Micro shorts for men: how short is too short?

With lockdown easing, will you be following Paul Mescal and Harry Styles and baring more leg than usual this summer?

As the weather gets hotter, public spaces open up and people in England prepare to make the most of the Covid lockdown easing, it is the fashion question that has sparked debate online – just how short should shorts be?

Last week, the This is Us actor Milo Ventimiglia was photographed leaving the gym wearing a pair of tiny shorts and it reignited a debate about how much leg was appropriate to reveal.

On TikTok, under the hashtag #5inchseam, users expressed their love for shorts that have an inseam measurement of 5.5in. The hashtag has 28.4m views, while Google searches for short shorts have surged.

The baring of more male leg is not new: last year the actor Paul Mescal, of the BBC series Normal People, went viral after he was photographed in short shorts. And the singer Harry Styles was spotted in a tiny pair in Italy last summer.

But after a year of working from home and only showing our top halves on Zoom conference calls, the reveal of our legs from beneath the darkness of our desks seems significant.

It begs the question: post-vaccine, does part of the return to fashion’s Roaring 20s include a reveal of more flesh? Is it a case of “sky’s out, thighs out”?

Thigh’s the limit for John Travolta.
Thigh’s the limit for John Travolta. Photograph: AF archive/Alamy

“Men are exposing their legs in public as a reaction to our public behaviour being so tightly policed in public for the last year,” said Prof Andrew Groves, the director of the Westminster Menswear Archive at the University of Westminster. “They want to feel the wind’s tactile caress on their skin.”

Teo van den Broeke, British GQ’s styling and grooming director, agreed: “We’re more au fait with wearing sport shorts right now, given how much exercising we’ve all been doing, we feel more comfortable going a little short.”

Others think micro is not the way to go. “In most urban contexts, it would be more acceptable for men to wear knee-grazing shorts,” said Elizabeth Wyse, at the etiquette experts Debrett’s.

Shane C Kurup, Men’s Health’s deputy style editor, said: “The late Savile Row designer Sir Hardy Amies famously advised a man to ‘Never wear shorts except when actually on the beach or on a walking tour’.”

The designer Tom Ford famously told Another Magazine in 2011: “A man should never wear shorts in the city … they should only be worn on the tennis court or the beach.”

Tom Selleck in teeny shorts.
Tom Selleck in teeny shorts. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

Wyse thinks most people “associate short shorts with beaches, sailing, sports and swimming – they look out of context, over-casual and over-revealing when worn elsewhere”.

But Kurup believes times have changed and an increased casualisation of dress codes has meant male hemlines have inched upwards. “In the past decade, we’ve seen men wear shorts to the office and the creation of the ‘short suit’ and of course the male micro short,” he said.

Like skinny jeans and low-risers before them, generation Z is pro short shorts in a way that millennials may not be.

“They are the most socially aware, health-conscious generation we’ve ever seen,” Kurup said. “There’s a strong emphasis among this generation of being comfortable in your own skin and not blindly conforming to a prescribed body type.”

Contributor

Priya Elan Deputy fashion editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
He wears short shorts: why are men showing more leg?
The subversive, suggestive and skimpy garment has made a comeback during lockdown thanks to Paul Mescal and Harry Styles

Priya Elan Deputy fashion editor

05, Jun, 2020 @3:18 PM

Article image
The joy of short shorts: 'Nothing screams liberation like a breeze on your thigh'
Time to get your knees out

Joe Stone

05, Apr, 2019 @9:00 AM

Article image
City shorts on trial

Can men ever look good in city shorts? Two of our writers bare their knees to find out

Simon Chilvers and Tim Dowling

16, Jul, 2009 @11:05 PM

Fashion wishlist: Men's shorts

Boys, don't be caught short on the style front this summer: use our guide to the best attire for hot weather

12, Jun, 2009 @11:01 PM

Article image
How to wear shorts

Thigh fuzz? Inappropriate footwear? Knee high socks? Shorts can be a minefield, but get them right and they are one of fashion's simplest pleasures, says Simon Chilvers

Simon Chilvers

08, Mar, 2014 @9:01 AM

Article image
David Beckham's shorts – stylewatch

Here's a sneak peek of David Beckham's next collection for H&M – Los Angeles sound engineer meets Neymar grooming

Guardian Fashion

01, Jul, 2014 @9:13 AM

City shorts for men

Five of the best high-street city shorts for men who dare to bare

17, Jul, 2009 @9:51 AM

Article image
Men’s fashion microtrend: patterned shorts
Good news for those of us who want to detract from leg SOS situations

Priya Elan

19, May, 2017 @10:00 AM

The Line-up: Men's shorts

Pick of the best men's shorts for summer

17, Jul, 2010 @11:01 PM

Article image
​Loose Oxford shirts and short-shorts – why Call Me By Your Name is this season's menswear inspiration​
With its swimwear semiotics and characterisation through shirts, Luca Guadagnino’s film has the answers when it comes to your holiday wardrobe. You’ve seen the film, now get the look

Simon Chilvers

14, Mar, 2018 @7:30 AM