A Short Tale

Cuffs. On pants they seem prissy, self conscious. They remind me of bedroom, dining room, furniture “sets.”  Too planned out, over-worked, “outfitty,” unimaginative.

Is this just a reflection of a personal scar? I wore cuffed pants—plaid no less—on my first day of a new school when I was in seventh grade, in 1974.

It was a careful plan: a maroon knit top, color coordinated with a vertical stripe in my plaid bell-bottoms, all culminating in great big, extra wide, CUFF. I regretted it the minute I arrived at home room. I’m sure I looked perfectly groovy, in a Brady Bunch sort of way, but suddenly my thirteen-year-old self realized groovy doesn’t equal cool. Ragged-bottomed blue jeans ensued for the rest of the year.

Speaking of which, on the subway yesterday I checked out peoples’ bottoms (pants bottoms that is). Very few cuffs. There are a number of reasons for this, but I’m guessing one is because altering clothes is a rarer asset than it was in days of yore, such as 1974. Cuffs are more complicated than just turning up a hem. A tailor can do it but it’s not as simple, or cheap, as just not having cuffs in the first place.

But if I see shorts without cuffs, or at least some deliberate termination, I think the wearer is indifferent, suffering from that same lack of imagination as a pant-wearer WITH cuffs. To me, shorts are the Anti-Pants, and they necessitate a confident ending. Pants typically terminate, tried and true, somewhere below the ankle. Shorts come to an abrupt ending, and benefit from communicating some sort of gracious segue into the knee. Above, below, mid thigh, mid calf: what are you doing there, and why?

This model’s legs are twice as long as mine, but you get the idea...

Is this just an excuse to a buy pair of shorts I’ve sighted and fixated on? They’re from RoganNYC, a shop right around the corner from me, on the Bowery. I keep stopping in and ogling them. Yesterday I tried them on, and they were surprisingly flattering—I was sure the stripes would make me look like I’d eaten one too many donuts for breakfast, but no, I looked about the girth to which I aspire, shall we say. Then again, maybe they have one of those magic dressing-room mirrors, which make you look slim and chic, though you may be flabby and bedraggled in real life. And Rogan’s got nice dressing rooms: soft leather floors! I suppose it’s further evidence that they care about the details, which is why I like their simple shorts in the first place. They look good, the fabric is substantial and soft, the price is fair, and I hesitate only because they’re a little short for me. We ladies who were thirteen in 1974 may not want to show off our upper thighs like we did back in the day. Still, I really like the CUFF on these things! Without them, they’d be boxer shorts, but with them, they look designed to suggest leisurely activity, as in Supermom meets “ladies who lunch”—a good fast walk to pick up the kids from school (no wheels in Manhattan); then a pit stop at a proper people-watching outdoor café for a great big midday lemonade…

Of course this doesn’t answer the age old question: what about skorts?