Short Words From Mr Ford

I was happy to bear witness to a miracle recently:

An entire weekend of 20º+ sunshine.

In London.

In April.

Though the evenings were reassuringly chilly, the sunshine hours were bizarrely beautiful – cloudless and very, very warm. Having recently unpacked my spring/summer wardrobe, I decided to mark this doubtlessly transitory moment of delight by striding out gleefully in a pair of tailored shorts.

Unfortunately, I got the distinct impression that the majority of the populace either cared a lot less for my pins than I do, or that they were a lot more in-tune with the fashion press than I had imagined, for it was not two weeks before that a certain Tom Ford had ordered the male population of the world to confine the wearing of shorts, irrespective of smartness, to the beach or the tennis court.


The full quote is a little more prescriptive, dictating that it is the metropolitan environment in which shorts must never be worn;

“A man should never wear shorts in the city. Flip-flops and shorts in the city are never appropriate. Shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach.”

How this logic applies to ‘cities with beaches’ such as Los Angeles or Rio de Janeiro I do not know, but I do think Mr Ford is correct about flip flops; there is something rather appallingly Dickensian about a pair of blackened feet in a pair of blackened flip-flops. It’s bizarre that metrosexual men should go to the lengths of donning clean clothes, wearing deodorant, trimming eyebrows and moisturising faces only to wander around the dirty piss-stained streets, filthifying their soles in a manky pair of jandles.

However, I don’t think Mr Ford’s assertion about shorts is right. It depends on the shorts, it depends on the legs and it depends on how they are worn. A pair of tailored shorts on a good-looking Spanish model who wears them with a tailored shirt, bow tie and sockless loafers would surely be something to excite, rather than disgust, Mr Ford himself.

The most amusing commentary on his words belonged to the readership of the Mail Online. One reader wittily pointed out that his legs were no less attractive than Mr Ford’s hairy chest, which is frequently exposed, and that in order to avoid hypocrisy he should button-up accordingly. An ill-informed commentator applauded Mr Ford for his comments and was ‘sure Mr Ford’s wife is happy he maintains his dignity.’

Another misguided soul, the most long-winded of all, asserted that it must be Ford’s own lack of confidence affecting his ability to trot along the street in a pair of shorts; the probable truth is not that the short-wearing of Ford and his own circle had driven him to revulsion but that of the teeming non-photogenic pig-white masses.

There is an argument that shorts, because they expose an unnecessary amount of skin, are inelegant in the city; after all, the city is a place of offices, sleek cocktail lounges, smart restaurants, theatres and draconian department store security. However, it is a little selfish for a man of Mr Ford’s position to suggest that the working population, which he has an apparent respect for (‘A gentleman today has to work. People who do not work are so boring and are usually bored…’), cannot make the most of a few days of sunshine, and feel the all-too-absent sun on their legs in a pair of smart linen shorts.


  1. Ian from Downunder said:

    Greetings from Melbourne,
    I agree with the person (can’t recall his name) who opined that no man, regardless of how athletic he appears, looks good in shorts. He also stated that no true Frenchman ever wears shorts as they are an inelegant item of clothing. Perhaps the comment comes from a bygone era but I agree with the general principle.
    PS – Love your articles. Keep up the great work.

    April 13, 2011
  2. deanb said:

    Totally agree with Mr. Ford and Ian who commented, shorts are inelegant in the city. Key here is, what would a true Frenchman do? I think we all know the answer. Men, however handsome and well proportioned sacrifice too much of their dignity when walking around a city in shorts. Either they look like slobs like most American men do or just too precious when when they’ve donned their tailored linen shorts and the “look” that it seems to spawn.

    April 13, 2011
  3. Harry said:

    Before I comment, I must put on record that on the hot London Sunday in question, I wore shorts and a short-sleeved shirt for a friend’s barbecue. Having said that, I find statements that start “No man should…” or “You should never..” slightly unhelpful when it comes to practical styling advice. (Rules are for people whose spirit is not free). So I agree with Winston, and shorts have their place in the city (possibly even in the City) but a bit of discernment is required. I am not too fond of the shorts-with-a-jacket look (reminds me of Hugo Boss ads from the 80s) but for some dress-down-Fridays in August, a collared shirted (think rolled-up French cuffs) and the linen or cotton tailored shorts in a dark colour can work perfectly smartly – esp. if the jandles are in the shower locker room, and maybe instead the deck shoes or espadrilles get an outing. For a weekend day out in the city, e.g. for a stroll in the park, the Polo shirt can be combined with short leg wear, and even sandals work in that context.

    April 14, 2011
  4. Lark said:

    If the climate requires shorts, then shorts are appropriate – I’d rather see someone in Singapore or the appalling heat of the American midwest wearing tailored shorts and a button-down than sweltering and wrinkly in heavier clothes. And I’d much rather see someone–even a pallid someone with imperfect legs–walking about outside, taking part in the life of the city and maintaining his health while wearing shorts than spending the summer driving between air-conditioned venues so that he can wear heavier clothes. Assuming that the shorts aren’t godawful multipocketed things worn with a baggy t-shirt, anyway.

    I don’t really care for this shaming business, either. What are we coming to if our sensibilities are too delicate to tolerate the exposure of perfectly innocuous, average calves? It’s hardly as though anyone is proposing to parade about in a speedo.

    April 14, 2011
  5. Barima said:

    I was recently asked what I thought of Ford’s comment; my response was that it seems his lechery knows some bounds

    As it is, his advice is well meaning, but not wholly practical for the reasons outlined by W and by some others here. Besides, elegant shorts, though sometimes tricky to find, are not really unheard of


    April 14, 2011
  6. Ben said:

    One of the goals of dressing well is to flatter the individual’s body, is it not? Shorts will only accomplish this for the young and athletic, and even then only for a subset of those. I have yet to see a person over thirty who could wear shorts and simultaneously appear to be dressed well. They should be reserved for the height of summer, or for when one is within sight of water.

    Shorts and a blazer is an absurd, preppy clown suit. The only people who approve of such a look are other people who would wear shorts and a blazer. It’s a vicious cycle.

    April 14, 2011
  7. Eli said:

    I’m just getting used to the concept of going sockless with a little ankle showing, but I agree with Mr. Ford…shorts AND sockless loafers and particularly flip flops just rub me. I can see dress sandals with closed toes as a more sophisticated look.

    April 16, 2011
  8. Jim said:

    People are missing the big picture. If it is so hot that you cannot wear linen trousers outside without sweating uncomfortably — it is simply too hot to be outside at all.
    We have gone heat and sun crazy. Warmth and sun are good in moderate doses but not to excess. If it’s that hot then stay inside.
    Shorts are just plain ugly — always. Tom Ford is spot on.

    April 16, 2011
  9. ciara said:

    I agree with everything Mr. Ford said except for the shorts. I feel that if they are tailored, and more elegant than the oversized abercrombie cargo shorts that you see many wearing, then shorts can be appropriate depending on the situation. going to the grocery store? appropriate. going to an upscale restaurant? not appropriate. it’s simple logic.

    April 20, 2011
  10. Keith said:

    Amen. All the rules laid down by the (sometimes) self-proclaimed arbiters of style are so silly. Style is a self expression and when expressed honestly, most anything can be pulled off. The gentleman (in the above photo) in shorts and jacket looks great, although he could lose the phone. I love seeing all the “street” images on style blogs where people break the so called rules. Shorts in the city – love it.

    May 1, 2011

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