Thigh of relief

Peter Michael Dills/Getty Images

It’s been nearly 25 years since Michael Jordan’s clever method of concealing his lucky Tarheels shorts ruined summertime fun for everybody. Moments after big, billowing, drapey shorts won approval on the courts, they took over as the stubborn status quo on the streets, with an illusion of choice only bolstered by the variety of forms they take: lazy jams, baggy cargos, tragic boardshorts, and truncated chinos an inch or two shy of full-blown capri status.

Listen to me: Shorts are not half-pants.

When I spy a man in summer with an 11-inch inseam, his tents of patchy madras awkwardly ding-donging his knees, I hang my head and lament the leg shame that has for so long burdened my brothers. Then again, when a man spots another rocking a shorter short these days, the only thing they think of is likely the Nair jingle. This is wrong.


The liberation of men’s legs could be the fake civil rights issue of our time, or at least this summer. And where freedom springs, retail follows: L.L. Bean and J. Crew offer 6-inch and 5-inch options, respectively — the latter with a typically Crewy palette of neutrals and cloying pastels. Online retailer Chubbies peddles dozens of styles, their “cargo embargo” and 5.5-inch “chubseam” deftly targeting the bro demo. And at Bonobos shop on Dartmouth Street, associate Soren Capawanna reports that their 5-inch “B’s Knees” shorts are “flying off the shelves.” (On men!)

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Capawanna says this does take some convincing — but the reasons are there. Long shorts make short guys look shorter, while shorter cuts generally look more grown-up. Rare are a man’s opportunities to look sophisticated while effectively showing off the quads he’s been cross-fitting to death. Plus, they're easy: Topped with a polo. Bam. Teamed with button-up. Boom.

The takeaway here is you’ve got options. You don’t have to wear those camo bags anymore. You’ve got legs, and you know how to use them.

Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at