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The Male Shorts Stigma


I have carried a pair of long pants in the trunk of my car for four years. At first it started as a snide emblem of (potential) promiscuity. I’d drop this fact into conversation, hoping someone would remark on how cool I am and how my sexual revolution is cause for applause. I never actually used the pants for a morning after change but I did and still do wear these trunk pants quite a bit as a response to a social stigma associated with men wearing short pants. The back of my car has become a constantly rotating pop-up shop of pants to appease short pants haters. I wear short pants because, upon moving to Los Angeles, I adopted the article of clothing as my daily uniform as I found it rude to Southern California to *not* to wear short pants. Surprisingly often, my wearing short pants has been snuffed and has been the cause of many an unallowed entrances to a bar, club, or event, leading to my having to change into the trunk spare pants. And why is this? Because there is a very conservative heteronormative social stigma in the world that says that men wearing shorts is displeasing–and it’s the stupidest, most arbitrary social construct in the world.

The stigma is born out of formality: pants are formal, shorts are not. To wear shorts is to look casual and flippant, as if you are just coasting along in life. Pair them with sandals? You might as well be selling pan flutes and fake wayfarers on Venice Beach. For a man to show his legs is for a man to show that he is a slacker and that he isn’t formal. Even if these shorts are tuxedo shorts and the man has the legs of Adonis, his wearing shorts is still stigmatized. He may look like brilliant in a pair of Patrick Ervell shorts paired with a blazer but, when approaching the entrance of an establishment like Harvard And Stone, this man will be turned away in favor of a guy wearing tattered jeans and t-shirt. When I worked at a production company years ago, I tested the waters and wore tailored shorts, blazer, tailored shirt, and bow tie to work. After an hour at work, my boss called me into his office and noted that, “We like to keep a professional environment in what we wear.” This was coming from a company where men wore Crocs, Sanuk Sidewalk Surfers, distressed jeans, and polo shirts to business meetings with executive heads of media institutions like NBC and MTV.

I’ve experienced this bias countless times and know a handful of other men who have run into similar situations, denied admission into places because he chose style over conformity. My hang up is that we are in Southern California: why is this an issue? We live in a warmer, more laid back climate where business suits are swapped out for buttoned up short sleeved shirts and jeans. Adding a blazer to your outfit means that you are practically ready to attend the Academy Awards. Our lifestyle as Angelenos is known for being greatly laid back and more accepting of whatever lifestyle one wants to pursue. We may not live in the most progressive fashion city in the world but Los Angeles certainly encourages creativity and planning in attire. So why is it that men still can’t wear nice, tailored, styled shorts and be treated with respect? Shorts should not just be confined to weekends between 9AM and 7PM.

Women can display their legs however they want, whenever they want. I cannot prove this and haven’t inquired on the subject but are there any places in the world where a woman going out would been “dollar bill tested” as if in a Catholic school before gaining entry into a club? No, I highly doubt that would happen. I also doubt that nice looking above-the-knee skirts or shorts in a professional environment would be admonished either. A woman can wear shorts or a tiny skirt or even no pants and still be granted entry into an establishment. From Soho House to Pour Vous to Supper Club, a woman will not be stigmatized or denied access for showing her legs. When women show a little skin, it’s sexy. When men show skin? It’s seen as lazy and sloppy.

This is absurd considering that it isn’t 1995 and all shorts are not below-the-knee tattered cargo shorts, which is the association given to a man in shorts. As someone who is a self-proclaimed male short shorts connoisseur and a guy who cannot recall the last time he wore long pants, it’s ludicrous that I have to carry an extra pair of pants around so that I don’t inconvenience friends or myself because a bouncer finds my wearing a smart pair of Hyden Yoo shorts to be “not fit for the establishment.” I do not understand the disconnect and have it happened at Bar Marmont, Harvard & Stone, Soho House, The Edison, Seven Grand, Happy Endings (Don’t ask.), and tons of other places. I’ve even said to the bouncer, “Look at her: I look better than her–why can’t I be let in?” The reply? “Sorry, man: that’s just how it is.”

Well, the this way of doing things is stupid and so incredibly suburban. This is issue is likely matter of taste (or lack thereof) and is quite possibly the smallest of queer cultural causes to be fought for: I want to wear shorts all the time because I know I look put together and better in them. However, I am constantly confronted with this double standard that, because I am a man, I cannot show a little leg. The absurdity is suffocating and, perhaps, will be the cause of an ongoing personal battle that I will have to take public until the stigmatization of men in nice, good looking shorts is something of the past.

Shorts for men–shorts for everyone!

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