The Met is to issue its first ever extreme heat warning. Which is frankly terrifying. But, for once, it's nice that a governmental agency has the smarts to exercise some foresight. We know we need to slap on the SPF like the honey glaze on a Christmas ham (you're the ham FYI). We know we need to endlessly complain about the heat to anyone who will listen. And, most pressingly, we know we need sunglasses, and a new fragrance and, best of all, a pair of men's shorts.
Not so fast buddy, says your neglected wardrobe. Summer dressing was, and remains to be, a double-edged sword. A really sharp one. Because while all those ad campaigns have handsome, perfectly proportioned men frown and laze and thirst trap by deserted hotel pools, they don't show a big thighed, pool noodle armed 30-year-old resisting the urge to pull at the crotch of shorts that just aren't built for extended hours spent cross legged (that's me FYI. I am the big thighed, pool noodled armed 30-year-old in this inelegant scene).
It's not that my go-to shorts are bad. On the contrary: they're from a workwear brand still revered by both tradesman and the graphic designers that cosplay as them. They look good! But stiff cotton canvas isn't comfortable. And, after a year of being so utterly comfortable that it's come at the detriment of our wardrobe's pride, like Zoom quizzes, and catch-up drinks with people you never really liked in the first place, there's no turning back once lockdown ends.
So what's the sweet spot? Well, it's not gym shorts. While it's deeply, deeply tempting to waltz around like you're in-between a juice cleanse and a table read in LA, this is the UK, and CrossFit is a fitness class, not a personality trait. But there is something in sporty fabrics. Some swim shorts can double-up on dry land, and nylon Seventies-ish shorts are both cropped enough to provide some ventilation and are a little bit more fun than moisture wicking Under Armours that are purpose-built for big lifts and big lifts only.
Then there's length. The five inch inseam debate rages on. The likes of Milo Ventimiglia and Normal People's Paul Mescal have got people very hot and bothered with shorts much, much shorter than TikTok's preferred ratio, but if you're unsure, the five inch sweet spot was decided upon for a reason. It's short enough to expose some thigh, but long enough for fabric to cut across and give a more flattering appearance. Plus, it's a bit less weird PE teacher to be honest.
Airy, sporty (but not gym-my!) shorts don't give structure, though. And if that's something you need – and good for you if it is, because you're obviously a bit polished and smart and that's a good thing – then consider canvas cotton, but longer, baggier and still slightly streamlined. Jacquemus cargos are a long way away from Fred Durst, while Gurkha shorts are smart, roomy and approved by Joanna Lumley. Think less stiff workwear, and more billowy fabrics that abet comfort when laid in underfunded barren parks.
Of course, the best men's underwear factors into this and, again, they should be cotton, compact but by no means strangulating. Like your shorts then. And though the rest of 2021 is to be marred by Bad News (at this point, it just feels inevitable, doesn't it?), the heat wave is a reminder that summer is here – and it's still absurdly difficult to dress for. Don't get caught short.
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