A traditional men’s suit comprises of a suit jacket and a pair of well-fitted trousers. But then again, what is fashion if not ever-evolving and challenging traditions. Men’s formal wear is no longer restricted to how well you pair a two-piece suit with a pocket square; the nebulous nature of style has taken a new form, the shorts suit. We can proudly credit Pharrell Williams for popularising this trend, who rocked Oscars 2014 red carpet in a Lanvin tuxedo with knee-length shorts. Celebrated for his unorthodox sartorial choice, Williams was recently seen in a camo shorts suit ensemble by Chanel at Oscars 2019.
Despite fashion critics decrying the trend in the past – the late Joan Rivers said that Pharrell looked like he was “representing the Lollipop Guild in the tribute to ‘The Wizard of Oz’” – the shorts suit has been gaining more traction over the seasons, especially when Thom Browne championed the adoption of chino shorts in favour of his uniform-esque aesthetic. LeBron James and some of his Cleveland Cavaliers teammates walked into the arena for the 2018 NBA Finals in this look, cementing the shorts suit’s place in fashion history.
The humid climate of India also makes for the perfect breeding ground for the shorts suit. A stroll across the CBD to your favourite salad bar will no longer have your legs begging for a breather, and weekend brunches at the beachside club just got a sartorial upgrade.
If you’re convinced that this isn’t just a novelty trend (we’re looking at you, velour tracksuits), here are some guidelines on how to pull off the shorts suit and look as dapper as Pharrell.
Tailor the pieces
For those who have won the genetic lottery and can fit into any suit off-the-rack, please keep scrolling. For everyone else, this is the most important factor that will determine whether you look like a debonair stud or a sack of potatoes. We can’t stress enough how important tailoring is to a suit, even if you don’t have the intention of pairing a jacket with shorts. Your shoulders on the blazer shouldn’t be too small, nor should they sag down your arm. The waistline should also be tucked in as much as you are comfortable with. The shorts should be knee-length and tapered to your thighs.
Match the colours
The appeal of a ‘broken suit’ with its mixed blazer and trousers is timeless but adopting that style for the shorts suit is a no-no. Stick with one colour scheme, be it grey, blue, or black. You can even go Pharrell and experiment with different prints, provided they are the same for both the top and bottom.
Socks or no socks?
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to socks with a shorts suit. LeBron James wore his with a matching pair of socks that rose up to his calves, while others have chosen to omit them entirely from their look. If you do choose to go sockless, at least wear a pair of no-show ones? Foot hygiene is important, people. Don’t forget that.
The conundrum with ties
It’s been more or less accepted now that you don’t need a tie to go along with your suit, but when wearing a shorts suit it gets a little tricky. If you’re wearing a dress shirt underneath the suit jacket, a necktie or a bowtie would complete the look. One way to combat this rule is to wear a double-breasted blazer with a T-shirt underneath. Tinie Tempah at the Burberry show in 2015 pulled it off and we didn’t even blink an eye.
Read the room and the invitation
While we’re all for the trend of suits and shorts, it is not an outfit you can wear to every occasion. Attending a summer wedding on the Italian Riviera? Yes, the shorts suit will be perfect. A sit-down dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant with dignitaries from overseas? You’re better off with pants.
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