The long and the shorts of it, lads …

The Fact Of The Matter


Our seasons are a vagary onto themselves, our reaction to their sudden, often unannounced change even more vagarious: when it’s hot, it’s “too hot”, and when it rains and the winds come, our reaction is: “Sure it’s a grand country altogether, if only we had a roof over it.”
We all have our pet hates about Irish weather, in particular Irish summers: being ‘too hot’ aside, there are those of us subjected to the ‘midgies’, sleepless nights ‘cos it’s “too hot”, the dilemma of what to do with children, every long single day of the oh-too-long school holidays, after they spending more time at home than at school the past 12 months.
And so it goes…
My bugbear are the hordes of men who don shorts at the first sign of spring. More specifically men over a certain age, an age when they really should know better, who assail my senses with visions of knobbly knees, bow legs or flat feet, pot-bellied or worse, attired in shorts of all shades and shapes that do nothing to enhance their standing in the community.
Here’s my rationale: if we men are planning on making a century, then the age of 50 is a speed hump we just have to get over. It’s like surviving a Wednesday during the working week; you can crawl under your office desk and sob, or you can be a man and face your demons.
The best knack to getting over the middle of your life is to do it with as much grace and elegance as possible. Problem is, grace and elegance seem to be bygone words in the era of the perpetual ‘kidult’.
In days of old, teen-age boys looked up to their fathers and tried to emulate them, Nowadays, it’s the other way around, with fathers trying to be like their teenage sons.
Okay, okay, I admit it: I have a pair of torn jeans somewhere at the back of the wardrobe and I have a collection of Converse footwear that would have been the envy of Imelda Marcos but I draw the line at donning shorts the first sign of a blue sky on this island, in the main because our springs summers are never that hot or the days never one long ray of sunshine to merit such but mainly ‘cos I know that, being of a certain age, and, unfortunately flatfooted, I would look bloody ridiculous.
I am such men every day – even during that recent cold snap that lasted a week – pouncing about in their shorts at the coffee shop, walking the dog, down the harbour, over the mill, at the check-out and they look ridiculous if not downright ugly.
I am not alone in my thinking. Fashion designer Tom Ford says men in shorts are “disgusting” and “repulsive,” and they look “ridiculous, like children” in them.
Yes, I do have a pair of shorts, heavy khaki, cargo style, but I only use them if down the Costa del What- ever or, more likely, in my beloved Africa where, in bush or on beach, they seem at home. Shorts are not at home with the pot-bellied, red-faced, fifty-something in a string vest, having a latte at the pop-up coffee shop during the pandemic.
Come on lads, you are big boys now and big boys don’t wear short pants in places of industry, culture and sophistication. If it’s a hot Irish day, find yourself a pair of light cotton chinos, or linen trousers. And as for cut-off jean shorts? Just no. Plain no.
Here’s an interesting snippet: in 1939, a Gallup poll asked about 1,500 people the following (now, politically incorrect) question: “Do you think it is all right for women to wear shorts on the street?”
A total of 1,020 said no.
When I had hit the wrong side of 50 and was wearing torn jeans and a base-ball cap back to front, my daughter said: “Dad, don’t be daft. You think you’re cool, a legend, but… “
Then I went to one of her parties and, man, did I cringingly dance the night away and discussed Elbow, the opening of the local Nando’s, reruns of SITC (if you don’t know, don’t ask) and merits of social networking.
Some days later the same daughter said to me: “My friends think you are a legend … now the girls in my new job can’t wait to meet you …’’
“Neither can,” I said, “neither can I.”
Out of earshot. Naturally.

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