Short Shorts

We’ve noticed a new body part recently, called “knees,” living justabove our shins. Apparently they were always there, but they used tohide under 2-4″ of excess boardshort fabric. It seems surfboardsaren’t the only things getting shorter – on thighs and beachesworldwide, hemlines are mocking Michigan’s unemployment by risingrapidly. Even the New York Times has taken notice:

Fashion watchers have been anticipating the change almost asclosely as climatologists monitor sea levels. For decades men’s swimtrunks, under the name ‘board shorts,’ have inched steadily downwardtoward a style that would more accurately be described as pants.Finally they are beginning to recede. Thighward. Even among customersof the California surf line Birdwell Beach Britches, the trim, shorterstyles introduced in the 1960’s are making a comeback.

“The guys have decided to show off the legs again,” said EvelynRichardson McGee, a manager at Birdwell and a granddaughter of thefounder.

But here’s the rub: the above was written over three years ago, in2006, when everyone but Kelly Slater wore AI’s shantsy Rising Suntrunks. We fancy ourselves trendsetters – rebellious pirates offashion and swagger. So why has it taken surfers so long to hike upour drawers?

“I don’t think it’s completely taken hold yet,” says RVCA‘s PatTowersey. “But people around here, in Newport, were wearing thoseshort shorts two, three summers ago – like Alex Knost and those guys.RVCA’s been doing shorter trunks for four or five years. Now it’smaking its way out of that little trendsetter phase and it’s moreaccepted. Normal people are adopting it.”

So the hip, slim, 9″ inseams we just paid $70 for – right in time forsummer – are more suited to three summers past. Fashion, she is acruel and moody cheat. Short trunks are old news – defanged and pushedupon the masses and now, as trendsetters, we ought to be on to thenext thing. Right?

“Yeah, true,” says RVCA’s Towersey, “but at the same time it’s one ofthose things that’s a staple classic. We like to produce things thatare more timeless pieces, but we have a variety of lengths to ourshorts. Like Makua’s boardshorts are longer – it seems the Hawaiianguys like the long shorts still.”

Less length means less rash, and less fabric to interfere with one’sknees mid-takeoff – so there is a functional argument for shorttrunks. Let’s run with that. As for what Newport’s fad kitchen willcook up next, the jury’s still out. Surf pants? Speedos?

“No, no pants. No long pants,” insists Towersey. “Speedos…yeah,possibly. They’ve always done it in France, they never stopped doingit. Everytime I go to France in the summer there’s always some guysurfing in Speedos.”