PARIS – Men look good in mini-shorts. Or so would suggest the unusual amount of leg seen on the menswear catwalks in Paris this week, but experts say skimpy shorts have little chance of making it in the real world.
US-style bermuda pants – shorts in a longer and wider version – have been in style for years. But this week’s spring-summer shows also saw much smaller variations, intended for town as opposed to sport or beachwear.
At the Belgian designer Raf Simons, all but a handful of the looks were built around shorts cut high on the thigh, slashed at one side and paired with clean white shirts and jackets, black patent brogues or sneakers.
Likewise at the British tailor Hardy Amies, which made its Paris debut this week, designer Claire Malcolm sent out tailored shorts, with a bermuda-style turn-up but cut at mid-thigh.
“There’s no question this is a trend,” said the luxury industry consultant Jean-Jacques Picart.
“One way of wearing them is a bit like an English student in a bermuda suit, with a white shirt and smart town shoes, which says to the world: ‘I am showing my legs but I’m still well dressed’.
“But for anyone over 30 that looks a bit strange,” he told AFP.
The alternative is to see shorts as an athletic, comfortable garment that simply shows off a well-toned body.
Picart says that is “acceptable in town if you offset the look with something elegant,” like clean white tennis shoes and a rich-coloured sweater for example.
But not everyone can pull off the look, as warned one of the fashionistas gathered for the Rick Owens show, where the US designer sent out fluid black bermuda pants with skirt-like aprons at the front and back.
“If you’ve got scrawny little chicken legs covered in black hair, it’s not going to look all that great,” he warned.
Even on the catwalks, the models were far from universally suited to the mini-shorts style, despite having a clear upper hand on the man in the street in the looks department.
At Mugler, designer Nicola Formichetti went for tailored white mini-shorts, pairing them like Raf Simons with impeccably-cut jackets.
But Picart was ready to bet that in both cases the look that makes into the store will be jacket and pants, not shorts.
“It just makes for a good photo on the catwalk.”
During the fashion shows, he explained, “a brand is largely appealing to blase buyers and journalists, looking for new ways to get them excited. This kind of thing is there to spice things up for the industry-insiders.”
For Francois Gaillard, menswear specialist at the French trade magazine Fashion Dailynews, there will always be a handful of “fashion victims” willing to go out and buy these tiny designer shorts.
“You’ll be seeing them here in the audience, at next season’s shows,” joked one fashionista.
But whatever the prospects for the mini-short, the French graphic designer Jean-Paul Goude, at the Issey Miyake Men show on Thursday, said he was delighted at the lashings of bermuda pants on display.
“I’ve worn nothing else for the past 35 years,” he told AFP. “It’s a wonderful confirmation that I was right all along!”