It’s official: guys can wear shorts to work

F or women, dressing for summer here is a whole lot easier (and cheaper) than in London. You know that stepping outside will feel like walking into a blast furnace, so you choose pretty light sundresses and then you buy a cardigan to battle the freezing air-conditioning inside.

But for the men? I have long pitied the sweating faces on top of summer suits and shirts (most eschew ties) who have to walk into the heat for lunch, or meetings, or the commute home.

Now, though, sartorial change is afoot, at least according to the New York Times, a trend confirmed by my own observations.

It’s official: most guys can wear shorts to work. The transition has occurred thanks to male icons like the hunky CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper, who wore shorts while delivering dispatches from abroad; then there’s star hockey player Sean Avery, who is interning at Vogue this summer. He showed up there in a shorts suit.

Meanwhile our new national guru and presidential candidate Barack Obama wears shortsleeved shirts, which until recently were a major fashion faux pas but now suddenly seem cool. The new casual dress code is a mammoth transition from the days when President Nixon felt he had to keep his shoes on on the beach.

There are those in hospitals and on Wall Street who are still required to cover their knees but most don’t wear jackets and certainly not ties. New York men have worked out that the trick to looking cool is to wear tan or stone-coloured trousers and a light-coloured shirt. Pink or pale blue looks good but white is a big no-no – you can see sweaty armpits through it. Nothing is less attractive than perspiration. The French were quite right when they complained that they didn’t want to see their premier, Nicolas Sarkozy, sweating on his daily jog. (Now he exercises behind closed walls.) To be confident is to be cool.

Dressing in tune with the weather is not a superficial matter. My boss has always shown up to the office in long shorts, an Aertex shirt and loafers; he looks comfortable, casual, yet the shoes show he knows he’s not on the beach. And that’s the crucial line. Shorts are OK. Looking as if you are about to sunbathe is not. Thus, in my offices at least, there is one unwritten rule: “No sunglasses on the head.” You have been warned. V

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