To answer the question that I know is in your head: Yes, the back has a matching butt vortex.
"Well, the ubiquitous uniform nowadays seems to call for cargo shorts, T-shirt and hyper-designed running shoes. It’s a decent enough look, I suppose, if your only goal is comfort. And all those expandable pockets do come in handy for all the stuff—water bottle, latest iPad or iPhone, keys, antidepressant medication—so many of us seem to cart around with us these days."
-G. Bruce Boyer on shorts in The Rake. Photograph of George C. Marshall on the porch of his summer cottage at Fire Island, 1939.
Keeping Summer Simple
I don’t love shorts, but I wear them. Why? The truth is that I’m a San Francisco guy living in Los Angeles. My internal thermostat can handle temperatures from about 55 to 80, so when the weatherman says “high of 91” and I don’t have a meeting or a reason to wear something fancy, I reach for a pair of shorts. It’s tough to admit, but it’s true.
When it’s genuinely hot outside, I work hard to keep things simple and lightweight. Above is the kind of outfit I’m talking about. The shirt’s from J. Crew - right now they’re full retail, $89.50 (!), but I didn’t pay more than $30 for any of the linen in my closet. I usually buy them in-store late in the summer, when they’ve been marked down a couple times. When I see some plain white linen that works well for me, and it’s $23 a pop, I buy a few. I’ve got a couple with something going on, and a couple more in white and light blue solid. Perfect for every occasion.
The shorts are by Uniqlo, and they’re $30. These aren’t world beaters, quality-wise, but they’ll get you through a summer or two. Focus on basics - khaki is of course number one, but white’s surprisingly easy to wear when it’s genuinely summer out. Navy blue’s pretty useful, too.
The shoes are plain plimsolls - traditional canvas sneakers. I actually bought this pair a few weeks ago right after posting about them here, they’re Keds. Thirty five bucks out the door (though there are only a couple sizes left now). Plain white and navy are workhorses for summer sneakers. If they get dirty, don’t sweat it. If they get gross and ratty, replace them. Besides Keds, we like to recommend Converse and Superga. Keep those feet fresh with no-show socks like these.
There are other options, of course. I love the madras shorts and shirts from Lands’ End, for example. I’m a big ghurka shorts man, and if it’s really summery and I’m not walking too far, I wear espadrilles. But frankly, with a simple, coordinated outfit like this, you’ll have 99% of the other chumps beat. Heck, just by covering your toes you’ll have 90% beat. And trust me: no one wants to see your toes.
Hector sends this lovely little cartoon on the subject of short pants. It’s entitled “Half A Pantaloon.”
Ghurka shorts are ALWAYS a win.
Hemingway captains Pilar.
Boys Becoming Men, Men Becoming Wolves, Pants Becoming Shorts
If you’re having a hard time finding just the right shorts for this summer’s hottest days, remember: shorts are generally just pants with shorter legs. You can transform pants into shorts pretty simply, for about ten bucks.
- First, pick the pants. You can use pants that aren’t the right length or have a stain below the knee for maximum efficiency, or you can just pick something that fits right around the waist and thigh but isn’t available in shorts form.
- Then, cut them off (regular scissors are fine) two inches or so below thelowest point you think you might want them “shortsified.” At the bottom of your knee should work.
- With pins (safety or straight), pin them to the inseam length you like by folding the excess fabric under. We made the first cut and use pins so that it’s easy to play around and see what looks best.
- Once you’ve got them pinned, take them to your tailor or alterationist, and ask him to hem them at that point. A plain hem should cost you about ten or twelve bucks. If you prefer a cuff - which is a trendy on shorts that are a bit less casual - that’ll cost a bit more, and you should make sure to have a couple extra inches of fabric. For a cuff, you’ll need a little more than double the length of the cuff (like 5” for a 2” cuff.)
Suddenly, as if by magic, your pants have become shorts.
(Illustration via StyleGirlfriend - who advocates shorter shorts if you’ve got the legs.)
“The length and fit of shorts reveal a good deal about the true or desired age of the wearer.”— Bernhard Roetzel
Since I moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco, I’ve had to adjust to the idea of wearing shorts during the hottest months of the year. I get horrible migraine headaches, weather’s a big trigger, so when it’s over 85 or 90, it’s all shortpants, all the time.
As I’ve come to accept, if not embrace the situation, I’ve tried a lot of shorts. The height-of-summer outfit I keep coming back to is one that’s as at home in the 1930s as it is today. Ghurka shorts, linen shirt and espadrilles.
Ghurka shorts, like khaki pants, have a military heritage. They’re distinguished by their self-belting waist, which was purportedly designed to allow soldiers to tighten their trou as they lost weight in the field. They were originally worn by the British military, but they became a surplus staple, not unlike WWII’s chinos.
When the supply of WWII surplus dried up in the 60s and 70s, they faded away, only to return in the 1980s. Above, an advertisement for the old pre-Gap Banana Republic that celebrates their field heritage.
Nowadays they’re tough to find and rarely seen, but they still cut a flattering, relaxed, elegant figure when they are spotted. My pair is by Bill’s Khakis, though they no longer offer the style (and I had to remove a cargo pocket with a seam ripper). I just snagged a second pair, by J. Peterman, off of eBay. Bonus points go to What Price Glory, the UK military recreationists, for their reasonably price (less than forty bucks) and their authentic forward pleats.
They’re best worn with a shirt tucked in and casual footwear. No need for the kneesocks that British forces wore with their desert boots. If things get hot, roll the hem up a bit. It adds panache.
My post about affordable summer style got a lot of positive response, so I thought I’d post something else in the same spirit.
This summer, instead of buying new shorts, make your own.
Take a pair of old chinos or fine-waled cords that you don’t care about, put them on, and make a mark about an inch below your knee. Then take them off, lay them flat on the ground, and make sure that the seams and hems are completely aligned. Now cut them straight across at the mark, ideally with an X-acto knife. Remember that you can always cut them shorter, but not make them longer, so repeat the process until you’ve carefully inched your way up to your ideal length.
For a slightly cleaner look, cut your pants until you’re about two inches away from your ideal length, then take them to a tailor to have them hemmed. The job should cost you between $10 and $15. Not bad for a pair of shorts.