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Date Answered: 9/30/2012
Why do most women consider denim shorts (or "jorts") on males to be unfashionable? Is this a psychological or neurological phenomenon? Also, are there any known health effects associated with wearing denim shorts?
Dear Fashion Forward:

QB was quite pleased to get your question. Not having legs, QB has never worn a pair of jorts, although QB suspects they may be quite comfortable. To start with, QB thought it might be wise to get some background information on denim in general, so QB turned to the Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. As you may know, Levi Strauss is credited with making denim a widely popular choice for gold miners in the 1850s. It wasnít until around 1900 that denim because associated with the widely known indigo dye we associate with the fabric today. Since then, denim has exploded into the nearly ubiquitous fashion implement we know today.

When it comes to issues of taste and psychology, QBís views tend toward the social constructionist; that is, thereís not necessarily anything inherent about fashion that makes it appealing or unappealing. Rather, itís a set of rules that people have constructed in the commons and choose to live by in a specific time, place, and context. Valerie Steeleís preface to the Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion confirms QBís suspicion: "the study of fashion has been revolutionized, as scholars from other disciplines began exploring the intersections between dress, body, and the cultural construction of identity." Think about Renaissance codpieces and the breeches of the American revolution: you'd have a hard time being taken seriously wearing those today. QB's research in American Menswear from the Civil War to the Twenty-First Century suggests that men's pants in this day and age are considered most fashionable when they show off the desirable qualities of men's legs. Since denim is a clunky, bulky fabric, jorts often have wide cuffs that make men's shins seem skinnier. QB suspects that this may be one reason why denim shorts aren't viewed as attractive.

That isn't to say that jorts couldn't be fashionable. QB turned to EBSCO's Newspaper Source database to find up-to-date fashion information about denim shorts. QB was surprised to find several articles in fashion-forward publications like DNR and Out advertising jorts as trendy wear for the summer set, albeit jorts of the slim-fit and knee-length variety. According to Tony Sanchez of the Fox Racing brand, in the "Short Cuts" article in DNR October 13, 2008, "These are definitely not dad's denim shorts."

As for your question about health, QB could find no adverse effects from wearing denim shorts from a search for "denim" and "health" in EBSCO's Health Source Academic, although QB is not a doctor and you should consult a physician if you have a real health concern. Indeed, since denim is thick and durable, it's widely used as a protective option for clothing. QB did find that there might be adverse effects for the people manufacturing your jorts: denim sandblasting has been shown to cause lung disease in factory workers in Turkey. QB has also heard anecdotal evidence from dubious analyst and therapist Tobias FŁnke that denim cutoffs have proved successful in treating "never nude" syndrome. However, QB finds no record of "never nude" in the DSM-IV, the standard reference for psychological disorders, and suggests this evidence be taken with a grain of salt...

In jort...er, short...there's no real reason for you not to wear your jorts. QB encourages you to develop your own style and make your own fashion choices. However, QB wouldn't be the first to suggest that just because something is socially constructed doesn't mean it isn't real, so if you're particularly desirous of catching a lady's eye in the warmer months, may QB suggest a nice chino short?

Corduroy-ly yours,

Source(s) Used to Answer Question:
Dickson, C. A. (2005). Denim. In Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion (Vol. 1, pp. 359-360). Farmington Hills, MI: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Steele, V. (2005). Preface. In Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion (Vol. 1, pp. xv-xviii). Farmington Hills, MI: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Hill, D. D. (2011). American menswear from the Civil War to the twenty-first century. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press.

Pallay, J. (2008, October 13). Short cuts. DNR (The Daily National Record), 38.41, 30.

Anonymous. (2007, July 30). Key spring '08 trends from Project New York. DNR, 37.31, 17.

Anonymous. (2007, May). The power of the body. Out, 15.11, 64-71.

Ozmen, C. A., Nazaroglu, H., Yildiz, T., Bayrak, A. H., Senturk, S., Ates, G., and Akyildiz, L. (2010). MDCT findings of denim-sandblasting-induced silicosis: A cross-sectional study. Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source (9), 17-24.

Hurwitz, M. (Producer). (2003). Arrested development [Television series]. Beverly Hills: 20th Century Fox
Source Call Number(s): GT 507 .E53 2005 v. 1

GT 605 .H55 2011

DVD PN 1992.77 .A7747843 2004