When grown men wear shorts suits, we like to bug out.
So when LeBron James sashayed into the Oracle Arena on Thursday night in a fitted gray blazer complete with white pocket square, crisp white shirt, skinny gray tie, and — oh, my fashion goodness — a pair of sleek, just-over-the-knee gray shorts paired with matching tall socks and pointy black tie-ups, the non-fashion-forward world did exactly what I expected it would do: Y’all completely bugged out.
The suit was designed by Allentown-bred clothier Thom Browne, who has made quite the pretty penny in recent years redefining the classic menswear look with his signature shrunken suit. During this playoff season, Browne has been the exclusive designer for the Cleveland Cavaliers. On Thursday night, all the Cavs arrived at the game in fashion unison, wearing the same exact suit with variations on the pants lengths. Most of the players went with safer, ankle-baring britches. Though James wasn’t the only player to opt for shorts — point guard Jordan Clarkson went that route, too — King James drew the most attention.
Twitter users were quick and fierce with their pointed jabs. James’ natty look reminded some of AC/DC guitarist Angus Young. Others compared his look to that of 4-year-old Prince George. Not only did you call James a little boy — something I’d caution against calling a grown black man — you questioned his manhood.
Here is where many armchair fashionistas proved how little they know about fashion history.
Let me school you:
For centuries, the world’s most important men wore short pants or breeches in their everyday and formal wear, said Clare Sauro, director of the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection at Drexel University. It wasn’t until the 19th century and the acceptance of trousers that men’s legs were routinely covered.
Fast-forward to World War I, when Nathanial Coxon, a native Bermudan and owner of a tea shop, found his employees, who wore a traditional English navy blazer and khaki pants as their uniform, were just too hot. Instead of buying new outfits, Coxon shortened their trousers to above the knee, creating the first pair of Bermuda shorts.
It didn’t take long for the Britain’s Rear Adm. Mason Berridge to take note and order similar shorts for his men, who also complained about wearing long pants in Caribbean heat. The men wore the shorts with khakis, and they eventually became popular in England as gentlemen paired them with blazers for everything from sporting events to afternoon tea. Eventually, the Bermuda shorts/blazer look became a part of prep school uniforms (hence Young’s attire) and in 1930, the Argentinean soccer team wore short suits at the World Cup final.
“People say that it was very young,” Sauro said. “But it was a really masculine British look.”
In recent years, designers like Ermenegildo Zegna and Raf Simons, along with Browne, have been challenging classic menswear looks by shrinking silhouettes, shortening pants lengths, and, yes, sending shorts down the runway. In 2014 Pharell wore a Lanvin tux to the Oscars and the fashion finger-waggers went at it. And every time Dwyane Wade wears a shorts suit, everybody has something to say.
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The question now is, with summer looming, will James set off a fashion trend? To my dismay — I actually kind of liked his look — probably not. Although Good Day Philadelphia anchor Fox 29’s Mike Jerrick looks pretty good suited up his shorts.
“When you’re the best player in the league, you can wear what you want, even if its a shorts suit,” said Sabir Peele, owner of the Center City fashion and lifestyle marketing company MensStylePro. “But be sure,” Peele cautioned.”You’re still going to get clowned by the everyday dude and praised by the fashionistas.”