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A Pop-Culture History of Men and Shorts

  • Kempt Staff


The prospect of celebrating summer’s inaugural weekend might have you toying with the idea of spending the entire three days in a pair of shorts (especially if you plan on being poolside the whole time).

But going pantsless is a deceptively tricky move—wrought with pitfalls and misconceptions.

More often than not, they’re considered a necessary evil. Tom Ford famously said that a man should never wear them. Inevitably, someone will rib you with that moldy chestnut about never taking a man in shorts seriously. But in the right hands—er, on the right gams—they can be serviceable, arguably even stylish. It’s been done before, to varying degrees of success.

So, as menswear anthropologists, in our quest to find out how we got into this pantsless existential crisis, we present to you:

A pop-culture history of men and shorts.

James BondJames Bond’s penchant for short swim trunks, as pictured on Sean Connery (1962)

Frankie AvalonFrankie Avalon with Annette Funicello and company in Beach Party (1963)

Jams“Jams” (1965–1999)

Newman and RedfordThe shorts Newman and Redford wore during this epic ping-pong match (1969)

John McEnroeTennis shorts from the ’70s (as pictured on John McEnroe)

Steve PrefontaineSteve Prefontaine’s running shorts (at the 1972 Olympics)

White SoxThe ill-fated uniforms of the 1976 Chicago White Sox

Athletic Apparel

Athletic ApparelThe athletic apparel of all forms in Battle of the Networks Stars (1976)

Jimmy FixxJim Fixx’s running shorts (1977)

Danny ZukoDanny Zuko’s white gym shorts in Grease (1978)

Daisy Duke

Daisy DukeDaisy Duke’s “Daisy Dukes” (1979–1985)

The shorts in these Nair “Who wears short shorts?” commercials

Richard SimmonsRichard Simmons, in all his televised glory (1979–Present)

Bill MurrayThe first appearance-in-a-starring-role of Bill Murray, in shorts, in Meatballs (1979)

NBANBA shorts from the ’80s (as pictured on Danny Ainge, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird)

RockyRocky’s red-white-and-blue boxer shorts (1985)

Bart SimpsonBart Simpson’s signature blue shorts (1989–Present)

Salute Your ShortsThe shorts we all saluted in the ’90s

Doug FunnyDoug Funny’s sweater-vest-accompanied shorts (1991–1994)

Clinton and GoreBill Clinton and Al Gore getting some exercise and showing some thigh (1992)

SpongebobSpongeBob’s square... shorts (1999–Present)

Jude LawJude Law’s swim trunks in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

TenenbaumsStephen Lea Sheppard’s shorts in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Wet Hot American SummerAny selection of shorts from Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Tobias FunkeNever-nude Tobias Fünke’s jorts on Arrested Development (2003–2006, 2013–Present)

DangleLt. Dangle’s tan short-shorts in Reno 911 (2003–2009)

ScrubsJ.D.’s shower-shorts from Scrubs (2004)

Ben StillerBen Stiller’s compression shorts in DodgeBall (2004)

Brad PittBrad Pitt’s white boxer shorts in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Daniel CraigJames Bond’s penchant for short swim trunks, as pictured on Daniel Craig (2006)

ChubbiesWe debate the most important shorts-related issue of the century: Can you really sport Chubbies? (2012)

Don DraperDon Draper’s swimsuit at the beach in Hawaii (2013)