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The Shorts Of Prides Past

We’re officially in the throes of Pride which, if you’re unfamiliar, means that being straight is illegal.

A big part of Pride is looking back on queer history, to love and understand those who stepped before us so that we could be us. This is huge. I love queer history and I love looking at photos from our past, to imagine myself being one of them, trying to survive in more troubling times.

One thing that also pops up – from the seventies through today – is an abundance of shorts. Have you ever noticed this? I obviously have! And, to celebrate Pride and a community with fine ass legs, let’s travel across North America, throughout the ages, to admire people in shorts.


Toronto, 1972
There are a handful of shorts in this image but two are particularly of note: the striped shorted man with the striped shirt and ankle socks and the sleeveless cutoff’d beefcake. These two are variations of the same idea and, as you will see, a queer touchstone that we need to very much keep alive.


Detroit, 1974
The seventies were the dawn of gay rights, when Prides (If you could even call them this, at this point.) were more about protesting than about being queer while celebrating in public. Accordingly, the time of queers wearing short shorts and touching each other was about to happen and this image – like the aforementioned – allude to this. You may wonder “Why so many gay guys in short shorts?” and I have a very simple answer for you: it’s a means of transgressing social norms for men, to push gender boundaries, and to, of course, be sexy. Believe me: I know a lot about this subject.


Los Angeles, 1987
I love this photo because we’re not only getting a variation of hard bodies but because we’re getting a tour of 1980s shorts culture. From left to right: slim, nicely fitted khakis (which, still, are what all men should be wearing); side-slit aerobic shorts ready for stepping; spandex shorts to take the side-slit further, to show off one’s cock and balls; and elastic waisted leisure shorts that American Apparel brought back a few years ago. Tag yourself! I’m the guy on the left. I’d also love to hug all these hunks.


Chicago, 1988
To get a better sense of what shorts were like, in scene, look no further than this video. Not everyone was wearing short shorts but there were plenty of short pants given that this holiday falls during the summer. There’s a variety of what is being worn – from schlubby ankle touchers to delightful shorties to uniforms that adopt short pants – but the beauty of this video is more than the sartorial as it illustrates how queers truly do show up for each other, even at times when being out could cost you your job or your home or any other aspect of your life.


San Francisco, 1980s
These are some shorts. They’re basically a codpiece! I love it and I love that this guys smirk illustrates why he is wearing said shorts. (Also, this may be a one-piece that the belting is distracting us from.)


San Francisco, 1980s
These are so somewhat painfully dad but I don’t entire;y hate this look. I wish the shorted man was wearing that beautiful Reagan shirt. I feel like I need that AIDS activism wear now, to resonate the former (and current) president’s negligence and how it continues to manifest today.


Columbus, 1990
You may have wondered what a gay Pride in Ohio looked like and I’m happy to share that you needn’t look any further than this video. This offers a more every person look at gay shorts in middle America which was, predominately, billowy sportswear. There is a fun Western wear influence here which, mostly, manifests as a lot of denim on denim.


New York City, 1990
This image of a die-in to protest AIDS inaction is so powerful and, as you can tell, it illustrates how many people often go thighs out for Pride. Gays only events mean show them legs.


Los Angeles, 1993
I love these three, technically four, dudes. The Mark E. Mark looking dude is a hunk but I certainly see myself in the red-shorted fellow. I’m not a fan of the belt but I am on board with everything else.


Los Angeles, 1993
Cutoffs! Again. Also note the denim shorteralls. Truly a nineties affair!


Portland, 1990s
These ladies are manifesting pleated queer power with their shorts. These can be difficult to pull off (And it should be noted that their proportions are off.) but shorts lovers should always have a big, blousy pleated pair around in the hopes of varying up their shorts styles. Had these shirts been untucked or the shorts been cuffed or hemmed higher, this would probably be a winner.


Portland, 1990s
Now we’re in the dad era of nineties shorts. The question though is what came first: gay guys wearing shorts or our dads? Or did these two things happen at the same time? We may never know. (So, perhaps, I guess this question should be tossed to a fashion anthropologist or historian.)


Atlanta, 1990s
Like the above, we’re in peak dad short zone. These at least represent a variety of wearer and styles for miles. Tag yourself, yet again. (Naturally, I’m pinky up front – and I really do want those shorts.)


New York City, 2004
Ouch. This was when I was coming of age and, I am sure, I was one of these offensive looking people too. The issue here, while small, is that mid-2000s shorting were too baggy and ill fitting. Cargo pants that are now shunned? This was their high time. Let’s blame this on Bush.

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