Dad’s duds: Let’s talk about cargo shorts

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 3-year-old daughter Viva who doesn’t think non-combatants need trousers intended for combat situations.

Labor Day weekend brought with it the typical pool closings, back-to-school conversations and the annual temperature spike that makes one wonder why the pools are closing and everyone is headed back to school. It also meant one last big weekend to wear shorts. The question is, what shorts did you wear?

If it were, say, 15 years ago, when Britney Spears still wore snakes around her neck and you didn’t have to take your shoes off at the airport, the answer was almost assuredly “cargo shorts;” the long, boxy shorts based on British military pants of the 1930’s and brought to this country by Old Navy in their continuing quest to make us all look like blobs. Cargo shorts were the great equalizer – they fit (or rather, deliberately didn’t fit) all shapes and weights, they made everyone, regardless of age, look like an 8-year-old boy and they had more pouches than a Rob Liefeld comic book character. Cargo shorts made men very happy because they appealed to our overriding personality traits and priorities: practicality and slovenliness.

Nowadays, we’re showing off our form. It is important that all clothing fit like Saran wrap or like you were thrown into the dryer with your clothes on. Skinny this, athletic that, city the other thing. Sixties suits, short pants, narrow ties. We used to dress like little boys, now we dress in little boys sizes. Nowadays your shorts should be short, tight and if they have pockets, they shouldn’t hold anything. (If you manage to slide a credit card into your pocket, the numbers should be clearly visible as they press against the fabric.)

Full disclosure, I still have a couple of pairs of cargo shorts not yet relegated to the old clothes/fat clothes/clothes-to-donate bins. I try not to wear them in public, but sometimes I think the occasion calls for them (e.g., times when a full range of motion is needed.).

This weekend I took Viva to the park, and knew I would have to climb, slide, chase like a monster and play the “push the kids on the swings and pretend to get kicked over and fall on the ground and do a backwards somersault” game that kids love and dads dread. There’s no way my slim shorts would survive the swing/kicking dad game.

At the park, I stood with two of my other dad friends, let’s call them Isaiah and Larry (because that is their names), and all of us were wearing cargo shorts. The conversation went something like this:

“We’re really rocking the dad uniform today.”

“My wife told me she doesn’t want me to wear cargo shorts anymore.”

“I like wearing cargo shorts.”

“They’re comfortable. And I have cargo. Bottles.”

“Snacks.”

“Sunglasses.”

“Little Ponies.”

“Look, almost every dad here has them on.”

“That’s probably a sign we shouldn’t be wearing them.”

“That guy over there isn’t wearing them.”

“I hate that guy.”

If this were a park in, say, Park Slope Brooklyn, I’d be willing to bet there’d be few to no cargo shorts present. But this is Chicago, where a wooden barrel with suspenders on the top would be more form fitting and fashion forward than most of what we wear.

Let’s examine the arguments for and against cargo shorts:

AGAINST: Fashion moved on a long time ago. Cargo shorts had their moment in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Unless you are Rob Lowe, John Stamos or Tom Cruise’s faces, nothing goes twenty years without changing. Move on.

PRO: Fashion? I’m a dad. Fashion is a con by retailers who need to sell more clothing, perpetuated by the insecure. I’m won’t be a victim.

AGAINST: They are cut horribly. You look like a child. A short, wide, shapeless, child. Your pockets are wrinkled, and your hem going lower than your knees makes you look like the surfing bear in the Showbiz pizza band.

PRO: Skinny shorts are cut horribly. They pull and bunch and wrinkle (see photo). They mean constant “adjustment.” They fight with my gut and love handles. I AM short, wide and shapeless. I am cargo shorts.

AGAINST: What do you need all those idiotic pouches for? Are you a fisherman? Are you a photographer? Are you Deadpool?

PRO: Where am I supposed to carry things? A man-purse? I don’t need a messenger bag, I’m not a messenger. I don’t need a backpack, I’m not backpacking. I’m a dad. Small things are constantly handed to me: sippy cups, half-eaten bags of Gummies, parking tickets outside swimming class, dead cicadas, bleeding chunks of my dignity. Life is chaos. I need contingency.

AGAINST: They go past your knees but not to your ankles, which means they only show, and cool, about six inches of calf. It’s like your cargo pants just … stopped.

PRO: No one needs to see my legs. I’ve skipped leg day at the gym for the past, oh, 40 years. I’m pale. My leg hair is awkward. And slim cut shorts look like your pants just … stopped.

So, what is the answer? (“Don’t wear shorts” is a pretty good answer, but it gets awfully hot.) Do dads get with the times and dress like a person anyone would want to look at? Or do we stand our ground against the manipulations of Big Fashion and dress for our situation in terrain, in baggy shorts, gym shoes and Radiohead t-shirts. And how do we even have time to worry about what we’re wearing when our hair is falling out, our kid is standing on the dining room table and there are so many new Star Wars toys to buy?

Perhaps some questions will never be answered.

Let us know if YOU are pro- or anti-cargo shorts in the comments section, on Facebook or via the contact info below!

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