The eagle-eyed style-spotters at the Wall Street Journal have done young people a solid by identifying “summer’s hottest teen fashion trend” in a Wednesday afternoon post. That trend, according to this dispatch from the cutting edge of fashion-industry gossip, is short shorts.
If your definition of trend is “item that has been around since legs immemorial,” then yes, short shorts are a trend. This kind of evergreen piece would be as believable with a publish date in 1997 as in 2017.
But still, as reliable as the Band-Aids that find their way into every public pool, every summer brings with it a new crop of parents worrying about teens exposing too much leg skin while they put Burt’s Bees on their eyelids and chug hand sanitizer. This year, the Journal claims, dads are telling their daughters to wear more clothes; moms are “plunging into back-of-store racks” for more covered-up cuts; and parents of all genders are sending stern-worded letters to stores that don’t stock capri pants. It’s worse than ever out there—for parents, for shorts, for modesty itself.
So, what are we talking here? Thongs, bootpants, assless chaps? No, just shorts, but ones with inseams a quarter-inch shorter than usual. Those inseams measure 2.25 inches long, where stores with “more modest styles,” according to the Journal, offer shorts with 2.5- to 3-inch inseams, though those are still considered “short-shorts.” Imagine what inappropriate fantasies that extra quarter to three-quarters of an inch of skin could inspire.
Scandalized parents will be relieved to know that teen shorts have been short for decades, while teen sex rates dropped, then leveled off over the past 10-or-so years. Check out these 3-inch inseam Delia’s shorts from 1996, or these 1990s Tommy Hilfiger juniors shorts with a 2-inch inseam. The teens who wore those shorts are probably running your favorite companies and maybe even writing your favorite Slate articles these days, parents. All that extra skin exposure and resulting vitamin D absorption did wonders for our brain development.