Leading article: Short story

It wasn't that long ago that being seen in a pair of shorts was the kiss of fashion death - fine for pre-pubertal boys, perhaps, but only admissible on a grown-up male when worn on the tennis court or the beach.

Oh, the unpredictable vagaries of fashion. Who could have guessed back then that today it would be virtually the opposite. Everyone from Barack Obama and David Cameron downwards wants to be seen in their new shorts these days, and the trend is catching on. Several British chains report that sales have doubled this spring compared to the same period last year, and not only as a result of a burst of warm weather.

Some established fashion gurus are dismayed. When the designer, Tom Ford, recently penned five key points for a gentleman, he listed not wearing shorts, except for purely sporting purposes, as one of them. But his seems to be a lone, Canute-like, voice. The real question is how acceptable baring one's legs will become. It's still not done, in this country, to wear shorts to most offices, smart hotels, diplomatic receptions, or funerals. For now, public exposure of the male leg remains a taboo in some situations, though perhaps not for much longer. Unless, of course, the pendulum swings right back the other way. The vogue for shorts may be short-lived.