In Defense of “Hot Pants”
Reading Gavriella Wolf’s article on what she apparently viewed as the eyebrow-raising rise in hemlines on campus, I was momentarily confused by her usage of the term “hot pants”. Short shorts have ceased to be termed “hot pants” since the early Noughties and the term conjures up images in my mind more of low-waisted, True Religion knockoffs on tourists strolling along Pitbull-blasting mega-resort promenades than the high-waisted cutoffs and fluted floral numbers seen on campus waifs. “Downtown” designers like Alexander Wang, Rag and Bone and Balmain reimagined the freedom and versatility of music-festival shorts for an urban environment. Lagerfeld and Miuccia Prada rode the high-fashion youthquake (young designers making a splash in London + the exponential rise of 20-somethings outspending their parents on designer clothing) by redefining the high-fashion aesthetic for the new generation of hyper-mobile, posh-raving, DJ-ing, casual-luxe Turbo-Jet Set by giving their gamine legs the freedom to move in quilted knickers and silk Japanese tropical print tennis shorts (with matching visors). Short shorts have been established as classic piece in high and low fashion and they can be a part of any look, conservative or not.
Secondly, I object to the term because “hot pants” (or rather Shorts, as they are known today- no one worth their Wangs would be caught dead in anything below mid-thigh so longer shorts are irrelevant) assumes that the garment in question is worn primarily in hot weather and secondly carries the unfortunate baggage of tacky sexiness. It carries the assumption that the greater the amount of flesh shown, the more risque the outfit. Today’s fashions do not carry such assumptions. The amount of skin on display is no longer a gauge of daring.
We live in an over-exposed. immediately googleable, incessantly over-sharing society. There is no mystery left anyway. These shorts are worn as an aesthetic and practical prefer ence. What was once reserved for hot weather now comes in leather, wool and shearling versions and is worn more often than not with tights. Similarly, what was once a style deemed inherently provocative is now a standard piece which forms a part of the general theme of the outfit. Just as long pants were deemed provocative in the early 20th century, so were short shorts in the early Noughties.
High-waisted Stolen Girlfriends Club leather shorts can be chic paired with a chambray blouse and oxford flatforms for day but sexy when worn with a clavicle-framing Herve bandage top, sleek ponytail and minimalist stilettos for night. The shorts themselves are such an integral part of the post-2007 aesthetic that they no longer carry any connotations at all. In the sixties Mary Quant, Biba and Courreges introduced shortness in an age of optimism, giving millions of youthful legs the innocent freedom they were robbed of at puberty. The message was then and still is: why should we be modest when we have nothing to hide?