People Have VERY Strong Feelings About Men Wearing Shorts

To what length are they acceptable?
Ernest Hemingway pets a cat on a couch in shorts.
Clifford Coffin via Getty Images
Ernest Hemingway pets a cat on a couch in shorts.

What do you think about men wearing shorts?

It's a complicated question, as it turns out. We sent an e-mail out to our office to gauge opinions, and it set off a debate.

"It is never acceptable for men to wear shorts," Zach Carter, a senior reporter on our politics team said.

"I wouldn't reply-all to a thread like this," senior reporter Arthur Delaney wrote back, "but Zach is so wrong that I have to speak out. Shorts on men are a social necessity."

Guys "should only wear shorts in the shower," said Kate Sheppard, another senior reporter, who added a GIF of Tobias Funke "never nuding."

"There's a huge line between wearing what is comfortable and wearing what is a godawful eyesore," said associate editor Igor Bobic, adding caveats: "Never wear shorts at work. If you do wear shorts, never wear salmon, jean or cargo shorts. Nine-inch or 7-inch inseams if you are feeling bold."

Curtis M. Wong, a senior editor, is all about the shorts life: "If I could be at the beach year-round, I would be, so I'm always in favor of shorts of the slim cut variety," he said. "Pair 'em with a nice blazer and some topsiders and PRESTO! You've got a Kennedy family compound throwback look that's formal enough for a business engagement or a cocktail party."

This has been the seasonal debate for years in offices, where people have to look professional but need to stay comfortable.

But for every hairy leg liberated by a pair of cargo shorts, vocal anti-shorters abound, including Tom Ford and Fran Lebowitz, who said men in shorts are "disgusting" and "repulsive," and they look "ridiculous, like children" in them. And you could say The Awl loves shorts like Marie Kondo loves a cluttered house.

What's interesting is that when looking at polls over the past 80 years (the '40s and '50s were a particularly tumultuous time in our culture for shorts-loving people), this who-should-wear-shorts and where-is-the-decency and for-the-love-of-god-hide-your-legs controversy has merely switched genders.

In 1939, Gallup asked about 1,500 people a question that we would get slammed if we asked today: "Do you think it is all right for women to wear shorts on the street?" Sixty-eight percent of responders said no.

Roper Center for Public Opinion Research

In 1951, Gallup asked 1,500 people an even more egregious question: "Speaking in terms of their day to day activities, do you approve or disapprove of women in this community wearing shorts (in hot weather) in eating places?" Eighty-six percent said no, that they were not fine with women wearing shorts in the same place where food goes into their mouths.

Roper Center for Public Opinion Research

We have come a long way.

There are male shorts icons out there, if you know where to look.

Daniel Craig (accidentally, he says) influenced how men think about the length of their shorts when he sauntered onto the beach in boy shorts in "Casino Royale."

Leo DiCaprio frolics in them. Thom Browne attends red carpets in them. And who can forget Al Gore and Bill Clinton jogging without inhibition?

Look at those smooth legs.
Diana Walker via Getty Images
Look at those smooth legs.

But today, judging by our office poll, guys' legs are the ones we might not want to see on display -- which is odd, considering men get to run shirtless in parks.

Our colleagues in the HuffPost newsroom seem to be pro man shorts -- even to the office -- as long as guys obey these rules: You're fine wearing shorts in the summer; never cargo; never too short. But then again, we also have someone who wears a penguin costume at random times, so our standards should be graded on a curve.

Speaking of standards, our standards editor, Victor Brand, drops some wisdom: "Frankly I'm already disappointed in everyone who isn't wearing a tie every day, so do whatever, follow your heart, you've already let me down."

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