Off with the shameful shorts


Off with the shameful shorts

Why do quite normal people go mad in summer when it comes to their clothes, asks LIN SAMPSON.


I DON'T know if you’ve noticed, but when a European tourist decides to make for the sun, she rattles about in her closet, eschewing gloriously made Italian linen trousers and stunning couturier pants in sable colours, and finally finds what she is looking for: a badly made pair of shorts in shades of Day-Glo. In the muddy suck of contemporary fashion, this is the summer garment most cherished, particularly by people with bad legs.

It is an ordinary early spring evening outside the local mall. The alky is crouched by the door with his dog on a string, pools of congealed liquid, one shoe, half a bra. The outskirts of most malls look like archaeological middens with crushed beer cans and litter. Cardboard takeaway cups are looped over the iron fencing that decorates this town, although much of it has been removed.

The ingenuity of removal is quite eye-boggling. Whole fences requiring wire cutters, skips and articulated trucks can be removed in the middle of the day. Unfortunately, the fad for wearing gruesome leisure wear is not so easily dealt with. OK, let me confess: my real hatred is for shorts.

The mall is full of tourists with legs that look as if they have sawn-off tops, full of abrasions, bruises and varicose veins. Most of these fish-belly white legs look like gas canisters which might erupt at the slightest pinch, emitting clouds of air and gas, the sort of stuff America used to flatten Vietnam.

The pelmet of the shorts they are wearing lends a heightened reality to an already misinformed body. One is not sure of the purpose of shorts; they catch in the crotch and ride up the body as if it is a personal gym. Is it to try to get sun to the weird things on which people walk? Is it for coolness (surely a skirt would be cooler)? For some it could be an attempt at sexual attraction, or is it just to make people vomit in the street?

Real South African women do not wear shorts. I think they might even be banned by Die Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk. Look, I like big legs. After all, you have to stand on them for years and they might as well be sturdy, but their real advantage is that they can be hidden, something only Islam seems to have cottoned on to.

I grew up in the age of “does she have good legs?" In my family, women were thought of as just another type of horse. Legs were one of the most potent signifiers of class and style. European women haven’t seen their bodies for so long because of the weather that they happily disrobe at the first sign of a bit of beach.

Codgers are the worst, particularly Italian or French. Wrinkled like old fruit, they appear on beaches wearing bikinis that disappear beneath fans of crumbling flesh. I remember once working on a hospital ward and having to apply Epsom salts to a very fat woman to locate her vagina.

Nobody over the age of 10 should even wear a bathing suit. To really understand the English you need to take a trip to some costa or other on easyJet. Men in padded satin bomber jackets in pastel colours, obese women wearing tiny sequinned knickers and revealing bras, shameless.

I had an idea I was on a plane full of ancient strippers and disco dancers with warmed-up blonde hair. Australians also look ludicrous, although because many of them are ex-South Africans they eschew shorts for a plethora of sunscreen accessories, starting with a waxed hat that ties under the chin and is often depicted in cartoons with corks hanging from the brim. I think you can go to prison in Aussie for not wearing sunscreen.

I wonder what the body thinks of leisurewear? Is it not time for it to revolt, send a few messages that will disintegrate these sandblasted columns, maxed out in cellulite. No wonder Britain has banned the word fat, it's just too near the bone. 

Or too far away.

♦ VWB ♦

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