One sometimes gets the impression that three-fourths of all adult Catholics in America show up at Mass during the summer months dressed in bottom-baring shorts and frivolous flip-flops. Perhaps that is true in some places. It isn't true here where I live, though, and considering how hot it gets here...but then again, maybe that's just it: maybe people in northern climates don't own suitable summer-weight dress clothes to wear to their non-air-conditioned churches during the two weeks of the year when the temperature hovers dangerously near ninety, and thus the shorts appear. It's possible.
What is definitely true is that shorts are now considered acceptable attire for many places and occasions where formerly they were not; or, to put it more accurately, the entire country has become so casual about dress that one is likely to see shorts in places and occasions where they are actually not appropriate, but no one really seems to care. The only standard of dress today seems to be that there are no standards.
No universal ones, that is.
I have my own set of standards about the wearing of shorts. Just for fun, and because it's that sort of day, I'm going to list them. These are my rules. They may be yours; they may not. But here they are:
1. Shorts are to be worn only as follows:
- At the beach, pool, or other aquatic venue;
- For the participation in or observance of outdoor sports activities or indoor or outdoor exercise;
- To a backyard barbecue where it is clear that the hosts intend the event to be ultra-casual;
- For hiking, camping, and similar outdoors activities;
- Around one's own home, including in one's own yard or garden particularly when gardening in summer heat;
- As part of a uniform such as that of a mail carrier or bicycle police officer, when circumstances and employment conditions demand it.
3. For those women who wear shorts, it should be noted that shorts do not especially flatter the following figures:
- petite women (because shorts act like a visual karate-chop instead of helping to create the long, smooth line petites try to create to add the illusion of height);
- very tall women (unless the shorts are extremely long; otherwise, tall women will tend to look rather like beanpoles from the sheer expanse of leg showing);
- plump women (because there is not a bit of fat or cellulite that will not be enhanced by rather than hidden by most shorts on the market);
- extremely thin women (because they will look like adolescent boys)
4. Every now and then, fashion companies will try to sell so-called "city shorts," designed to be worn to the office and accompanied, frequently, by a matching jacket, heels, and stockings. I myself fell prey to this fashion trend in the early 1990s. It was as silly then as it is now. The worst part is that no sooner have you convinced yourself that it really is possible to wear "dressy shorts," the trend evaporates, and you're stuck with dated clothing that no woman in her right mind would wear to the office or anywhere else nice, for that matter. (The last time this trend really rose up was around 2005 or 2006; it had peaked by about 2007, and though designers always threaten to return it there hasn't been a lot of interest lately. Maybe when the job market is shaky and lots of people are out of work, showing up for work in shorts just doesn't seem like the greatest idea.)
EDITED: 5. No invisible shorts. Thanks to Larry D for suggesting it when Freddy noticed that my numbers got out of whack (which happened because I was moving some of these points around and got sidetracked). :)
6. Despite the efforts of designers in number 4, shorts remain, for adults, ultra-casual wear. They aren't suitable for sit-down restaurants, for business offices unless they are part of the "uniform," or for Sunday Mass. If you are an adult and you are wearing shorts of a decent length inside a church building outside of Mass because you are cleaning or decorating or helping with a food-pantry located in the parish hall or some such thing, or if you stop in for Saturday confession on your way to a picnic, you're probably okay. If you show up for Sunday Mass in shorts I will assume you have no better clothing available and will pray that the exigencies of your situation improve dramatically in the near future.
7. Children under seven or so are not bound by these rules. While I think teens who show up for Mass in shorts look extremely silly and out-of-place, I know that teens delight in looking silly and out-of-place, and will probably deeply regret such things when they are adults.
8. Men over the age of 65 or so will sometimes signal their absolute surrender in terms of things like fashion or good taste by wearing knee-length shorts with mid-calf or knee socks and sandals out in public. They will compound these errors by pairing a dress shirt or collared polo shirt with the shorts regardless of how casual the shorts are; the shirt will bulge out at the waist, because they will still be shopping for their shorts or pants based on the waist size they had ten years ago. Respect for our elders (and we must, in charity, assume that any man who dresses like that is at least 65 years old) decrees that they should be humored and their fashion faux pas ignored by everyone--except for their wives, who may continue to nag them not to appear in public like that.
Some of you may agree with these rules; some will agree with some and violently disagree with others; and some will disagree with all of them. Which is why blogs have comment boxes. :)