Salute Your Shorts

A friend and I were talking over the weekend and realized there's one place where, sartorially speaking, guys have it harder: choosing summer clothes. Specifically shorts. As she put it, "your only options are really Dandy, Dork, or Douche."

The truth of this assertion was borne out to me when my boyfriend and I went shopping to supplement his wardrobe of two pair of Dickies with something lighter. He tried on some inexpensive cargo shorts: a frat boy stood before me. Slim seersucker knee-lengths transformed him into the veriest urban fop. Hemmed denim, meanwhile, made him feel like a middle-schooler, and one who sported Tevas at that.

Now, this will raise hackles. I'm sure many have husbands and boyfriends and friends and brothers who sport each of these styles quite creditably. My own dad is as wont to pull on a pair of the Abercrombie cargo shorts my brother discarded in high school (the latter now wears only skintight jeans even in high summer) as some diminutive pair he bought in the 70s as the denim varietal my mom gets him - all accessorized with black socks pulled all the way up the leg, of course. Obviously plenty of men can transcend the tyranny of style.

It's funny; we don't think of menswear being as transformative - or as fraught - as our daily clothing decisions. But here I saw my boyfriend, who normally doesn't think about clothes, feeling as ill at ease and confused as I often do in a dressing room. And it was weird that something so seemingly functional and basic should provoke the anxiety. In the end, he just lopped the legs off one of his two pairs of pants and called it a day, effectively bowing out. And I've heard other guys express a strange anxiety over shorts: several just don't wear them. "Short pants are for children," said one cryptically, although he's not known for opining about such things. Another revealed, in confidence, that someone once said he had skinny legs, and now he doesn't like to show them. Don't get me wrong, I know plenty of women who aren't into shorts, but that sort of anxiety and consideration is not unique, for us, to summer.