Trends come and go in the fashion world, and the next trend to be adopted by the fashionable young men and women on campus is anyone’s guess. One of the latest and greatest to be sported by the more daring is straight out of a 1970s motorcycle advertisement: the hot pant. These aren’t your everyday Daisy Dukes or cutoff shorts. Higher in both rise and hemlines, hot pants threaten to expose the wearer’s most vulnerable regions with any sudden motion. Despite the potential for social humiliation, however, you will see them all around Wesleyan.
How did hot pants become an actual part of students’ wardrobes? Does anyone remember the underwear as outerwear trend (you can thank those clever designers for your Free People bandeau)? Hot pants are a less brazen version of this. This particular trend allows us to leave our dorms in full ensembles, only with something akin to underwear instead of pants. They may be a bit sturdier, but hot pants are certainly not crafted to brave the elements. And nothing says “beat the humidity” like denim underwear. But that’s exactly the point: no one can accuse you of wearing lingerie in public when said lingerie features pockets and a zipper.
So what are we leaving to the imagination?
“Pants are like the economy. When the stock market drops, so does our ability to wear pants,” said no one ever. It’s hard to chock up outlandish trends to a turbulent national identity. There is always one global crisis or another, and there is always a lot of skin showing on one part of the body or another.
During World War II, skirt hemlines rose to the knee in efforts to save money through the conservation of fabric. What’s our excuse now? A lagging economy? Our government is definitely not rationing our sartorial materials. The fashion industry may take a hit from the current recession, but it has yet to result in the literal decreasing of material per garment (at least to my knowledge). Hot pants are being sold and advertised alongside maxi-skirts, so economic practicality can’t be the culprit here.
Before I sound too critical of the use of these tiny thigh-casings, I must acknowledge that their existence has spanned decades, going in and out of fashion for the last 40 or so years. My own mother, a respectable figure of unwavering taste and judgment, admitted to wearing purple, crushed-velvet hot pants as an adolescent in the 1970s. The length of one’s shorts then may have slipped under the radar of public concern, perhaps amongst the rioting youth and infamous parades of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. If you’re not already shocked by the great lengths to which hot pants have gone to work for women (and men) in the past, you may be more surprised to know that stewardesses for Southwest Airlines wore them as a part of their official uniform in the 70s as well.
That being said, hemlines will rise and drop. Frequently, necklines do the same in reverse correlation, so we can hope that the more discerning members of our generation will pair their hot pants with covered collarbones and long-sleeves. Perhaps those more conscious of fashion history will match their hot pants with an equally retro turtleneck. I must admit, however, that none of this will prove particularly practical in Connecticut winter. Then again, hot pants eschew practicality any day of the year when it comes to sitting, bending over, maintaining proper circulation, and the like.
In the end, we can expect this look to run its course like every other. After years of skin being covered and revealed again and again, we know the pendulum will keep on swinging, and the editors at Vogue will keep on scrambling for new ideas. In the meantime, I trust our student body (and maybe some really bold faculty members?) to keep some things covered up when braving the waters of such questionable fashion waves. After all, with fashion, balance is always key.
Maybe if you’ve got it, you really can flaunt it. Just not all of it at once.