My First Pair of Shorts

by Melanie Prakash | 5/9/18 2:05am

by Amanda Zhou / The Dartmouth

This past Saturday, I brought shame to my middle school self and disappointment to my high school beliefs. When I sent a picture to family, my brother teasingly called me “a hack fraud.” My father said, “They look a bit like my torn t-shirts”. My grandmother wanted to know why I had bought a small tent built with old jeans. 

This past Saturday, I wore short ripped jean shorts in public for the first time in my life.

Before getting into this, it’s only fair to take a quick step back. Fashion is more than simply a choice of wearing what looks cute or attractive. Consciously or unconsciously, fashion is an art that everyone takes into account as a means of expressing themselves. This is to not to say that everyone is necessarily vain or consumed by online shopping. However, because the modern consumer experience allows for a nearly impossible diversity of clothing options (from thrift stores to J. Crew, depending on how much value you want to get out of your birthday money), everyone has the potential to develop their own sense of fashion. It may resemble the demure characters from low-budget Hallmark movies with their beige sweaters and comfortable khakis. It can be purchases based on the simplistic mindset of what I call the “three Cs”: cost, comfort and convenience. It can be a rebellion against the culture of materialism by only buying from Plato’s Closet. 

When I was forced to make my own fashion choices for the first time, I wanted to look nice but also be comfortable, which I thought at the time was mutually exclusive. I was comfortable with turtlenecks, gift shop crew neck sweaters from vacations and most of all, long, unripped pants. Dressing this way was less work and, as a teenager, an easy way to resist what was mainstream. 

However, this year, I found myself dangerously curious. After eight years of barely wearing skirts and only buying khakis, I was intrigued by the idea of trying to dress in a way that was contemporary to college life. I found it interesting that while there is not necessarily one objective measure of “in style,” there is nevertheless a widely accepted sense of fashion. And based on its popularity in common culture, that somehow has come to include short shorts. 

I took on the challenge. I decided to buy my first pair of short shorts. It just so happened that cheapest pair (possibly ironically?) were also ripped. They came in the mail the next week, dark deep blue, about eight inches in length with strummable threads between the rips. 

It’s not a magical transformation like at the end of “Beauty and The Beast,” when Belle says she loves him and the sky starts raining gold, an experience suggesting evolution to a purer and more celestial state. It resembled more of a personal Bildungsroman or personal maturation, but a bit more radical. Wearing short shorts is like tentatively grasping at the possibility to be something dangerous, with a pinch of empowerment.

To further add to the short short experience, wearing ripped jean material is, as the Express blog puts it “a rebellious, anti-establishment statement.” And it is not an art completely of the abstract nature. In fact, there are actually specific types of ways to rip your jeans, according to the blog: “Holes, which should not be more than an inch wide; Shreds — where the fabric is torn but threads remain and finally, Scrapes — grazed fabric.” Now if you see a picture of my shorts, with respect to the rips, they are not very dangerous at all. Still though, the concept of wearing this vein of fashion forces one to confront a multitude of questions: how comfortable are can you be with your body image? Are you ready to be identified with mainstream fashion? Can you withstand the silent judgment of older generations who question the very decency and political statement of your pants? 

The feminist blog site Bustle would even go so far as to suggest the seven steps stages of wearing short shorts, from the innocent glance in the mirror to the brazen confidence strutting around in them in the security of your home, to the final test of braving the outside world. For instance, if people look at you, you can’t empirically know what they are thinking about: the skin? The rips? That emotionally jarring ending to the latest “Avengers” movie (i.e. more important things)? 

Furthermore, you constantly fight the urge to fidget, because you don’t know how far to pull them down. After all, you still want the freedom of a high rise but you also don’t want to be too risque, most tops seemingly growing longer as pants grow shorter. Where is the balance between modesty and comfort? Apparently it is entirely determined by the placement of your shorts.

So as I walked around campus on the beautiful Saturday we had this past weekend, my mind was running a supercomputer algorithm to process the loads of new data from a world of ripped jean short shorts. And with so many parents in town for the weekend, I constantly reflected: did they see me as one of the college students who didn’t care about modesty? A student who for-went morality for the sake of the college look? Would other students be embarrassed by their campus because there was a student wearing a pair of shorts that was just able to manage weak argument for wearing pants?

I will say it’s exhausting, it’s stressful and just at the moment when you are about to run 15 minutes back to your dorm to change into the longest and most conservative pair of pants you own, you feel the soft spring breeze gently blow against you. And even though for the rest of the day you end up a few percentage points more guilty about the hordes of KAF chocolate croissants you’ve downed this term, among the slender budding trees and the trimmed green grass, you feel pretty comfortable. You feel new and wonderfully at ease to just be enjoying the world without the shielding of thick denim pants. You feel beautiful.