December 11, 2023
News Opinion

PAUL HOPKINS: Men, when it comes to the long summer and the shorts of it …

Amid all the madness, and sadness, that is Covid-19, there has been one redeeming factor —  it has not been a bad summer so far, and, though the outlook, is, typically, rather mixed, let us count our blessings.

The Irish summer is a vagary onto itself, our reaction to it even more vagarious: when it’s hot, it’s “too hot”, and when it rains and the winds come, our reaction is: “Sure it’s a grand country altogether, if only we had a roof over it.”

And, of course, we all have our pet hates about Irish weather, in particular Irish summers: being ‘too hot’ aside, there are those of us subjected to the ‘midgies’, sleepless nights ‘cos it’s “too hot”, the dilemma of what to do with children, every long single day of the oh-too-long, Covid-19 driven school furlough, and then there are those, back in the good old days who splashed out on that continental holiday in Costa del Whatever, “cos you are guaranteed the sunshine” only to be washed out of it for the fortnight what with global warming and all.

And so it goes…

My bugbear is the hordes of men who don shorts at the first sign of an Irish summer. More specifically men over a certain age, an age when they really should know better, who assail my senses with visions of knobbly knees, bow legs or flat feet, pot-bellied or worse, attired in shorts of all shades and shapes that do nothing to enhance their standing in the community.

Here’s my rationale: if we men are planning on making a century, then the age of 50 is a speed hump we just have to get over. It’s like surviving a Wednesday during the working week, pre-pandemic; you could crawl under your office desk and sob, or you could be a man and face your demons.

The best knack to getting over the middle of your life is to do it with as much grace and elegance as possible. Problem is, grace and elegance seem to be bygone words in the era of the perpetual ‘kidult’. In days of old, teenage boys looked up to their fathers and tried to emulate them, Nowadays, it’s the other way around, with fathers trying to be like their teenage sons.

Okay, okay, I admit it: I have a pair of torn jeans somewhere at the back of the wardrobe and I have a collection of Converse footwear that would have been the envy of Imelda Marcos but I draw the line at donning shorts during a summer on this island, in the main because our summers are never that hot or the days never one long ray of sunshine to merit such but mainly ‘cos I know that, being of a certain age, and, unfortunately flatfooted, I would look bloody ridiculous.

Now, with lockdown effectively lifted, I see men every day poncing about in their shorts, at the shops, on the bus, in the coffee shop, and they look ridiculous if not downright ugly.

I am not alone in my thinking. Fashion designer Tom Ford says men in shorts are “disgusting” and “repulsive,” and they look “ridiculous, like children” in them.

Yes, I do have a pair of shorts, heavy khaki, cargo style, but I only used them back when if down the Costa del Whatever or, more likely, in my beloved Africa where, in bush or on beach, they seem at home. Shorts are not at home with the pot-bellied, red-faced, fifty-something in a string vest, having a latte at the pop-up coffee shop next to the train station.

Come on lads, you are big boys now and big boys don’t wear short pants in places of industry, culture and sophistication. If it’s a hot Irish day, find yourself a pair of light cotton chinos, or linen trousers. And as for cut-off jean shorts? Just no. Plain no. Stop it now, please.

Here’s an interesting snippet: in 1939, a Gallup poll asked about 1,500 people the following (now, politically incorrect) question: “Do you think it is all right for women to wear shorts on the street?”

A total of 1,020 said no.

Oops, this just in: hoodies, baseball caps and skinny jeans should never be worn by men over the age of 40, according to a new study.

When I had hit the wrong side of 50 and was wearing torn jeans and a base-ball cap back to front, my daughter said: “Dad, don’t be daft. You think you’re cool, a legend, but… “

Then I went to one of her parties and, man, did I cringingly dance the night away and discussed Elbow, the opening of the local Nando’s, reruns of SITC (if you don’t know, don’t bother asking) and the merits of social networking.

Some days later the same daughter said to me: “My friends think you are a legend … now the girls in my new job can’t wait to meet you …’’

“Neither can,” I said, “neither can I…“

Out of earshot. Naturally…


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