TikTok, a purveyor of trends for Generation Z, has recently declared war on long, drooping shorts. This declaration has been promoted by men and women alike. Since the trend started in early August, the #5inchseam hashtag has already gained over 25 million views. However, the truth is that TikTok is only promoting a trend that had already been in the making. Official publications, like GQ and People Magazine have been writing articles on the matter for the past few years, with People Magazine claiming over a year and a half ago, “Shorts are getting shorter for men in 2019.”

To understand the shift in men’s fashion, let’s take a stroll through history:

Women’s short shorts have been the norm since the 1960s (around the same time Mary Quant’s miniskirts were popularized) and have barely changed since, but the history has been different with men.

The men’s short shorts trend was the biggest in the 1970s and 1980s. Our fathers probably wore them, along with many of our male professors who were young at the time. Professional basketball and tennis players also participated in this trend. However, beginning in the 1990s, men’s clothes gradually became larger and baggier, a trend that reached its peak in the 2000s. 

In the 2000s, men’s clothes were generally as loose as possible. Clothes were practically falling off bodies. After all, sagging was a popular phenomenon, in which men would let their pants sag low, revealing most of their underwear. Women even had their own version of sagging in the form of low-rise jeans.

As sagging became largely overdone by the mid-2010s, the length of men’s shorts seemed to stabilize around the knee. Recent trends may indicate that in the 2020s, the pendulum could once again swing in the opposite direction: that is, upwards.

Change is gradual. Many people, especially adults, may not even realize changes in fashion, but all it takes is some research to notice some stark differences between popular styles now as opposed to just eight years ago.

The trend of decreasing short length for men was more than anecdotal; a brief walk around campus will demonstrate an obvious difference when compared to old footage of students. Check out the photos above of the University’s students from 2009-2012, compared to just a week ago (on Aug. 26, 2020).

For the most part, men’s shorts in 2020 are still not quite as short as what was popular in the 1970s and 1980s, when inseams would often measure under four inches. However, it seems that ultra-casual, cargo-laden and baggy fashion trends of the 2000s are being thrown out the window.

So, are short shorts the new wave? Only time will tell.