Who loves short shorts? Paul Mescal and a lot of men who should know better


There are always three indications that British summer has started. The first is that offices start pumping out so much air conditioning everyone catches a cold. The second is that people start finding an excuse to drink rose at noon. And the third is that men start wearing shorts.

OK, summer hasn’t started yet, and we have no idea if and when it will ever turn up. But we know that, for a while, all of the above has been the tried and tested seasonal format with little variation. At least until recently. Because for the last few years, those aforementioned shorts have been causing an increasing amount of alarm as they inch higher and higher up men’s legs. That’s right, I’m talking about short shorts. And this summer, or whenever warm weather does finally descend on the UK, expect short shorts to be back with a vengeance – and they’ll be shorter than ever before.

Paul Mescal is to blame for this. Hailed as “the king of short shorts”, the Normal People heartthrob has been making a case for baring one’s thighs in the balmier months since 2020, when the then-24-year-old was photographed jogging in a pair of white Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) shorts from O’Neills that grazed several inches above his knees. The look quickly transitioned from PE-chic to the world of high fashion; months later, Mescal was photographed in those same shorts in GQ, though in this instance, they were paired with a £10,000 Hermès fleece. Other celebrities followed suit, with everyone from Harry Styles to Milo Ventimiglia doing their best to convince us all that it’s time for a “thigh guy summer” in their respective short shorts offerings.

Since then, though, the aesthetic has evolved, and the shorts have continued to shrink beyond sense and sensibility. Consider Mescal’s recent appearance at Gucci’s Milan Fashion Week spring/summer 2025 show; the actor arrived in a light blue collared shirt, notably leaving the top and bottom two buttons undone, and a pair of white striped micro shorts. But the look didn’t end there: the All of Us Strangers star finished it all off with a pair of Gucci Horsebit loafers and white sports socks.

“I’m a fan of the short inseam,” Mescal told GQ at the event. “From my eye, it’s to do with proportion; a shorter short with maybe a longer top. I’m a big advocate for men wearing shorter shorts.” But how do you manage to do so without looking like Alan Partridge? With a flash of his stomach peeking out from above his shorts, and just the right amount of chest and leg on display, Mescal managed to pull it all off. But this is concerning – because it’s going to lead other men to think they can do the same. And reader, I assure you, most of them cannot.

Look, I understand that summer is a difficult time for men, sartorially speaking. There are only so many colourful short-sleeved shirts and denim shorts one can wear without looking like a dowdy maths teacher, or worse, an overgrown toddler who has raided the bargain bin in a seaside vintage shop. In fact, when it comes to fashion faux pas during the summer months, men are spoilt for choice. If it’s not a patterned bucket hat making them look like a Hunter S Thompson wannabe, it’s a Hawaiian shirt they’ll insist several times is either ironic or retro. And if it’s not a pair of socks and sandals they’re passing off as “normcore”, it’s a waterproof jacket they’re calling “gorpcore”.

Mescal pictured at the Gucci show in Milan (Getty)
Mescal pictured at the Gucci show in Milan (Getty)

None of this is good. But all of it pales in comparison to the short shorts, particularly when paired with loafers and white socks, a look that many will now inevitably be trying to emulate. Yes, Mescal makes it work but that’s because he’s hardly your everyday lad. Not only is he an A-list celebrity, but he is also an indie darling who doesn’t use Instagram, having long abandoned the social media platform after Normal People turned him into a walking target for literally anyone with access to a smartphone and the flame emoji. Even a secret account seems to have been dumped since it became public – the strangely named @bigbreadpedlar is now a private account.

The point is that – unlike short shorts themselves – this all gives him some wiggle room when it comes to his wardrobe. Wiggle room that does not apply to, let’s say, a 35-year-old accountant trying to find something to wear to his brother-in-law’s BBQ on Sunday. Imagine the mockery. The self-made memes shared across WhatsApp groups: nationally at first, then possibly globally.

But don’t worry, it’s not like women aren’t also haunted by an outlandish garment that simply doesn’t work for mere mortals. We have our own hemlines to contend with – see the rising trouser-free trend that sees celebrities walking around in their knickers. Then there’s the naked dress, a trend that has been relentlessly spamming our screens for several seasons now. Yes, a sheer dress looks gorgeous and avant-garde at, say, the Met Gala or on a red carpet at Cannes Film Festival. And given the lack of fabric, it’s a sensible choice for a balmy day. But that doesn’t mean you should start baring your nipples at the family picnic.

So, to men considering taking their style notes from Mescal this season: don’t. Stick to regular-sized shorts or better yet, jeans. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with jeans; it’s much harder to make a bad outfit out of them. Plus, the sight of your upper thighs should really only be inflicted on your loved ones. Thank me later.