“Do you wear Chubbies?” is something I get asked infrequently but often enough that a new vein in my forehead throbs when I hear the question. Chubbies is a start-up fashion brand by bros, for bros, that makes shorts. The shorts are cut above the knee and come with an anti-cargo short mentality and “fun prints” for manly men who are above being considered girly. These are for the same men who wear Nantucket Red anything, drink beer from koozies, and know what “croakies” are (and gladly employ them).
As if I need to say it, I do not wear Chubbies. My love of penile anything typically knows no bounds but, no, I do not support bro shorts whose name is an ironic reference to a semi-erect penis. I cannot get down with that since the wearers of these shorts at one point or another probably used the word “gay” to mean “dumb” and likely would call me a faggot, when I’m not around.
Still, Chubbies are successful. In a recent story on “brotailers,” Bloomberg Businessweek used the brand as a means to chart the appeal of the new landscape of soft manly man retailers with Silicon Valley ties. On Chubbies and the concept of brotail, Bloomberg casts them appropriately so:
Chubbies—yes, the name refers to exactly what a 16-year-old boy thinks it does—is a leader in a new kind of menswear retail that appeals to a different breed of customer. He’s not the rumpled office drone who wants nine suits for the price of one at Jos. A. Bank or the tidy, tailored aesthete who favors J.Crew. Rather, he’s the id-driven, post-collegiate twentysomething bro, the dude who might call his friend Broseph Stalin and eat a bag of brotato chips. The recipe for this guy is pretty straightforward: Take two measures bottom-of-your-prep-school class, add one measure earnest goofball, stir, and garnish with a lacrosse stick. But the way to build a business around him isn’t as clear. This is a group who hates shopping and would happily wear the same pair of sweatpants every day if society didn’t frown upon it. So how do you get these guys to buy clothes? This is where Chubbies and its peers come in. Call them the brotailers.
“Broseph Stalin.” I’m shivering in my non-Chubbies, in secondhand embarrassment.
The brand doesn’t make me angry, no, and I’m actually not annoyed with their take on shorts. They’re actually cut nicely and I’m glad they take a distinctly anti-Dad stance on making tailored shorts that can straddle multiple occasions, from daytime to nighttime to beach time to bro time. That I like.
What I don’t like is that co-opting, that need to lend a hyper masculine lens to something that could be confused for wussy. The shorts are not bad: it’s that mentality that comes with it, that you’d wear these shorts while tailgating, after getting iced for the fourth time before 11AM. You can wear these shorts because Chubbies gives you permission to be a little faggy and, since they’re made by straight bros who abide by the motto “Sky’s out. Thighs Out.,” that makes being backhandedly femme okay. They are a parody of my culture and reasoning to wear shorts, that a man should be able to bare his legs whenever he wants, that having nice legs isn’t confined to a gender. I wear shorts with a smile because it’s a part of my gay identity, as someone very concerned with transgressing the borders of male and female. The Chubbies bro? They smile because they’re laughing at me, their version of shorts a joke at my expense, their glee in the fact that their balls might pop out below their hamburger printed pockets.
Not that there needs to be an inclusion of the more sensitive shorts wearer (There doesn’t.) but, for a brand so obsessed with what’s in between their thighs, there is no need to be sooooo overbearingly masculine. In the world of brotail, where are women? Where are the sissy boys? What happens when a woman who wears clothing formed for men? What if a man opts for the shorts made for women? Is this what neo straight pride looks like? I’ve been to these functions where men wear Chubbies and stare at me like I’m some sort of queer fucking alien: the Venn diagram does not overlap.
Ultimately, that is the way of brotail. It’s an excuse for shifted masculinity, a cover. It’s an reminder that, yes, deep down inside there is a man behind the short shorts. Don’t question him. He is a man.