The roller rink at Brooklyn Bridge Park? Meh. Free outdoor film screenings? Laaaame. No, the greatest part of summer 2014 will be witnessing the most glorious, most overdue innovation to men’s fashion in years: In just a few weeks, men will be wearing short shorts—or else be deemed unfashionable by the Wall Street Journal, king of all that is cool, who reported this week that an increasing number of retailers are raising the hemlines on men’s shorts from around 11-15 inches as of a few years ago, to about a third of that. Welcome to the era of the man-thigh, summer 2014’s sexiest, most unintentionally feminist body part.
Now, as far as unpopular opinions go, the merits of men in shorts has to be pretty far up the ladder of “issues your coworkers feel uncomfortable talking to you about,” which was something discovered in the Brooklyn Magazine office roughly ten minutes ago. And yet, I stand by the fact that the rising hemlines of men’s shorts is something to celebrate—and no, not because I particularly enjoy ogling pale, hairy, spindly man-legs, but because I firmly believe that summertime, especially summer in the city, is for everyone to enjoy comfortably (read: not sweat profusely). Just as women get to prance around in airy sundresses and diaper-esque jorts, men have finally been granted a similar privilege.
But with this privilege comes the great responsibility of understanding that less (or smaller) clothing means more unwanted staring and judgment. It’s a burden women have been forced to deal with ever since, well, ever, but especially since the dawn of the idea that to wear a bikini, one must possess a “bikini body.”
Today, wearing short shorts is a mark of confidence, but it shouldn’t be. When a woman who doesn’t have thin, cellulite-free, perfectly tanned, hairless legs—with a thigh gap, of course—wears shorts, she’s either deemed disgusting or brave, depending on who you ask. And I don’t mean “brave” in a good way: The only reason wearing shorts without having a “shorts body” is considered an act of courage is due to everyone’s assumption that someone else will find her repulsive. If including men in the short-shorts debate means we’re expanding the idea of who is allowed to wear shorts, and by extension, revealing a wider range of shorts-wearing bodies, it feels like a step in the right direction. And maybe, if more people are forced to make the choice between wearing short-shorts or not, perhaps that choice won’t feel so political.
But even as we tread closer and closer towards a utopian society of men and women’s exposed legs left un-judged, the feminist fashion cause will not rest until someone forces men to wear crop tops en masse. Those things are downright torture.
Follow Rebecca Jennings on Twitter @rebexxxxa