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Our style columnist Esther Walker makes the case for donning a pair, whether you think you have the legs for them or not


I’m not totally sure how or when it happened, but I know this fact to be true: the number one off-duty look for this summer, whether home or abroad, is a pair of denim shorts, a loose linen shirt and a hat.

I know! How prosaic! How homespun. How… completely ordinary.

It’s as if the zeitgeist is totally exhausted by all the choices out there. It is sick of the ruffles and the patterns, the high-waisted whatnot and floral armageddon. The zeitgeist sat down at its computer around May and, overwrought and fed up, typed “DENIM SHORTS,

SHIRT” and then added “HAT” as an afterthought – then went to lie down in a dark room with cucumber slices over its eyes.

And yet the zeitgeist is never wrong! It can do what it likes – we are lucky it’s sick of complicated looks or anything that requires a toned midriff. The runes have been read and the die has been cast. Just look around wherever you may be this summer and wonder at the multitude of ladies wearing this combination.

Personally, I am utterly delighted. I do not want to wear a flamenco dress or a top with sleeves so huge

that an entire family of badgers could move in and I wouldn’t notice.

You may be stabbing at these pages with a forefinger, shouting, “But I can’t wear shorts!” Ah, but can’t you?

The typical response from fashion commentators to the question of mini skirts or shorts has been that you can wear them “if you’ve got the legs for them”. This answer has always made me angry; has always struck me as such a snivelling, narrow-eyed thing to say. The implication being that unless you have got ‘great’ legs, you really ought to hide them away out of

sight, you monster!

And who will be the judge of whether or not someone has got the legs for shorts? We are not the best judge of these things. So, whom should we ask? Our friends? Strangers on the street?

I tell you what, maybe Anna Wintour could set up some sort of service where you email a picture of yourself in shorts and she can decide whether or not you’ve got what it takes.

[Continued below]


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“Shorts are totally office-appropriate, and M&S has styles to suit everyone, from culottes like these through to more tailored styles.”


Let’s face it: there are probably five people in the world – and I’m including men – who have truly great legs. I’m not one of them, but I am sure as hell not going to not wear shorts because of it.

What it comes down to is this: find a pair of shorts, denim or otherwise, that make you feel smashing, then experiment with different belts (a large one with a big buckle can really even things out) and colours. Next, think hard about how you actually feel in these shorts. If you feel great but think, “But do I really have the legs for these shorts?” then wear the shorts. If you think, “I am not comfortable in these shorts,” then don’t wear the shorts.

But by all means, wear the oversized linen shirt! It ought to look like you borrowed it from a boy (but don’t actually borrow one from a boy because it will be too big in the wrong places). And the hat! Those two worn

alongside khaki trousers or culottes are just as zeitgeist and now. Pile on a load of colourful bracelets and every necklace you own, and you are truly doing 2019.

Another type of shorts you might consider this year are city shorts or suit shorts. I’m sure you know the thing I mean. Look: like the ones I am wearing in that picture, there. On first glance they look like a skirt but are actually flowy shorts, and I’m a big fan.

I tell you what I miss though: slim-fit city shorts. Do you remember the ones I mean? They sat on the hips and stopped around knee-length or just below. We all wore them in 2005, which means they must be due for a comeback any time now.

I’ll suggest it in an email to the zeitgeist – it can’t keep those cucumber slices on forever.


Shop shorts    Shop new in


We’ve cherry-picked this sweet top
Life’s a breeze with airy shorts
A ring-detail statement bag
Finish off with Skin Kind earrings

Styling: Chloe Forde / Make-up: Karina Constantine / Hair: Ben Cook / Nails: Charly Avenell

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