Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why I don’t wear short pants.

Things change over time. Take wearing shorts for instance. These days guys wearing shorts are commonplace. But it wasn’t always like that, and not everyone wears them now. I notice most older guys in Peru don’t wear shorts, no matter how hot it gets. That makes me feel good…like I once again belong to a brotherhood that hasn’t existed for half a century.

In the late 40s and early 50s on Milwaukee’s South Side we all wore shorts, because our mothers made us (yeah…that’s me in 1944). We didn’t want to, but come summer vacation out came the shorts. “You’ll feel cooler, and besides they look good on you” was the explanation we’d get in response to our protests. We knew the real reason was that there were no knees to wear out and they stayed cleaner a little longer. It was these same unreasonable mothers who made us wear rubber boots at the first hint of a snowflake, and not only wear them, but completely buckle them up which eliminated any chance of salvaging a cool guy image. The only situation that could possibly be worse would be shorts and rubber boots. Nobody could have survived that humiliation. You’d have to move to like Idaho, or someplace like that. 

I think mothers felt it was their duty to make our lives miserable when we were 10 to 12 years old. Maybe they viewed it as character development. The problem with shorts is they made you look and feel like a sissy. I’ll bet in those days shorts were the reason for more bloody noses than anything else. We didn’t have any problem within our gang, because me, Ed, Baldy, Eddie, Pinky, Norb and Eugene were near the same age and all in shorts. It was when we crossed paths with some other gang who had slightly older guys wearing long pants that the insults would come and the fists start flying. If you were in shorts you almost automatically got called a ‘twerp’ by other guys. “Your mother dresses you funny” was a standard taunt. You could either take it and be labeled a sissy, or you started throwing punches. Even if you lost the other guy was less likely to mess with you next time you met. It’s probably not possible to understand the resentment we felt toward shorts if you weren’t there at that time.

We’d see photos in magazines like National Geographic of teenage guys in England, France, and Germany wearing shorts and laugh our heads off. Teenagers!! How could they expect a girl to even look at them (not that we were interested in girls) without laughing? We thought mothers must be really strict over there! And then one day we saw photos of British soldiers fighting in Africa. They were wearing shorts. Soldiers in shorts! Can you imagine John Wayne leading his platoon in an attack on an enemy beach in shorts? Forget the beach...can you even imagine John Wayne in shorts!? Or Wyatt Earp facing a dozen outlaws at high-noon on main street in Tombstone in shorts? The outlaws would have been laughing so hard that the gunfight at the OK Corral would never have happened! One of us suggested that maybe the British government issued shorts to make the soldiers mad and fight harder, but we finely decided that the war was causing shortages of everything and probably they didn't have enough material to make long pants for all of the soldiers. We felt sorry for the guys who were issued short pants.

Going from shorts to long pants was sort of a rite of passage. There wasn’t anything that triggered it. It wasn’t like...”Okay, you’ve reached a certain age or height so now you can wear regular jeans.” It was just…one day a guy would show up in jeans, and you knew he’d crossed over. In our gang Norb was the first. Nobody said anything and nothing really changed but things were never quite the same. If I remember right the following year Ed was next, followed soon after by Eugene and then Baldy. Then there were only three of us left – each of us hoping it would happen to us early next year because none of us wanted to be last. I don’t remember how it worked out. All I remember was there came a time in my life when I was finally through with shorts; an attitude and feeling that remains with me to this day. I could not force myself to go out in public wearing shorts.

However…. it gets very hot in Chiclayo and there are times when I’m in the apartment alone, and I will occasionally put on a pair of exercise shorts I brought from the States. I feel foolish doing it. I hear voices from long ago saying “your mother dresses you funny.” But it does feel a lot cooler than jeans, and…well…things change over time. Take wearing shorts for instance.



  1. lol! Great post, Tom :)

    I've been in shorts for most of the last month, and I can tell you, I get a LOT of stares from passers-by when I'm out watering the front yard. I'm not sure if it's just because of the shorts, or maybe the tattoo on my ankle, or maybe just because my legs are SOOOO white!

  2. Tom, We were in Lima last week. Before leaving for Peru, my husband asked me if men wear shorts in summertime, to which I replied, 'No'. He packed only one pair and was not happy as it was hot and humid in Lima. My bad! LOL

    PS, Kelly, I am sure you looked beautiful (the reason for all the attention).

  3. Good! Your husband is a MAN'S MAN (no sissy shorts). There aren't many of us left. :)