One of the great shames of my life is that about once per week, I wear shorts to work. I steadfastly refused to give in for as long as I could, but eventually the threat of heatstroke and the fact that I quickly find myself smelling as a real-life incarnation of a character from “Game of Thrones” forced me to go down this sartorial route. At least I only do so when working outside in the summer sun.
Alas, none of this matters. It remains deplorable. I feel the shame of my ancestors permeating the sweltering heat. I remember stories of my father—forced to wear shorts always and for every occasion till he became a young man of proper age—and how he refused anything but pants for years afterward. I sense the spirit of Fran Lebowitz prematurely haunting me. As Stephen Green, aka @VodkaPundit, explains:
If only Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post were similarly haunted.
If you’re a man, you probably know how stifling and uncomfortable this outfit is. Particularly in the summer, when the mercury tops 90 degrees. And because modern office thermostats are set to accommodate male attire it means that women — wearing seasonally-appropriate clothes like skirts and dresses in the summer — are bringing blankets and snuggies to work to fight the cold.
Ahh, yes, the unseen power of the office thermostat, the tyranny of temperature. Why, it’s almost as oppressive as grilling. At least Ingraham didn’t go all in on the abomination that are short suits, a look only acceptable on Angus Young and even then one that is somewhat questionable. Of course, Ingraham also mentions “putting on the same khaki pants” every day, so he’s probably not going to be featured on the Sartorialist anytime soon when it comes to his take on business casual attire. Sure, khakis have their place, but they are not panacea.
Due Credit, Not Stored in Cargo Pockets
I do have to give the man credit for putting a creative spin on his ensemble and for the rules he offers at the end of the article. His flat-front shorts, linen shirt, and loafers without socks are solid. For a pool party or trip to the beach, that is. For a casual event sure to be replete with alcohol and sweltering heat. His admonitions to never wear cargo shorts or flip flops are also absolutely correct.
But he’s missing the big picture. In the words of John Davidson, “We’ve lost any concept that the way you dress either shows respect or disrespect for other people. It’s not about vanity or conformity, but respect.” Damn straight, Brother Davidson. This isn’t about you, mildly uncomfortably warm man in the office. Stop thinking the world revolves around you and the amount of heat being trapped in the vicinity of your lower brain. No, this decision is about the people you encounter, about showing them respect. For if you don’t show them some, then they cannot return the sentiment.
As Fran Lebowitz said, “Men never wore shorts when I was young. There are few things I would rather see less, to tell you the truth. I’d just as soon see someone coming toward me with a hand grenade.” If you’re approaching your coworkers in shorts (or your boss asking for a raise or a promotion!), you’re approaching them with a very visible hand grenade, at least if you aren’t careful in how you position your legs when you sit. Granted, Lebowitz’s own style is…interesting. It matters not. Her opinion on shorts, much as her position on capes, is absolutely correct.
Real Men Aren’t Afraid of Shrapnel
Some disagree. Adam Maxwell, ever the contrarian, had this to say on the subject of shorts and manliness:
But Adam is wrong about most everything except bike helmets for young kids, so we can ignore him while pointing out those men were just asking for rocks, hand grenade shrapnel, and other detritus to be buried deep into their flesh. Sure, chicks dig scars and those soldiers were slightly beating the heat, but they weren’t playing the long game. A strong offense is a good defense and lowering the portcullis against rocks, hand grenade shrapnel, and sundry other detritus is a key aspect of a good defense. Plus no one wants to lose the opportunity to capture glory because of a mere flesh wound.
Drive the Lane
Granted, as @VodkaPundit mentioned, there are exceptions. An old school NBA game is one. Back in the glory days of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it was wise to scare the bejesus out of your opponent with a hand grenade when driving the lane. Notice the distance with which Abdul-Jabbar was working. No one could get between his balls and where he was going with them, that is, it. That was hugely advantageous. Alas, it is 2015 and you are not Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, so that excuse falls flatter than a ball in Tom Brady’s clutches.
Air travel is another argument against being well-dressed in all situations. As a friend, who shall remain nameless despite his lack of innocence, observed: “I’m not about to dress up just to get forcibly fingerbanged in a cancer machine by a high school dropout with a badge, which is just foreplay for getting crammed into a seat with no leg room next to someone’s monstrous Aunt Sally whose sweaty arm fat is taking up 200 percent of the arm rest and half of my seat. BUT I DIGRESS.”
Modern air travel is a particularly horrible time to be dressed well, particularly as you have to strip down to you bones (phrasing) for the backscatter nudity machine before taking your place amongst the unwashed masses traveling for a family vacation and who are wholly unaware what your earbuds and book are signaling.
The Better You Dress, The Worse You Can Behave
But, despite those truths, here’s the thing: The office is neither the wild courts of Abdul-Jabbar’s day nor the awfulness of the modern airplane. Instead, it is a place in which dominance reigns supreme, assuming HR isn’t paying too much attention; a place where fortune favors the bold. It’s tempting to think that the bold man is the one who shows up in shorts and loafers. He is not. The bold man is the one who knows that there are myriad options at his disposal, from linen to seersucker to lighter-weight cottons. The bold man is the one who isn’t afraid to let them see him sweat. The bold man is the one who embraces being the center of attention not because of his slavish dedication to “comfort,” but because of his slavish dedication to decorum with a splash of swagger.
For this man is the one who can cause others to cower merely by his presence, for his ability to dress appropriately and ignore mild inconveniences such as the heat he endures between the car and the office door. He is the man who will be noticed not for the hand grenade he’s holding, ready to knee-cap his rivals in a rain of shrapnel, but for the tailoring of his pants, the details on his wingtips, and the pattern of his gingham shirt.
Shorts guy may be cool, he may not be oppressing the ladies with the thermostat, but he is not cool. He is not going to appeal to the retro sexist women in the office and ply them to do his bidding. That job rests with the man in pants. The man in the pants is the one for whom HR is just an abstraction and for whom political correctness is a concept to be trampled beneath his Goodyear welded soles. Man in pants is swinging his heat around with the force of 1,000 suns, despite the heat of the actual sun. He reigns supreme, sweat glistening on his brow, leaving foes in his wake. He is the man who knows if you’re going to go full Lenny Kravitz, you go full Lenny Kravitz and bust out of a pair of tailored trousers, not the basketball shorts your fellow air travelers were sporting. Accept no substitutes and offer no apologies. For you are the man of the office, it is your thermostat, and you damn sure better use it.