Yikes! Manhattan Men Bare Hairy Knees, Plump Calves

On a sweltering afternoon early last month, Adam Newman, a 25-year-old Park Slope comedian who works for CollegeHumor.com, made a life-changing decision: He took scissors to a pair of brown corduroy pants and fashioned them into shorts.

“It’s getting hot and I’ve made up my mind. This summer, I’m wearing shorts!” Mr. Newman blogged recently. “I’ve always been an exclusively-pants guy, but I’m ready for change. No more sweating under the jeans at the park, I’m letting it breathe this year!”

Mr. Newman is not alone. A growing number of style-conscious men are becoming more comfortable with the idea of showing some leg during the hot summer months. No longer does it seem remarkable to see men—straight men—dressed in slim-fitting shorts that hang well above the knee, from conservatively dressed 9-to-5 Manhattan types, to Williamsburg hipsters who wear their cutoffs so high, it evokes the lyrics to the 1993 R&B hit “Dazzey Duks” (or The Dukes of Hazzard, depending on one’s age).

Famous fellas are flashing their thighs. Gossip Girl star Ed Westwick was photographed recently in a dark blue nautical pair of short-shorts; indie rock sensation
Devendra Banhart has been spotted in bright, retro-’70s athletic shorts; and professional hockey player turned Vogue intern Sean Avery has donned a plaid gray shorts-suit by Astor & Black for the office.

Mr. Avery’s building mate, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter (who famously hates the word “donned”), was on the forefront of the shorts revolution. “I used to wear them on hot days at Spy, where our air conditioning was primitive,” he wrote in an e-mail, though he noted that he rarely wears shorts to his current job. “Condé Nast is quite generous with its air conditioning,” he said.



The slouchy khaki cargo short for weekends and the “on the way back from the gym” (or “on the way to softball”) nylon short has long been a staple of the urban male’s wardrobe. But fashion experts say there’s a new wrinkle to the trend.

“Guys are becoming more body-conscious, so shorts are a lot more prevalent this season,” said Lam Nguyen, a buyer at Barneys, where the men’s shorts stock has about doubled in quantity since last year. His preferred brands: Mason’s, Band of Outsiders, Prada and Thom Browne, which retail, on average, for between $140 and $160, and co-op Barneys own walking short, which goes for $75. And it’s not billowing pleats you’re paying for. “The newer silhouettes are all slimmer, chino types of shorts, fitted to the thigh,” Mr. Nguyen said. “A lot of designers have always tried it, but this summer it’s finally catching on.”

Why has it taken New York men so long to get over our deep-seated shorts aversion? Does it make us feel more masculine that we can withstand the heat even with stiff denim suffocating our calves and thighs? Or is it just that some of us are embarrassed of leg hair? Is it, as Mr. Nguyen surmised, a fear of seeming touristy in a high-fashion city? Or does it have more to do with the hypothesis, as Michael B. Dougherty, a research editor at Gotham magazine, put it, that there’s “something really defeatist” about shorts, kind of like wearing sweatpants when you get to the point of not caring how you look?

Until recently, Mr. Dougherty, who is 32 and lives on the Upper East Side, hadn’t owned a pair of casual shorts since he was in high school. Visiting his parents in Connecticut one hot Saturday a few weeks ago, however, after downing a few cocktails in one of the local shopping mall’s “fine-dining” establishments, he found himself wandering into J. Crew to purchase a pair of blue-striped seersucker shorts.

Yikes! Manhattan Men Bare Hairy Knees, Plump Calves