But Mescal is not patient zero. Funnily enough, sports shorts and their sexualization came long before Irish Hollywood wunderkinds. Since Victorian times, the legs have been a turn-on for legions of people, who, according to shag-positive website Kinkly, are collectively referred to as “crurophiles.” And in a 2008 study by researchers at the University of Wroclaw, respondents were more likely to admire not just long legs, but healthy legs. You could make another hypothesis, then: more muscle, more heat.

Which explains why the world is into added thigh. But it doesn’t explain why said thighs have stripped off in recent years. Back in 2021, The Guardian’s Sam Wolfson riffed on a very viral picture of Milo Ventimiglia in fuck-all-inseams, writing how “an exposed thigh projects the qualities of a soft lad. They are sporty, useful, athletic, deeply revealing, lightly erogenous, ultimately unthreatening.” It’s fair to say that short shorts thrive on the legs of a Hollywood guy that smiles a lot and holds the door open. It’s a specific sort of sexy. We cannot be so sure that short shorts would work on the hyper-sexual, whose carnal tales are part of the brand. Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye only wants you when it’s half past five. Until then, his legs remain largely out of view. Chris Evans is the pinnacle of superhero hot, with curated muscles and biceps that could kill, and he almost exclusively goes for frat bro boardies (which point to a whole other sort of hotness entirely, but that’s for another day).

Just recently, my GQ colleague Eileen Cartter wrote how Chris Pine is “contributing to the mounting evidence for a Short Shorts Revival, for which the likes of Paul Mescal, Donald Glover, and Jeremy Allen White have already laid the groundwork.” But instead of going full PE teacher, Pine went madcap: they were corduroy, tight, workwear on 2C-P. Short shorts, then, can be kind or chaotic—but never overtly or intentionally sexy.

Or maybe it’s more that the criteria for “sexy” is changing. The world was once consumed with a sort of grot glam: Pete Davidson was routinely titled as “the scumbro king.” And even earlier than that, indie sleaze, with its willowy limbs and sallow skin, was desirable for an entire generation of millennials. No longer. The fixation with the nice guy has seen everyone pick up boy-next-door pursuits, like cold water swimming, and lifting an ungodly amount of tin. Personal trainer Oliver Black has noticed a change in priorities. “I’ve seen an uptick in clients seeking to enhance their leg muscles,” he says. “I think that in an era where health and wellness are increasingly valued, people are recognizing the holistic benefits of a well-rounded physique. Leg muscles are a key part of that appeal.” And the best way to show off this rebrand? Short shorts.

Fashion is very good at supply and demand. As the appetite rumbles on, brands have delivered in full at various price points across the menswear spectrum. “Outside of the sports brands that do short shorts, like District Vision, Satisfy and Lululemon, designers like Bode, Rick Owens, Dries Van Noten and The Row are still offering some great options,” says Davis Morris, buying manager at luxury retailer Mr Porter. “Fear of God has a slightly wider fit, and they’re really flattering on the leg.” Prada’s spring 2022 collection saw a slew of lean but athletic guys in bucket hats and short shorts.

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