March 30, 2013

Short shorts, wholesome vs. awkward periods

As part of their early '90s revival, Urban Outfitters is trying to push high-waisted shorts for girls that end just under the butt, AKA daisy dukes. It seemed like it was mostly the chicks working there who were wearing them, whether they were required to promote the product, or whether they're more adventurous than the average girl today in showing a little leg.

Hot pants, dolphin shorts, daisy dukes -- whatever they used to be called, they gave off a fun-loving yet wholesome charm that you don't feel anymore when girls wear shorts. Let's see how they pulled it off by checking out the original Daisy Duke herself:

(Back when girls wore slender heels instead of blocky boots...)

The shorts are cut very high up on the leg, ending under the crotch and slanting upward across the pelvis to reveal the hip bones and some of the underside of the butt as well. Doesn't get any more carefree than that. The trick to them not looking slutty comes from their height reaching up to or over the belly button. The greater surface area of fabric gives the impression that they're covering up more than they actually are.

High-waisted shorts and pants do create a "long butt" effect from behind, their only real downside. I guess in the good old days, guys were more interested in looking at long legs than a plump rump. Or perhaps they figured they'd get to see it all in good time, and for now it was better to get more of a hint or tease from scoping out her legs. Build some anticipation.

Whatever their reasons, shifting focus from T&A to the legs does serve to somewhat de-sexualize male-female relations. The girl doesn't feel as on-display if she's only showcasing her legs, and the guy doesn't feel as self-conscious of his own dirty mind when he's only checking out her legs.

A focus on T&A seems to go more with society-wide anxiety / neurosis, as we last saw during the mid-century. High levels of self-awareness during the Age of Anxiety can be seen in the "sweater girl" wearing a bullet bra, and the pin-up girl sticking her curvy butt out while staring knowingly at the viewer. It's a bit too vampy, pretentious, and obvious.

Over the past 20 years, the focus has returned to the mid-century pattern, a topic I looked at earlier here. Now it's underwire / padded bras and J-Lo / Kim Kardashian booties in yoga pants. And as part of the general change toward a more-covered-up look, shorts end further down the thigh than they used to:

Compared to daisy dukes, these new shorts make the girl look a little less comfortable with herself, which you can confirm by observing their facial expressions. To emphasize the butt, the waistlines have come way down as well (though they've recovered from the Whale Tail days of the early-mid-2000s). Low waistlines don't mean they're actually baring their waist, of course, just trying to draw more conscious attention to their ass. As you can see in a few of the pictures, trying to have it both ways -- low waist and high-cut -- makes the shorts look like a thin skimpy stretch of fabric.

Whether they look more prudish or more slutty, today's shorts lack that carefree wholesomeness of the '70s and '80s, and the broader shift in focus away from the legs and toward T&A has created a heightened self-awareness that's only made guys and girls more awkward around each other.


  1. What happened with mini skirts though? It's been ages since I last saw one. Always these loose shorts now.

  2. Dude, you're right. Those white ruffle mini-skirts were everywhere in the mid-2000s. I tried a Google image search to show what I mean, but the entire results show skirts that are 2 to 3 times as long.

    Just checked the skirt sections online for Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, H&M, and Wet Seal. More like "maxi" skirts, "high-low" skirts (mid length in front, low in back), pencil skirts...

    The "mini" skirts go pretty far down the leg these days, but are also high-waisted. Kind of the worst of both worlds. Long-butt or obscured-butt, and cut-off / shortened legs.

    Works cited:

  3. Of course there's one "fashion" that never will change. God damn it.


  4. This is off-topic but, necklace lengths used to be different.

    I was looking through a sowing book from the 1970s. Women wear either very short necklaces, chokers basically, or very long ones. Their pants and skirts are high waisted, so the long necklaces could reach their waistline.

    There's a picture of a woman with a pearl necklace, but it's of choker length, much shorter than what I usually see now.

    There's also the popular Native horn pendant, again worn choker style.

  5. Eyeglass frames have also changed from large squarish ones or aviator style frames to small rectangular frames. The frame thickness is also different.

  6. "Women wear either very short necklaces, chokers basically, or very long ones."

    Good thing I have some female readers, I definitely would not have thought of or noticed that.

    Most changes seem to affect the average, but there's a smaller group that show a change in the variance. Rising-crime = wider variance, falling-crime = more conformist.

    Kind of like hair length. The Jazz Age had really long hair in the earlier part of the 1900s and '10s, then quite short lengths in the '20s. That repeated itself in the '60s and '70s with very long hair, then including quite short hair in the '80s (along with the earlier long styles too).

    With the mid-century and Millennial eras, just about all females have medium-length hair.

  7. Jesus Christ Superstar 2000 versus 1973

    As scantily-clad as the actors and dancers were in '73, the sexuality in 2000 was over the top, especially with Judas Iscariot as well as the "relationship" between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Judas in 2000 seems to get off on humiliating Jesus and this is absent in 1973.



    Another thing, kind of off-top, is the sheer amount of ENERGY in the 1973 version versus 2000.
    I was always jealous of my mom as a kid because gymnastics was mandatory when she was in school (60s and early 70s) and I was only self-taught because gymnastics had been considered too dangerous by the time I was in school. Anyway, the Simon Zealotes song in the 1973 JCS really brings in that difference. Everyone was extremely energetic, acrobatic, and good at gymnastics... even the men. A bunch of them, even a balding guy, near the end, do an amazing leap onto the ground.
    The brunette with her hair up always makes me think of my mom.

    Shocking difference:
    1973 Simon Zealotes

    2000 Simon Zealotes

    They even enter wildly different. 1973, happy and acrobatic; 2000, fighting.


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