"The alternative to extinction is stagnation, and stagnation is seldom a good thing in any realm."
-Ian Tattersall, anthropologist
-Ian Tattersall, anthropologist
In the early 1990's and until the True Advent of the Internet (by standard reckoning T.A.I. is calculated as the first time I saw a naked lady on a computer screen-- April 12, 1995), there was one article in the fashion book that was not on everybody's mind, and that was Jeans Shorts. This is because we wore them naturally, we donned them as instinctively as a hermit crab shimmies his vulnerable backside into a spiral seashell. Jeans Shorts were inevitable. Jeans Shorts were immanent. I myself had four (4) pairs; one (1) of which, a fetching electric orange number, I used as a proxy for my own forgettable personality all through the 6th grade.
The scene: a party of 6th graders
The setup: me, in my radioactive orange Jeans Shorts and a dark shirt (to intensify the effect of draping my loins in fabric the color and radiance of the setting sun), and any girl in the 6th grade
"I like your shorts" -- the pubescent cookie, probably in earnest
"... thank you.." -- me, perhaps a little too fervently and not looking her in the face
Immediately thereafter she would walk away and I would imagine that I had broken even, not having gained her respect or admiration or friendship as a human being but feeling pretty god-dang good that my Jeans Shorts had forced her hand. But such fire and flare were the exception: Jeans Shorts might as well have been extensions of the human epidermis in those cool heady days of the 90's. They were what we wore, we wore them.
As is the way of the world in Life as in Fashion, Jeans Shorts had their epoch and then retired, chased underground by fabrics like khaki. But they did not die out. Jeans Shorts (as opposed to their lengthier cousins, Jeans) had the curious misfortune to decamp to a place in the American cultural psyche-- and I don't know where the heck this could be-- in which they picked up basically every awful connotation clothes might acquire. When we think of Jeans Shorts we think of what, of families scampering un-self-critically and joyfully around Disney World, headed by men whose hair spills over their collars and peopled by children with rat tails. Of older but not old men signalling to everyone that they are maybe beginning to think about not caring about living any more by tucking a polo shirt into some starched Jeans Shorts, severing themselves effectively from the society and the culture. But did you want to know a secret, gentle reader? These people are awesome. They bedeck themselves in pariah's rags and maintain. They galavant under scornful gazes and do not flinch. Jeans Shorts are the Trilobyte that Lived, the Coelacanths of the Pant Kingdom swimming lazily in deep modern seas, persevering, not evolving. It is telling that one of the last taboos of fashion still unexploited by our gluttonous hipsterism is, you guessed it: the unimpeachable Jeans Shorts! Hipsters will wear suspenders, jellies, tapered pants, but not Jeans Shorts-- this is mystifying. Jeans Shorts and their wearers are at once downtrodden and unassailable, the ultimate noble sufferer whose survival cannot be definitively attributed to either resilience or ignorance. Jeans Shorts! Huzzah!
Now let me tell you another secret: I wear Jeans Shorts. I wear them when I desire a subdued and smart fabric to complement a killer t-shirt I have freshly procured-- a true reversal from the 6th grade. I wear them when I am not sure if my night will end up on a soft beach of the Gulf Coast with my Lady or in a panicked sprint, running from an attack dog, and I must dress to accommodate either eventuality; they grasp the great coin of form and function, as Martin, Nietzsche, and Ida Rolph collectively and wonderfully envisioned it, between thumb and forefinger in a practiced grip. I wear them so that when people pass me and my Jeans Shorts in a grocery store aisle they will ask themselves "Does that guy even pause when he hits a small mammal with his car?", and, honest to goodness, they won't be able to reach a conclusion either way.