Free the knee
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For many years, I resisted shorts – no matter how hot or humid the weather – for fear they might conjure traumatising memories of awkward school days spent in scratchy polyester “short trousers”. In the UK, at least, this association seems to stick. Thoughts of looking a bit too Just William still make men afraid.
Elsewhere, however, shorts are considered an essential summer staple. And over the years I have slowly come around: a few summers back I found a roomy pair of pleated 1980s Polo Ralph Lauren chino shorts that inspired me to “free the knee”, and I’ve since become a smart short convert. This season’s collections are full of options – no wonder when the professional landscape has been so fundamentally changed. Silvia Venturini Fendi first introduced the “Skype look” – a hybrid blend of shorts and formal office shirting (with ties) – for Fendi spring/summer 2018, and it transpires that her vision for the future of men’s workwear was prophetic, even though our chosen medium for conferencing is Zoom.
Damien Paul, head of menswear at MatchesFashion, notes the changes: “We’ve seen a strong performance on shorts this season, with sales up more than 30 per cent compared to last year. Our customer’s relaxed new uniform of high-low dressing includes tailored shorts by a diverse mix of brands, from Raey to Bianca Saunders. He styles them with casual summer shirts and lightweight knitwear, or toughens them with tech sneakers or hiking boots.”
The sharp silhouette that tailored shorts offer over more casual styles is the perfect excuse to make a statement with footwear. Some brands are pairing theirs with luxe sandals, but pleated shorts, long socks and Paul’s aforementioned chunky boots are also a winning formula. Ermenegildo Zegna’s s/s ’21 collection is filled with chic tailored jacket-and-short pairings, while Dior’s pleated Bermudas are almost daringly cropped for an elegant – if audacious – summer look.
For Savile Row tailor and E Tautz designer Patrick Grant, tailored shorts should be worn just as you would a summer trouser. “Some casual shorts can make men look oddly shaped, but tailored shorts are really flattering,” he says. “A long-sleeve utility shirt tucked into high-waisted, pleated shorts with a pair of sandals is my go-to look when the sun’s out.”
Grant says the shorts work with soft tailoring, blazers and lightweight topcoats too, although he offers a word of caution: “Don’t wear the look as a suit, do it with mismatched jackets and baggy shirts.” Paul agrees, especially if tailored shorts are outside your comfort zone: “I’d suggest starting with classic chino shorts by Rag & Bone or slim-fit pieces from brands such as Brunello Cucinelli. These are gateway styles to something more voluminous. The modern man might be ready to sport a tailored two-piece blazer and shorts set by the likes of Jacquemus, which is a great way to wear the tailoring trend.” Evidently, shorts have gone back to school this summer. But they’re all the sharper for it.
Models, Kerkko Sariola at Premium and Mahamadou Diaouné at IMG. Casting, Mathilde Curel for Julia Lange Casting. Hair, Rimi Ura at Walter Schupfer Management. Make-up, Marianne Agb. Photographer’s assistant, Etienne Oliveau. Stylist’s assistant, Thalia Duran
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