looking for clown appropriate cargo shorts tailored with more room to swing than Madison Square Garden, but that was all the market had to offer for gents. In my frustration I began asking for shorts, not pantlets (little pants). It seems, however, the term pantlets was not understood as irreverent, but as a product name used in the diaper industry as slang for training pants. A sales clerk from Canada understood this and suggested that I was a bit old for pantlets, and too young for the – err, older version.
All I was seeking were nice shorts, tailored with a narrowing of the leg opening that were cut mid thigh. Honestly, I would have had more success cleaning and dressing the snipe from last night’s hunt.
So, I went back to my investigative roots, trying to figure out where this seriously unfortunate fashion choice originated. Essentially, from what I have gleaned from those who know what they are talking about in the fashion business, men’s shorts cover all pants that do not go down to your ankle. The same is true for women with one exception, if the pants stop mid‐calf they are called crappy pants ‐ excuse me ‐ Capri pants.
Flocking and differentiation is a term in sociology that refers to our tendency to gather our likes while still staking out some individuality. Fashion definitely has a flocking and differentiation feature. We, as a group, flock to a fashion trend but we each have our own unique take on it. Also, fashion is not a top down dictum. Fashion is a feedback loop from the street, to the design house, and back out to the streets. The inception of baggy shorts came from urban culture where kids were wearing sports shorts that were too big for them. This trend was assimilated by the sports apparel industry, most noticeably in soccer and basketball where professional athletes began wearing baggy shorts. The professional sports teams adopted baggy shorts for two reasons ‐ this is what younger players were wearing, and this is what the fans were going to buy in the team apparel shops. While I think the shorts in more recent years are smaller and less baggy, it still looks like guys in the NBA are playing basketball in mid length skirts.
Traditionally, I have been told, shorts were divided into categories based upon how far the leg comes down the thigh. 0/3 ‐ hot pants, 1/3 ‐ athletic shorts, 2/3 ‐ traditional shorts, 3/3 ‐ long shorts. Every pair I found was between 3/3 and 5/3, and baggy as heck. Even those that supposedly fit were of a heavy material ‐ twill or denim that slipped easily from the waist. The only images that came to my mind, as I tried on pair after pair, were news footage from police helicopters. These clips invariably show a young man running with one hand on his waist holding up his shorts as he attempts an escape. These young men also seem wear knee length socks.
A fashion editor told me that with the growing size of the American male baggy (gentleman’s cut) shorts and shirts are not going to go away. The average person weighs in 20 to 30 pounds heavier in 2002 than they did in 1960 ‐‐ while only averaging one additional inch in height. Averages for men, 5’9″ at 191 pounds, and for women 5’4″ and 164 pounds. The U.S.population is getting substantially larger (Source CDC). As large people chose clothing with less tailoring, the market changes, and so do the choices all of us have for off‐the‐rack clothing. The Big and Tall stores may soon transmogrify into “Slim and Fit” stores.
The baggy look continues in full force today. The reality that these seem to be the only style I can buy is now fully understood by your editor. Even some dress pants now have a tag extolling “extra leg room” feature. Your editor is 6’2′ and once weighed nearly 235, but is down to 190* with more to lose. I am only looking for simple clothes that fit. If any of our readers know of a store where I can buy off‐the rack shorts cut at about 2/3, I would greatly appreciate the information. If not, it’s off to the tailor with arm of male Capri pants to be altered.
* The weight loss was done both to win a bet and to feel better. I lost the bet, as a colleague lost more weight in less time, but we have both won something else. Thank you for the challenge, and thank you to several other colleagues for the new bet. While we all want to win, in the end, we’re all winners. (Nuts to that soppy statement. I just said that to be nice. I want to win! And I am not above sending free double meat pizzas to all of you!)