Gucci’s show taps into the trend of ‘sexy but nerdy’ short shorts for men

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Short shorts featured thick and fast on the Gucci catwalk, writes Doig

All focus was on the milky white expanse of Paul Mescal’s thighs at Gucci’s show in Milan on Monday. The Irish actor, who’s got previous where eensy-weensy short shorts are concerned, opted for a show-and-tell white pair to take his place on the front row, social media dutifully lighting up like a Christmas tree. There have been social media frenzies in the past when he’s been spotted running in his signature cut of short, after all.

The short shorts also carried through to the catwalk, where relatively new designer Sabato De Sarno has been tasked by parent company Kering with a 360-degree overhaul of the Gucci brand, after the abrupt departure of former creative director Alessandro Michele in late 2022.

But back to those shorts. “I’m a big advocate for men wearing shorter shorts,” the actor pronounced at the show, laying out his short-shorts manifesto. They featured thick and fast on the Gucci catwalk, on the waif-like boys who donned varieties from silken to weighty leather – somewhat sticky in the 29-degree Milan summer heat – and worn with beachy shirts as well as oversized blazers and shirts.

Model on the runway at the Gucci fashion show during Milan Fashion Week
On the catwalk, shorts were paired with beachy shirts... - Getty
Model on the runway at the Gucci fashion show during Milan Fashion Week
...as well as oversized blazers and shirts - Getty

Short shorts for the office, anyone?

“As a long-time wearer of the short short, I have always found them quite liberating to wear,” says fashion journalist Simon Chilvers, who’s no stranger to getting his shapely pins out. “I love the fact that a man in a short short always manages to ruffle people’s feathers. Is that perhaps why Mrs Prada likes them? Ultimately, they’re also brilliantly sexy. They have the capacity to blend sexiness with a sort of nerdiness. It’s a trend that’s definitely not going away.”

Paul Mescal wearing short shorts on the front row, alongside Billkin, François-Henri Pinault, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Oracene Price
Paul Mescal wearing short shorts on the front row, alongside Billkin, François-Henri Pinault, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Oracene Price - Getty
There was a theme of holiday ease in the beachy, surf references throughout the collection
There was a theme of holiday ease in the beachy, surf references throughout the collection - Getty

It wasn’t all Bambi legs on the catwalk (Mescal’s muscular Irish stock being something of an anomaly in the world of fashion); De Sarno continued his reinvention of Gucci by focusing on the youthquake culture that’s part of his style aesthetic. There was a theme of holiday ease in the beachy, surf references – kitschy dolphin prints spliced and fragmented on shirts and “sea shoes” – and lots of fun that’s aimed at Gen Z: the sprinkles of crystals, the fringing and baggy proportions on tailoring. A section of juicy-coloured coats and some boxy blazers were the only concessions to a more grown-up kind of customer.

Kitschy prints and 'sea shoes' were present on the catwalk
Kitschy prints and 'sea shoes' were present on the catwalk - Getty
A section of juicy-coloured coats brought a dash of fun to proceedings
A section of juicy-coloured coats brought a dash of fun to proceedings - Getty

It makes sense: when so much of Italian tailoring has been stodgy and mannered at the showcases across Pitti Uomo in Florence and Milan men’s fashion week, brands need to capture the new consumers and Gucci is a brand going through a seismic transition; this year, it announced a drop in revenue of 21 per cent. Ouch. The previous creative director oversaw an epic overhaul of the identity – all romantic frou-frou and Seventies nostalgia – and now, De Sarno has to carve out an identity that’s singular to him, and makes sense within this storied institution.

The collection represented a marked shift away from the Seventies nostalgia that characterised Gucci's recent offerings
The collection saw a shift away from the Seventies nostalgia that characterised Gucci's recent offerings - getty

De Sarno has skilfully woven in touches of the Tom Ford era of Gucci, the chapter that put the brand on the fashion map in the first place. The creative director has set up some hallmarks of his own: a particular kind of oxblood red that he terms Ancora, and a reinforcement of the double-G motif picked out in crystal – picking up the glint of the strobe lights nicely on the hip young things that will wear it as they dance the night away. That’s his vision, anyway: youthful energy. Will it translate into sales of those short shorts? Time will tell.

A theme of youthful energy ran throughout the spectacle
A theme of youthful energy ran throughout the spectacle - getty
Sabato De Sarno made an appearance wearing the oxblood tone that has become his signature
Sabato De Sarno made an appearance wearing the oxblood tone that has become his signature - getty

If you happen to be tempted to bare your thighs for all to see this summer, take heart. As a bona fide member of the International Short Shorts Community during the warmer months, I can verify that they can be pretty great. But first off, assess whether you’ve got the goods to carry it off.

Pallid shanks and nubbly knees, or any riddle of varicose veins, aren’t necessarily what you want to showcase. Second, it’s important to get the proportions right: if the shorts are abbreviated, then the top half needs to be more amply proportioned – a loose-fit shirt, for example. Alternatively, a thin-gauge light knit with short shorts looks rather Riviera too – see Harrison Ford on the Côte d’Azur in the Seventies. I’d counsel wearing with a pair of espadrilles or sandals, and enjoy the sense of freedom – leave the more challenging loafers and socks to Mescal.