My eldest daughter once described my wardrobe as being composed of “earth tones” and my sartorial splendor being that of an “aging preppy.”
Over the years, my attire has evolved to the point that comfort wins out over couture. So it follows that in winter, in addition to the de rigueur khaki slacks or loose-fitting jeans, I favor sweaters that hide (or at least disguise) the paunch that no number of sit-ups can erase (so I have quit trying). Summer brings colorful tropical shirts that accomplish the same cover-up, and shorts.
I don’t know when it happened, but some trendsetter some years back sold a gullible public on the idea that shorts did not have to be short.
At least on men.
Women, bless their independent hearts and lovely legs, continued to keep their shorts well above the knee, but men, out of some misplaced sense of fashion, let the hem of their garments drop lower and lower until what they passed off as shorts were in reality something akin to culottes, or what we used to call “pedal pushers” or “clam diggers.” Knees and thighs disappeared beneath the fabric.
I hated them.
Not so much because they covered legs that were becoming less attractive as the years passed, but because they did not pass the comfort test that I had applied to other fashion decisions. They were pants. I wanted shorts.
So, as summer approached, I would high-ho down to the local cheap clothing store, purchase a few pair of what they were passing off as shorts (khaki with elastic waist), and bring them home for my lovely and talented wife to cut off to the length I desired.
Although I occasionally felt stares of reproach from the haute-couture set when I ventured into the places they roamed, the people with whom I associated accepted deviation from the norm as yet another of the eccentricities I seemed to reveal on a regular basis.
Then it happened.
Last summer, my son, the scion of the family, appeared in shorts cut well above the knee.
It seems that at the great SEC school he attends, young men of fashion (of which he be one) were rejecting the longer shorts as a style out of style.
Over the summer, my boy took a good-natured ribbing from the long-shorts guys at the bike shop where he worked, but he held his ground, fashion-wise.
Then, as summer began to fade, there came confirmation of his fashion intransigence — “Chubbies,” shorts that are actually short.
I cannot say with any certainty just when I became aware of “Chubbies,” but when I did, I also realized that, to me at least, “Chubbies” will be a product that business professors will use in their courses for years to come.
“Chubbies” is a bit of marketing genius.
First, the name — like “Smuckers,” what they are selling has to be good.
Then there is the customer — young men in their late teens and early 20s who like to conform by not conforming and who have decent legs to show off.
Then the motto/slogan — “Sky’s Out, Thighs Out.”
Then the pitch.
Declaring “Chubbies” to be “the most radical shorts known to mankind,” the company celebrates the joy of being young and fit (size 36 is as big as they go), colorful (bright hues, some never found in nature), patriotic (“damn right they are manufactured in the good ol’ US of A), and socially active (as in “frat culture”).
Order online (the modern way to shop) and when the package is delivered, the purchaser finds with the product a card announcing “THE WEEKEND HAS ARRIVED,” followed by a list advising how to break your “Chubbies” in:
“Pour a beer in celebration” — see “frat culture” above.
“Perform 10-20 power-lunge squats to get them thighs ablazin’” — not written by an English major but …
“Take a stroll around the block … high step when you encounter a group of women” — ah, youthful ambition.
“Get the digits of four of the 15 women who have spontaneously started following behind you” — Only four? Youthful optimism tempered with restraint.
“Head home for 10-20 more power-lunge squats” — what the following women do is left to the imagination.
“Boom. You are ready to rock.”
Now, I know what you are thinking. How can a company survive selling a single product and a seasonal one at that?
Well, “Chubbies” has the answer.
Shortly after the election, “Chubbies” purchasers received an e-mail message — you ordered online, remember, so they have your address. It contained a letter from the “Chubster Nation” to President Barack Obama asking him to step up and do what needs to be done so Chubbies can be worn year round — “abolish winter.”
Now on to the “fiscal cliff.”
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and an editorial writer and columnist for The Star. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.