Driving around London in a heatwave has never been the most aesthetically pleasing of experiences. Say what you will about the perpetually tanned southern Europeans but, for the most part, they can show us Brits a thing or two about how to dress in the sunshine.
This, they do primarily by refusing, until August, to stoop to anything so low as taking their clothes off and even then such ill-mannered behaviour is best left to the beach. Not so Londoners who resort to out of condition, barely-there clothing the minute that little patch of blue we call the sky shows its face.
Of course, the vest has a lot to answer for. Stating the obvious: it suits only the finest and most well-honed of physiques. Leaving body fascism aside, however, the prime offender in this instance – and one that dwarves everything from dirty toenails in sandals to discoloured bra straps and a slip dress – is shorts.
This summer at least the entire male population of the British capital appears wedded to the sporting of three-quarter length shorts, in particular the denim variety which – pay attention now please – should not be worn by anyone over the age of 10. Ever. Shorts are shorts. Trousers are trousers. And this type of heinous and non-committal hybrid is best left to Bart Simpson.
As far as women are concerned, combat shorts the colour of sludge worn with short socks and trainers appear to be similarly ubiquitous. Speaking as a member of the fairer sex who is as predisposed to clothing borrowed from a masculine wardrobe as anyone might be, this still looks as frumpy and lacking in style as a sack – and not a Balenciaga sack, obviously.
On the catwalks, shorts are, in fact, high on the agenda – and the thigh for that matter. But not shorts like these. Instead, and with brilliant perversity they have been dressed up to the point where at least one industry website now describes them in terms of cocktail-wear. At Chloe shorts are high-waisted, come in jewel colours and in fabrics no more readily associated with dressed down Friday than silk, satin and leather. Dolce & Gabbana’s shorts are inspired by traditional men’s silk pyjamas, cropped to levels that might not unreasonably be described as challenging decency and sexy as hell. Louis Vuitton and Vivienne Westwood, meanwhile, have taken the basic silhouette of men’s boxers and cut them in materials that are as chintzy as they are luxe.
There is then a whole new world opening up for the female short wearer leaving little room for basics or any such slovenly behaviour. Any men out there, meanwhile, would do well to leave all trouser-shapes that aren’t full length to their holidays, please. Life isn’t always fair, after all.