Big boy's pants

Earlier this year, the wildly popular American advice columnist Dan Savage was asked if he wore shorts and replied "No. I'm a grown up".

The majority of Australian men would probably scoff at this attitude and accuse Savage of being uptight or conservative.

This is an amusing thought, considering the exuberantly gay Savage has in the past counselled readers on the dos and donts of scatology, whether an "incest pride movement" is viable, as well as interviewing a Kentucky man who was in a sexually committed marriage to his horse.

It seems Savage's objection to shorts is aesthetic; who wants to see a 50-year-old man's warty thighs? And also invokes a sense of dignity - many older men just look plain silly in shorts.

I tend to agree.

Up until early to mid last century, it was pretty standard across Europe, Britain, Australia, NZ and North America for boys to only wear shorts. It was something of a rite-of-passage for young men, when they had reached a certain age, height or maturity to be given their first pair of trousers.

Implied within this graduation to "big boy's pants" was an alteration in behaviour - a young man didn't rough-house and skid on the grass anymore, not only because he was now "grown up" but also because it would ruin the knees of his trousers.

Obviously, standards of dress have changed since then, but I still find it jarring to see 50 and 60-year-old men (i.e. anyone older than me) getting around in boardshorts and Billabong t-shirts.

Considering Australia's heat and the physical nature of many trades and jobs like landscape gardening, labouring or brick laying - the practicality of wearing shorts seems undeniable.

However, I've worked on enough building sites, with enough tradespeople of different ethnic backgrounds to recognise that even this is a cultural assumption: you'll find plenty of painters, tilers and sparkies who wear nothing but long pants.

There's no doubt a bloke can look good in shorts but I feel rather strongly about what shorts they should be.

Let's face it, there's not many elder gentleman who can carry off boardies, bike shorts, Daisy Duke cut-off jeans or those god-awful "ports" - three quarter length pants - who doesn't somehow look like he's just been robbed and had to make do with what was on his neighbour's clothes line.

Now, if you're a surfer, Sir - sure, wear your boardies, but you're also a grown man, so I reckon once you're out of the water and dried off, a nice pair of light, long strides or even some tasteful walk shorts lift your sartorial game a gajillion per cent.

My former suburb-of-residence, on Sydney's god-forsaken northern beaches, seems to have enouraged a peculiarly virulent attachment between old men and surfwear - one that constantly makes me feel like I've walked into the new Rip Curl Nursing Home.

I can't think of any other word for it but ... unseemly.

Of course, there will be rabid disagreement on this subject from y'all, but that's what the internets is/are for.

Let's hear it.

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