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“Much like JFK Jr. when he was younger, there was an effortlessness in his wardrobe,” says Anderson about Josh O’Connor’s character.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

In a wardrobe fitting for the scene, Anderson pulled out a pair of purple-ish nylon shorts. “They’re not so short that it’s insane. But they are short shorts,” O’Connor said. “And I remember looking at Jonathan and being like, Really? I don’t know. I’m not sure about this.” It sounds like a small thing, but the shorts are a critical element at a juncture in the film where Guadagnino needs to establish Patrick’s illicit magnetism. He could be wearing just about anything in that scene, and Anderson designed an outfit that flashes the character’s natural athleticism and, based on the volume of horny tweets about the shorts, his even more natural sex appeal.

Anderson convinced O’Connor to wear them. “This is the amazing thing about Jonathan,” O’Connor told me. “I remember him being like, Patrick is all about sex. He’s all about being sexual and trying to entice people. And so he would just put these on. He’d actively seek out shorts like this. And ultimately that was a garment that I thought was so perfect. The fact that Jonathan thought it through in that way was very interesting.”

There’s a model for Patrick in JFK Jr., a figure who made every windbreaker and NYAC sweat-short look like an heirloom, whose All-American jock style inspires to this day a strange combination of lust and emulation. In an email, Anderson explained further: “Patrick as a character was born into a very wealthy family, so my take was to highlight a sense of nonchalance towards his appearance. Much like JFK Jr. when he was younger, there was an effortlessness in his wardrobe,” the designer said.

By now you’ve probably heard about the very-Andersonian Easter egg in Challengers. The gray “I TOLD YA” gym tee that Patrick steals back from Tashi is a recreation of a tee that JFK Jr. wore in the ’80s. Though the slogan is left unacknowledged in the film, it serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that Patrick might be down, but never out. And like the tiny, leather-banded gold watch strapped to his wrist as the film bounces between decades, the tee is broken in by time. These tiny details elevate Patrick’s slovenly sportswear, and further emphasize his powers of seduction, according to Anderson. “Despite Patrick’s [low] status in the tennis world, you’ll see incredible aged and timeless pieces within his wardrobe which enhance the sex appeal and the attraction of his character,” Anderson said.

Barring a surprise reissue by Nike, right now only Anderson knows where to get the shorts. “What hurts the most,” rued someone on X, “is that challengers was shot so long ago that the plaid Nike shorts Patrick wore are wiped from human civilization.” There are, however, a couple sizes of Patrick’s Mizuno trainers floating around in the e-commerce ether. But if you really want to emulate O’Connor’s sweaty Challengers sleaze, Anderson has you covered. On Thursday, Loewe released a luxe version of the “I TOLD YA” tee.

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