As I write, the rain pours relentlessly outside my window. Victoria Tower, which should be gleaming in the early evening August sun, is grey and indistinct. Rain has been the consistent feature of this particularly British summer and it is mightily depressing. However, I am determined to be resistant to meteorological circumstances. Summer, whatever is left of it, can still be enjoyed and it was the thoughts of warmer weather (in foreign lands) that turned my attention to the gentleman’s short trouser.
I think many chaps think of shorts in the same way they think of sun cream; one of those irritating aspects of summer that have to be acknowledged for reasons of comfort. They’re widely considered to be inelegant and overtly boyish, which causes gentlemen of distinctly mature style to recoil in fear at the thought of having to wear them. To abandon their finely tailored trousers for a sawn-off version is somewhat distressing, particularly given their reluctance in displaying naked flesh.
In my opinion, the short is not to be feared. It is certainly possible to make terrible mistakes but the matter is really quite simple; attention to length, material, colour and ensemble will produce very good results.
Although many chaps believe longer shorts hide imperfect knees and thighs and make you look ‘younger’ (by the accident that younger men tend to wear surfer-style shorts) in actual fact, longer shorts have a detrimental consequence on even the most beautiful of legs. They have the effect of making the calves look rather shorter than they are which has the overall result of making one’s legs look shorter, which makes you look short and badly proportioned, particularly if you happen to be a diminutive chap in the first place. The longest shorts should sit just above the knee; anything else is oversized and inappropriate. If you find yourself looking in the mirror thinking to yourself ‘But, in these short-shorts I look… rather boyish’ you’ve got the right pair. Shorts are boyish, which is part of their appeal.
Cotton is a popular material in short manufacture; lightweight and easy to clean. However, more and more linen shorts are on the market which is pleasing as they make a welcome ‘textured’ change from the plain cottons. Silk shorts are even rarer and, although I can appreciate the sartorial candour of strutting around the marina in some marvellous printed silk, they aren’t exceedingly practical and you could be mistaken for being inappropriately attired in high-priced underwear. Avoid denim and corduroy.
If shorts are an insignificant part of the wardrobe, it is wise to choose versatile, simple colours to adapt to the other items in the ensemble. A mid blue, not navy, is a more practical colour as it is far easier to pair with black; khaki is very safe, but also very elegant and white, although certain readers might be perplexed at the suggestion of such a ‘sporty’ colour, is cool and fresh and complements tanned legs marvellously well. Those who are more short-savvy might wish to consider sky blues, seersucker and even plaids.
Try to avoid wearing socks with shorts. The leg looks best when its line, between shoe and short cuff, has not been interrupted by a little fold of cotton. Consequently, many gentlemen will prefer to wear sandals, espadrilles or driving shoes for comfort as harder shoes, without socks, can be awfully rough. The key with short footwear is to avoid unnecessary ‘size’; ruling out clumpy-soled shoes like trainers. There should be minimal tread; anything worn with shorts should frame the foot and nothing more.
Do not avoid wearing shirts with shorts. Shirts look perfectly acceptable, in many cases preferable, to grubby t-shirts. Folding up the cuffs is a good way to match the informality of the shirt to the shorts.
Casual jackets and blazers look great with shorts, provided they are as acceptably fitting as the shorts themselves. I think it’s advisable to avoid too much length in the jacket at all times, but this is particularly pertinent in relation to shorts; think ‘short trousers = short jacket.’
Belts are another way to add a different texture or tonal quality to the short material but try and avoid using them for camera clips or money bags; carry a bag instead, it looks much better and is more secure.