If Fran Lebowitz had her way when it comes to her opinion of men's shorts, she'd be right in line with government officials from the first half of the 20th century. Believe it or not, shorts were once a controversial garment spawning bans in towns and colleges from Pennsylvania to California. The arrival of shorts in America ignited the debate about good taste and behavior among both genders. But where did shorts come from?
Here's a quick rundown. In the 1890s, parents started purchasing short knee pants for their young boys. In the 1900s, men began to wear an altered version of these called knickerbockers and paired them with long stockings. These are what most people refer to as simply knickers these days. In the 1930s, both servicemen and women alike started wearing shorts. From here, the cultural backlash and fight for the fashion right began.
A cultural debate has seemed to simmer for the last few years on whether men should wear shorts or not. As evidenced by their start in popular culture, shorts were associated with boys, and many believed that adult men had no business wearing them past a certain age. From 1929 to 1937, the Men's Dress Reform Party sought out to add some excitement and beauty back into menswear. Among the many updates to the acceptable public men's dress code, they championed shorts. Though the US didn't have an equivalent group, restless college students across the nation took up the battle.
Shorts have now evolved into so many different styles: bermuda shorts, cargo shorts, boxer shorts, board shorts, gym shorts, etc. The list goes on! And as the inseams get shorter and fits get more refined, shorts are a staple of both mass market and designer spring/summer collections. Though their existence is still divisive, shorts are undoubtedly an important part of our culture and national dress code.