Chris van Schaick: My legs are one of my best features

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What a gentleman wears below the belt in summer is causing great arguments in the van Schaick household

“That,” announced Mrs. v.S. emphatically, “is a stylistic disaster.” We were on the forecourt of Meringtons, our local garage and convenience store. She’d just seen a man go inside the shop wearing mustard coloured shorts.

It was a few weeks ago and yet I realised, even then, that with a Hampshire high summer just around the corner, the first shots had been fired in an annual conflict that sunders man and woman round here – The Shorts Wars.

During more than 20 summers in the Meon Valley, I have yet to meet a woman who approves of her husband’s choice of shorts. In fact, some of the sisters hereabouts can get quite vitriolic in their condemnation of what their partners wear below the belt in the warmer months.

Yet if we men never expose our legs to the sunlight, we are likewise condemned for lower limbs that, to borrow a phrase from Greg Dyke, are hideously white.

I firmly believe that my legs are one of my best features. They’ve been reasonably well toned by fifty years of football and cycling. I like to get them out. It’s liberating for a man to enjoy moments without trouser bottoms flapping round his ankles. But as summer advances, it’s not just the temperatures that hot up. It’s the heat of the arguments too.

Length is one of the most bitterly fought points. Mrs. v. S. has advanced the theory that the minimum length of a man’s shorts must be in proportion to his waistline. That’s reasonable, I think. A paunch in close proximity to very short shorts creates the look that in other contexts would be known as a muffin top. It’s just not right. We can all agree there.

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But after that, the question of length becomes a source of heated argument. Should it be above or below the knee for a gentleman? I’ve been chastised for both choices and for intermediate compromises.

My mate Jeremy has tried to avoid this bone of contention altogether by sporting shorts which hardly even merit the description. They’re those low slung numbers that carry on down until they’re in touching distance of Jezza’s ankles.

In any future truth and reconciliation commission on men’s shorts in the Meon Valley, I’d be prepared to offer this as common ground: patterns, logos and other instances of cluttered garishness on a pair of shorts are wrong. All reasonable men and women can agree on that, I think.

But colour is another matter. We already know of Mrs. v.S.’s antipathy towards the mustard. Yet her response to blue has been lukewarm at best. White? Out of the question. Red? I don’t think so. You see I’m struggling to identify a colour which would gain acceptability.

Many of the world’s conflicts have persisted for centuries and there’s no reason to think that The War of the Shorts will be any shorter. I may just have to accept that, when it comes to the female view of men’s shorts, I am simply destined always to wear the wrong trousers.

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