Prada, Cristiano Ronaldo and Love Island. What’s the connection? Shorts, specifically short shorts, which look set to be the menswear trend of the summer. That’s if both the high street and the spring/summer 2019 menswear shows, which concluded this week, are anything to go by.
The World Cup may generally be featuring team shorts of a more practical and modest length, but in stark contrast men’s fashion week was full of microshorts (as the industry calls them) both on the catwalk and on the front row.
Prada’s collection, shown in Milan, featured 52 looks, 23 of which featured the trend. On the high street, Topman also reported a hike in sales of shorter-length shorts, particularly in swimwear.
Prada’s short shorts come in two lengths: 28cm (11in) for the swimming shorts, which feature an elastic belt, while the tailored shorts clock in at a tiny 30cm. John Galliano at Maison Margiela showed his first couture collection for men in Paris last week, including tailored shorts 28cm long.
Fendi’s take on the look included styles in camel with the signature F logo; these hover around the 30cm mark. Meanwhile, for the more modest short-shorts fan, Hermès delivered elegant versions at 37cm in sunshine yellow, black and white.
Short shorts have gone in and out of popularity, like all hemlines, for years. In the 50s, Pablo Picasso would often pose in a pair of skimpy denim shorts. The American painter Robert Rauschenberg favoured thigh-grazing denim cut-offs during the late 70s, while Bob Marley was often seen in a short football short, and not forgetting Wham!’s George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley’s mini-numbers on Top of the Pops.
Adrian Clark, the style director of Shortlist magazine, believes Love Island has contributed to the trend. “This show has had so much influence – it actually caused white jeans to sell out entirely last summer on the high street.
“For all its moralistic faults, though, it has encouraged men to feel comfortable to show off a bit,” he says. “Of course, I’m not attributing all of the success of the short short on that – but I do think it’s adding to the thigh-high phenomenon.”
Ben Cottrell and Matthew Dainty, of the London-based design duo Cottweiler, cite Mo Farah and practicality as their dual inspiration. “For us it is purely about comfort,” they say. “We wanted some of the looks to feel as though you weren’t wearing anything at all.”
Jason Hughes, the fashion editor for Wallpaper, thinks the trend says more about a changing masculinity. “There’s a sense of liberation and freedom that comes from wearing short shorts. They unapologetically put a man’s leg fully on display casting aside any inhibitions.” A fan of Prada’s designs, Hughes adds: “They fit within the current fashion debate surround clothing being more gender fluid.”
Damien Paul, the head of menswear at Matches, says sales of shorts are up by 41% year on year. “ I have seen men generally wearing much shorter shorts on both sides of the Atlantic. I think it fits well with the sportswear trend.”
The rise of the activewear category is also arguably to thank. For Cottweiler’s performance range with Reebok, the short-short has become a staple. “We like to blur the lines between high-fashion, casual-wear and sportswear,” they say
Backstage, Miuccia Prada compared her skimpy designs to miniskirts, using the word “sexy” numerous times to explain her current thinking on masculinity. Cottrell and Dainty agree: “Menswear just has less and less rules as it progresses and men are embracing their bodies and sexuality more”.