The defining feature of shorts, and what distinguishes them from a panty, is that shorts have an inseam (UA5910). The inseam is defined as the distance from the crotch to the legline. A shorts' waistline may be high or low, and the legline may be just above the knee, as with Bermuda shorts (BH194410, FI9210 or G1994402), or jams (CB9010D); mid-thigh, as with Boxer shorts (LT4620, FI8309); or at or just below the crotch, as with short shorts. Short shorts ensure buttage (VB8501, MP96H6).
The shorts' leghole is almost always open. Open leghole shorts may be lined or unlined. If unlined, shorts are usually worn with panties or briefs underneath (fig. 7-4.5, LO8904), although not necessarily so (RID8710). Closed leghole shorts with elasticized leglines are found with Spandex shorts (RL9104C), bicycle pants (LI90075) and boy shorts.
Modern shorts are often front-fastening, usually with a snap or a button at the top and a zipper below. Wearers who wish to provoke attention may open the fastener, frame their belly button, and invite speculation about a languish pull on their zipper (WCS9101-02, CB9363, MP96A1). Side zippers are a rare alternative (JE9161E), and back zippers another possibility. Stretch shorts usually have no fastener at all (), and wrap designs thread through the crotch and tie in the front (RID890E). Shorts are often complemented with a belt, a fastening accessory which cinches the waist and holds the shorts up (fig. 7-3), and they may have cuffs at the bottom (RV7942).
Shorts Emerge in Swimwear
Like many other swimsuit silhouettes, shorts are first seen in the theater (AP1710). In the early 1920 they are strictly the providence of the dance hall, where chorus girls perform the Shimmy and Charleston, and of harem girls in silent movies (AW2450).
In the early 1930s, Hollywood combines shorts with a wide variety of bare-midriff blouses (CL193310), and after 1933 these playsuit ensembles tumble off the stage and screen into the real world, especially at European fitness resorts (LA3301), where shorts are coupled with the tank top. They enjoy primary popularity out of the water (fig. 7-5). The introduction of the safety razor in 1931 helps further focus attention on the leg, which after all, are what is becoming exposed.
But by the late 1930s the deux-pièces swimsuit evolves its own character and shorts become a component of swimwear (EB3510, PO3610). Design ideas for swimwear shorts are borrowed from everywhere.
In the early 1940s shorts are often combined with a bra (EW4210), shelf halter (SS4140); later in the decade they are comboed with a bandeau (SM194710) to form a basic deux-pièces, a trend which continues into the 1950s (US5002). They also continue their theater/beach tradition (SP5801).
Shorts Migrate to the Street
By the 1950s, shorts (but not bare midriff) are permissible street wear; by the 1960s, short shorts dare to expose the cheek of the hip (fig. 7-6), epitomized in the defiant popular song croons, "Who wears short shorts? We wear short shorts!"
The militant 1960s produce the very long-legged look, with shorts worn so very tight there is not space to wear underwear underneath. Bare-midriff entrenches itself on the street and will couple with short shorts past the turn of the millennium (NYA377). These hip-hugger shorts sometimes incorporate belts, which help to stabilize the very low waistlines (AD197510). As the miniskirt shrinks to the micro-mini, closure of the crotch becomes necessary and a new kind of short shorts evade the office this time called hot pants.
At the same time, surfer dudes discover the virtues of long legged shorts called jams (CB9010D).
Halters and Shorts Silhouette
Low-rise shorts emerge on the beach in the middle 1960s once waistlines permanently drop below the waistline (CP6610); leglines also cheek out the buttocks.
In the early 1970s hip-hugging cutoff jeans become a perennial working combination with a variety of croptops (ES7301) and bikini tops (WG7303), often extending the quasi-bikini venue into the tourist attraction (NF197801), resort picnic (RS7515-16), city streets (RL198010, WK198811), and vacation spot (IS8405). Hippies wear shorts topless at outdoor rock concerts (WG7307-08, WG7314, WG7317), and the truly daring fringe out the leg, and go san-pan, so that their naturalist pubic hair sashes in public (fig. 7-7).
In the early 1980s shorts combine with bare-midriff tops, sometimes with a jacket overtop, and emerge as evening wear (SG198210). The combination continues as resort ensembles (RS7906), but looses currency on the beach in an era of swimwear devoted to strings, v-kinis, and ultimately tangas.
The Layered Tease
In a world where shorts are worn everywhere, their role on the beach reverts to that of an element to be worn over bikini bottoms now too small to be worn to and from the beach (RL9104A)--or at least too small to be worn by the unbrazen None the less, these layered shorts provide a strong element of tease and in the proper hands can command attention. The skilled bikiniite knows they can be rolled down (CP8601), unzipped (CP8602) and unbuttoned (CP8704), worn low-slung over ambiguous (CB91B8) or obvious tanga briefs (CB9184B), and doffed and donned (CI8901). in a multitude of ways and with a variety of tugs, pulls and wiggles.
Boy Shorts and the 1990s
Shorts gain more currency in the 1990s as the fitness movement introduces skin-tight Lycra exercise shorts (CP8604), split-side tap pants, and mid-thigh bicycle pants. These tighter fitting silhouettes emerge from the gym, and migrate into the streets (fig. 7-8). Although they do not expand the geographic venue of permissibility of the shorts, the thinner Spandex garments do push the limit of permissability (NYA27S).
Ultimately the exercise influence even extends back into swimwear itself (GO9330). These '90s shorts capture both montante (KH90014) as well as hip-hugger spirits (F1990113). Starting in the late 1990s and continuing into the early 2000s the fashion industry introduces pantaloon-style culotte, called "boy shorts" (OH99BS), which seize market share and provide an alternative to more skimpy alternatives. The boy shorts silhouette includes a nombril waistline combined with a wide-side and low legline (GO9310). Boy shorts flourish with all top combinations including the halter, which gives it a bikini focus (EP9960) as well as the croptop, which encourages venturing into the street (EPA090).
Shorts can be a coverup or the only bottoms worn.