I have accepted that people wear shorts. There, I’ve said it. They wear them to the office, to The Late Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, to Hollywood meetings. Heck, they even wear them to their own weddings. (Hey there, Olivia Palermo in your Carolina Herrera confection.) Some styles are classy, chic, and safe for work, while others are a bit more questionable for non-beach wear — which doesn't seem to be stopping a whole lot of people from wearing them to a whole lot of places.
I've seen extra-abbreviated pants everywhere from L.A.'s Getty Museum to my local suburban Starbucks to Midtown Manhattan. And, in all those locales, I've seen an undiscussed — and unsightly — side effect: underbutt. It's out there, and it's not good.
What is underbutt? It is, simply, the area where the back of the leg meets the buttock. It's what peeks out below a very short pair of shorts. It’s de rigueur at the beach or pool, and all over Miami, but this summer there's been some kind of cultural shift that feels like waking up in a Twilight Zone episode where everyone's walking around pantsless in plain sight like,“NBD.”
It's not that immodest clothing that shocks the more mature among us is a new thing. A friend who came up in the ‘70s told me she used to wear shorts "cut up to the wazoo." Hadn’t I? Well, no. My parents were incredibly strict and I was often self-conscious about being on the more round end of the spectrum. That hadn’t stopped her gal pals in Chicago back in the day, she said. You just wore something else out of the house and then presto change-o — and size had zilch to do with it.
Hot pants were popularized by Mary Quant in the ‘60s. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Daisy Duke worked her eponymous mini-pants on The Dukes of Hazzard every week. In 2005, she was back — in all her cutoff glory — this time on the big screen and played by Jessica Simpson. In the ‘90s, Alexander McQueen’s bumster pants (with a rise so low they revealed back-end cleavage) were all the scandal. Now, a thong-baring waist is as passé as a barbed-wire tattoo or other last-century style missteps likely to never return.
Of course, Daisy Dukes never really went away. They've just been rebranded as the "denim diaper": jean shorts that are as high-cut on the leg as an ‘80s aerobics leotard. And, they're everywhere. Try shorts shopping at a place like Abercrombie & Fitch, and you can expect little or no inseam. Net-a-Porter has stacks of shorties from Current/Elliot, Pierre Balmain, J Brand, T by Alexander Wang — all names loved and respected among the fashion set. Nordstrom offers itty-bitties by rag & bone, Free People, and Levi’s. As Tina Fey says on her latest American Express ads, doing her girls’ back-to-school shopping and holding up a pair of shorts: “That’s just not enough crotch…”
And, it's not. Bunhugger briefs make sense for marathon runners and other elite athletes, sure. But, if the most activity you're up for is tourism-ing around NYC, well, do NOT sit down on the subway. (Just saying.)
This is not to say I'm against shorts. I've penned roundups of work-appropriate styles, and I particularly loved that pair Julia Roberts rocked on Tonight. It's just that the super-short version doesn’t look very comfortable (which is the number one reason to buy something) or flattering (number two, at best) on almost anyone.
I asked the universe (and Facebook) why this bootay-baring shorts trend was happening. My friend Petra pointed out that in a world where leggings are considered pants, it's only natural that panties count as shorts. Jessie bemoaned the pairing of two trends: dental-floss shorts with crop tops. Virginia wondered if we weren't in the middle of a “tragic pants shortage.”
If we are, I am in big trouble. The only shorts I can bring myself to wear are a long cargo pair. They are the type that heavy-metal-listening bro-dudes wear, and they are to butt-barers as a burka is to a bikini. I feel insanely comfortable in them, just like the gals in their hot pants seem to be. Hey, maybe it comes down to you do you, and I'll do me.
In any case, the season is turning. It's time for me to put my bro shorts in the cedar chest, and everyone else can stop dressing like they’re in a Nicki Minaj video ("Anaconda," of course, prominently features denim diapers). Those for whom “sun’s out, buns out” is a rallying cry may put on some real pants. But, more than likely, they’ll just slap some black tights on under their Dukes and head to work, out to dinner with the future in-laws, or to an audience with the Pope. You know, whatever.