Aug 1, 2008

Lifestyle - Shorts for Men


First came Casual Fridays, that dread episode in the history of fashion, with their invitation for men to trade in suits for Dockers and to swap a proper shirt and tie for an open neck and a daring flash of masculine d├ęcolletage.
Then the bare ankle migrated from country-club Saturdays to meeting-room Mondays and suddenly men, whether shod in wingtips or loafers, were widely seen without socks. Now it appears that, after some stops and starts in recent seasons, the men of the white-collar work force are marching into the office in shorts.
It was no more than a moment ago, in the sartorial long view, that a guy who came to work wearing short pants would have been shown the door - or, anyway, given the address for human resources at UPS. All that appears to be changing.
Consider that an advertising agency in Salt Lake City this summer introduced a no-long-trousers policy. Consider the octogenarian New York lawyer who ditched his seersucker suit for jaunty camouflage shorts on the job. Consider the pack of stylish young men on the streets of New York who find it not only sensible, in thermometer terms, to beat the heat by wearing shorts but also, in style terms, cool.
"We try to have a little bit of fun around here on a regular basis," said Dave Newbold, president of Richter7, the Salt Lake City ad agency in question, whose clients include Medtronic and the Chamber of Commerce of Park City, Utah, where wearing long pants outside of ski season is practically a violation of the law.


When Sean Avery, a National Hockey League player, took an internship at Vogue this summer, the work uniform that the fashion-besotted left wing chose included a shorts suit that showcased his athletic calves.
"Why go to work and be hot?" he asked last week, adding that there was no compelling business reason to look modest and dull on the job.
"You can look good and not have that boring-type look," said Avery, who signed with the Dallas Stars this summer after several seasons with the New York Rangers. "Why are women allowed to do it and not men?"
The willingness of men to expand the amount of skin they are inclined to display can be gauged by the short-sleeved shirts Barack Obama has lately favored, the muscle T-shirts Anderson Cooper wears on CNN assignment and the Armani billboard in which David Beckham, the soccer star, appears nearly nude.
For Avery, a man in a shorts suit is no more startling than a woman in a miniskirt.
"Women have the option of wearing a dress," he said with the assurance of someone who can hip-check those who fail to share his opinion. "I haven't asked them, but I'm sure women like looking at a man's calves or, if a man has them, nice ankles."
That may be. Yet none of the New York City banks, law firms, stock brokerages or hospitals contacted by a reporter last week considered shorts an acceptable part of a work uniform, for reasons that varied from the need to preserve institutional decorum to hygiene (imagine a hairy leg in an operating room.)
Still, it is probably worth remembering that there was a time when politicians were seldom seen, even out of the office, without their decorous suit coats, and never in short pants (Richard Nixon famously wore shoes on the beach).
And it was only a short while ago that news anchors who ventured out on combat assignment did so in more protective khaki than a Victorian ornithologist braving the wilds of Borneo.
Fifteen years ago, when Hyman Gross, a real estate lawyer in Manhattan who is in his ninth decade, proposed wearing shorts in summer, his boss responded that the firm was not a beach club.
"It's a pretty straitlaced office, and I quickly retreated from that position," Gross said. Last year, though, looking at office workers of both sexes disporting themselves seminaked on the streets of the city, he concluded it was time for shorts. "It seems so strange on an over-90-degree day to subject yourself to sartorial rigidity," he said.
And so there was Gross taking a break at Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, nattily attired in a black polo shirt from Target, a pair of sandy-colored camouflage shorts he bought in a shop in a subway arcade and a Panama topper from Arnold Hatters.
"I travel to and fro in shorts," said Gross, who also wears his short pants to the ballet and the opera. "No one has ever spoken to me about it. And if anyone decides they don't like it or they won't take me, it's their loss."


Seminudity, of the sort proposed by Miuccia Prada or Dsquared in the recent men's collections, holds little appeal for someone like Kwesi Blair, a branding adviser whose shorts and blazer look became a wardrobe default during a recent sweltering spell.
Wearing a shorts suit, Blair explained, is not only more comfortable than the alternative, but a way to road test your own self-invention.
"I get a lot of looks and remarks," said Blair, whose wardrobe runs to conservative labels - a Polo blazer, shirt and tie, a pair of J. Crew shorts.
"On the street, people are like, 'That's a bold move.' But, honestly, I'm just tapping into my own sense of style and sensibility and putting it out there. It's not like I'm looking for acceptance."

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