It’s not unusual for women’s hemlines to dramatically rise and fall from minis to maxis from season to season. And last summer women’s shorts were so tiny they practically resembled underwear. It may seem like guys have had it easy in terms of baring their legs, with the majority of shorts clocking in at the same comfortable, conservative, knee-cap-grazing length. But after further investigation, rhe Wall Street Journal found that men’s shorts have suddenly started rising up the thigh at a startling rate — several inches each year, as opposed to mere millimeters — to an inseam that would make even the most confident dude blush.
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According to the WSJ, over the past few years the standard inseam on men's shorts has rapidly shrunk from 15 inches to a “newly fashionable thigh-flaunting 5 inches." Any shorter and guys may need to consider bikini waxes. Leading the way for shorter shorts, runway designers like Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Lanvin, and even Nautica revealed a whole lot of leg on their catwalks. J.Crew offers its popular Stanton shorts at a variety of lengths, from 10.5 inches to a wee 5 inches, the latter of which has all five-star reviews on its website, despite one customer writing, “At first I was a bit worried about how short they would be.” Bonobos, another preppy outfitter acclaimed for its chinos, has a whopping 19 colors available in its 5-inch shorts style. Nike is offering 5-inch mesh running shorts — a big switch from the below-the-knee styles of recent years. Even Old Navy, purveyor of ultra-long cargo shorts, is selling a 7-inch cuffed-up twill style this season and receiving rave reviews.
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Durand Guion, vice president, men’s fashion director at Macy’s, says the shorter shift is actually not a huge surprise. "Everything in fashion is cyclical, and in '60s and '70s surf culture, those OP shorts were extremely short,” Guion tells Yahoo Shine. He says a number of factors explain the return to this silhouette at this moment in time. “There’s a strong influence of sport on fashion right now. Guys are in better shape than they’ve ever been and we’re seeing a true update of a guy's wardrobe. Every silhouette is being looked at and getting trimmer, slimmer, and shorter, so it’s all about keeping things proportional. If the polo is closer to the body, so is the chino.” And comfort always comes in to play with shorts, adds Guion, so while baggy may seem comfortable all the excess fabric gets bulky and does nothing for the overall look.
Joseph Katz, a Beverly Hills-based stylist and fashion expert, believes the shift is all about guys' growing confidence. "I really think men are taking care of themselves and investing in eating right, working out, and really caring about how they look and feel,” Katz tells Yahoo Shine. "They have the body, so they want to feel good about what they're wearing and step out of the mold of long shorts.” Males have also become savvier shoppers than ever before: "Men are more aware in social media of what other brands are showing and look for comfort and cut of the shorts they are buying. I feel like consumers now are much more open to change and taking risks than ever before."
But guys who are not comfortable trying the look themselves need not worry. Guion says the shift will probably be more gradual than obvious and immediate: "You will absolutely see them cleaned up and going for a shorter short, but it depends on who the guy is, who his friends are, where he’s going, what the pattern is.” Guion cautions that short shorts will look even shorter on tall guys, and that the shirt should hang just over the belt to avoid looking like a dress or throwing off the proportion.
As for who can pull them off, our experts have slightly differing opinions. “I don’t think that there is an age limit as to who can wear the 5-inch short,” says Katz. "I think this looks great on guys who work out or [have a] trim runner's build.” He uses a variety of lengths on his clients, and believes it depends on their individual builds, but personally prefers a 7-inch inseam.
Guion, meanwhile, says short shorts are an extreme look best reserved for the super young or the savviest of trendsetters. “For everyone else probably mid-thigh to top of the thigh is best,” he advises, adding that fleece shorts should hit the knee, corduroy can go a little shorter, and cutoff denim gets a little risky. "If you make that skinny short too short, it’s going to look like a girl's short. You’ve gotta take a look in the mirror."
Men should also be smart about where they choose to wear shorts. Pharrell Williams comes to mind, as he wore a pair of Lanvin shorts to the Academy Awards this year. Katz is on board with the singer's choice: "Pharrell is an amazing artist, and I think being that he has such a cool style. He can pull off a funky trend like wearing shorts to the Oscars!"
Guion, however, is not sold on going with the look on such a formal night: “I think Pharrell is the most amazing style influencer on the planet, but the Oscars was probably not the best place to wear a short. Let the short be casual and relaxed. If it’s too buttoned up with a tailored jacket it can look clownish or cartoonish.”
And if you’re wondering about wearing shorts to the office, Guion has some advice: “If 30 to 40 percent of your colleges are in pants, don’t do it,” says Guion. “Are you going on vacation? Are you going on a run? I still believe in guys looking sharp, sophisticated, and stylish.”
In the end, perhaps guys should take a cue from their female counterparts: Have a variety of styles at different lengths to suit different moods and occasions and try on the new trend if it suits you. "It is OK for guys to be sexy, and all that material swishing around is not sexy," says Guion. "Something slightly cleaned up gives him more credit for taking care of himself. A lot of guys have great legs without doing a lot of work, so take advantage of it!”
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