Get shorty

How do you feel about an office short?

A commonplace sight at the beach and backyard barbeque, shorts are up there alongside thongs, Bonds singlets and VB stubby holders when it comes to defining the origins of Australian style. But, more and more, this wardrobe staple is making its way from our sandy shores and suburban streets to the gum-stained, cigarette-strewn pavements of the CBD.

I’m not talking about the people who have stopped by the city to do a spot of shopping on the way home from Bondi, but those dapper gents who are matching their tailored jackets and leather shoes with a workday short.

Yet to take the corporate world by storm, these leggy guys are usually working in creative industries and considered early adopters who, while often the butt of jokes, dictate what the rest of us may very well be wearing two or three years from now.

But could the traditional wingtip-brushing suit pant ever be replaced with an office-appropriate short? The designers at the recent menswear shows in Milan certainly seemed to think so.

While shorts actually make a lot of sense in our temperate and often stiflingly humid climate, designers including Emporio Armani, Versace, Jil Sander and Dolce & Gabbana had their male models strutting their stuff in thigh-high shorts at Milan Fashion Week last month.

Wearing otherwise standard dress shirts and jackets, they predict that shorts will transcend their casual beginnings and start to infiltrate the corporate and formal worlds. The display of hairy pins was followed up with a similar showing at Paris Fashion Week, and experts say the trend will soon pick up pace in Australia.

"Australian men are definitely becoming more fashion conscious,” says Topman buyer Kevin Luong, whose stores are opening in Sydney and Melbourne come October. “We are finding tailored shorts are increasingly popular."

But others aren’t quite so convinced. Luxury industry consultant Jean-Jacques Picart says that while they can be a good look for some, it’s best kept to the under-30s.

"There's no question this is a trend," he told AFP. "One way of wearing them is a bit like an English student in a bermuda suit, with a white shirt and smart town shoes, which says to the world: 'I am showing my legs but I'm still well dressed.’ But for anyone over 30 that looks a bit strange.”

He laughs outright at the suggestion that corporate shorts will ever be anything more than a fashion industry fantasy. Requiring coltish, masculine legs and a mere smattering of hair, Picart adds that even some of the models struggled to pull them off at the European shows and they’re nothing more than something to tempt apathetic insiders.

“A brand is largely appealing to blasé buyers and journalists, looking for new ways to get them excited,” he said. “This kind of thing is there to spice things up for the industry-insiders."

But don’t let that deter you. If you’re looking to flash a bit of skin once the weather warms up, here are some tips on how to wear them right:

  • The male version of a mini-skirt, length is something to keep in mind. While you don’t want to be swimming in them, you also don’t want to them so high and tight you end up with fly’s eyes – aka, the unsightly cousin of camel toe. The best height is a couple of inches above the knee.
  • Related to the advice above, steer clear of tight shorts. Not only can they can give the impression that you’re running around on chunky little ham hocks, your colleagues don’t need to know exactly how much junk is in your front truck.
  • Keep it simple. Go for a block colour and perhaps start off with a blander palate if you’re feeling nervous to begin with. You can then go from tan to bright red if you so desire.
  • If you’re in an office you must tuck it in and belt it. This is when the whole “not too tight or short” idea really takes hold. And unless you want to look like one of the more peculiar Year 8 science teachers out there steer clear of matching this with anything other than sockettes.

What about you, would you ever rock an office short?