lifestyle

Dear men. We don't care how hot it is. This is not okay.

This is where we’re at now.

Not sure anyone got around to mentioning it but it was hot in Melbourne recently.

Of all the trends which emerged – #heatwave, northern hemisphere tennis players complaining in the papers – one was particularly striking for its revolutionary zeal.

I refer of course to the business short.

Gents all around town took the plunge and freed themselves from their bifurcated leg irons in a daring act of sartorial defiance. Things were kept business up top – shirts stayed collared, neutral and tucked in – but below the belt there was a change in the stifling summer air.

Maybe in the heat of the moment the normal rules ceased to apply, because what was as striking as the sudden appearance of bare calves in meeting rooms and CBD coffee queues was the apparent acceptance of a more casual dress code.

I for one was alarmed. As a firm subscriber to the view that a man should dress for the job he wants, not the job he has, it was startling to see how many of my fellow desk jockeys had decided to aspire to becoming a lifeguard at their local pool.

I admit I also had to succumb to the heat and make difficult dress decisions – so for three days straight I left the house in the morning sans a suit jacket.

My more couture curious friends accused me of being short-sighted. They argued I should just embrace it and choose comfort over conformity. I said that to dress like that was unprofessional, impolite and not befitting of anyone trying to be taken seriously. It became quite heated.

Before going much further, a short history.

It’s a relatively recent phenomenon, historically speaking, that us blokes have covered our knees on the job. Empires have risen and fallen at the hands of men in togas, the Scots nearly crushed a King of England in kilts and the great thinkers of the Renaissance pondered the world in knee breeches and pantaloons.

Shorts as we know them today were probably born in the early 1800s, after enterprising British naval officers stationed in Bermuda lopped off their uniform pants to get some relief from the tropical heat. Ergo the Bermuda short.

From here on in wearing shorts was generally the domain of young boys; and gentlemen, even blokes engaged in active pursuits (take note tennis players) would not have been seen dead with exposed knees until well into the 20th century.

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The long and the short of it is that it’s never been de rigueur for a self-respecting man of means in the world of business to be bare down there.

Whilst working women have long been given more leeway in their office attire to cope with the warmer months – ditching the stockings, a slightly shorter skirt, the intriguingly named ‘sack dress’ – whatever the season us blokes are generally expected to sport, as a minimum, a pair of pants and a shirt with collar. Although given the stubborn and shameful disparity between the two sexes in all other aspects of the workplace, I’m all for allowing the ladies at least a bit more comfort in the summer months.

But just as the sans-culottes donned their bonnet rouges as they rolled out the guillotine on the streets of Paris in 1792, the morning commute last week had a certain flash of revolution about it as some defiantly sliced a bit off their britches. Not quite the Arab Spring, but maybe, just maybe, the Melbourne Summer.

Sam Casey

So have we reached a turning point in the workplace? Or will a cool change pour cold water on this short lived experiment?

Luc Wiesman is a Melbourne based style guru and author of men’s style publication D’Marge. He says we’re witnessing a blurring of the lines between what constitutes smart casual and casual business.

“Tailored, above the knee shorts are back-in,” he explains, adding that’s certainly an acceptable choice to go to events like the polo.

“It’s a smart-casual look, and people are thinking that’s okay at work.”

I asked if he’d ever dare show a bit of leg around the office.

“Ah, no. Not personally.”

Wiesman suggests that it might be okay for blokes in creative industries to earn a crust in chino shorts and a button down, but even then it’s questionable.

“No board shorts.”

Amen, brother.

So, businessmen of Australia, let’s all agree to stop this nonsense before it gets out of hand.

When the temperature rises let’s rise above it, let’s leave the shorts and the thongs at home, calling us like a siren’s song, promising us sweet relief and pleasure as a reward for a hard day’s work, something to slip in to as we slide into an ice cold beer.

Sam Casey has at various times been a political advisor, a chef and a cheese monger. He has views about the world around him, and sometimes he shares them.
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