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Will Men’s Thigh-High Shorts and ‘Ugly’ Sandals Go On Full Display This Summer?

Prada made waves both virtual and real on Sunday when it presented its spring ’22 men’s collection on a runway corridor that led directly out to a beach.

But its biggest buzz came from the shorts. One after the next, models walked the runway wearing pairs of short shorts that would make even the most adventurous fashion enthusiast blush. From printed styles, rolled up on the thigh, to briefs that resembled hot-pants-meets-scant-swimwear, it was a key part of the aesthetic that co-creative directors Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons put together for summer ’22, paired with other beach essentials such as bucket hats, sunglasses and a few square-toed ugly sandals thrown in (though the designers seemed to also feel strongly about black socks and black leather boots as a sand-and-sun look).

While Prada’s short shorts shocked, they were not a total surprise — and the brand is not the only one showing them. Over the past few years, men’s hemlines have been climbing. The change happened first in swimwear, where the ubiquitously long board shorts of the aughts gave an inch here and there until they crested the knee. Now for spring ’22, Prada joined Fendi, MSGM at Milan Men’s Fashion Week for a truly skin-baring season.

As it turns out, the trend is already up for discussion this summer. Sweatpants no doubt dominated most of fashion over the past year. But as vaccinations rolled out this spring in the U.S. and talk of a celebratory summer began to emerge, the men’s short trend also came back into view, thighs and all. Some even joked of a “thigh-guy summer,” the the short-short being the menswear equivalent of this year’s “revenge fashion” movement in which fashion- and fun-starved citizens don their most outrageous, most statement-making looks to make up for lost time.

Others pointed to the adjacent thirst trap of the short-short, and an incident with actor Milo Ventimiglia, whose rolled-up sport shorts caused some to clutch their proverbial pearls on social media. In April, the “This Is Us” star was spotted at a gas station, refueling and letting his thighs air out after a workout session.

“I swear to God this is just a guy leaving the gym,” Ventimiglia said in an appearance on “The Talk” in May. “I wasn’t even thinking about it. The shorts are normal length, but when I work out, I kind of fold them up just so I can work a little harder.” The actor also posted a pair of his shorts on Instagram, with the caption, “Ride em high kids.”

Ventimiglia’s shorts-gate also reflects the changes in how the male body is viewed today. As fashion ventures into more gender-neutral territory, it’s inevitable that the skin that was once mostly bared by women can also now be more prominently on view with men (and with non-gender-confirming individuals for that matter). The shift turns the feminist theory of the “male gaze” around, offering the a look to anyone who wants to see or be seen, regardless of sex or gender.

But as with any trend hot off the runway, the short-shorts look comes with that perennial fashion question:  Will anyone actually wear this in real life? Will the average man be willing to bare more skin in the name of post-pandemic revenge fashion? 

This summer, we’ll just have to take a look and see.

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