Faux Pas: Who wears short shorts (to work)?

Apr 9, 2010

I have no idea how it happened, but at some point, shorts became the warm weather uniform of choice for Americans everywhere.  And the fact of the matter is, that most women do not look good in shorts.  That’s right, I said it.  Most women do not have the legs to be wearing shorts with a 3-inch (or shorter) inseam. 

But while I would prefer that women not wear shorts unless they have the body for it (nothing is less flattering than emphasizing a flabby inner thigh), we should all be able to agree that shorts are NEVER appropriate work attire. 

I don’t care if it’s recess.  I don’t care if it’s 120 degrees in the shade.  I don’t care if they are knee length Bermuda shorts.  Unless you work as a delivery person for UPS, shorts are not professional attire. 

I’m willing to accept that the wearing of shorts during your off time is a matter of personal preference and not strictly faux pas.  But when I walk down the halls of the United States Congress and see women in short-shorts and men in madras print golf shorts flashing their hairy legs, my blood begins to boil. 

This is not a golf course, a barbecue or a baseball game, this is a professional setting where you are a reflection of the elected representative who employs you and the country you serve. 

For gentlemen, I recommend lightweight twill khakis.  If your legs are still hot, break out a kilt.  As for ladies, I suggest flowy cotton dresses/skirts and a knee length denim skirt.  You can wear almost anything with a denim pencil and work-appropriate shoes and be professionally dressed. 

I know some private companies play loose and dirty with casual Friday attire, and I suppose that it is their right.  But as a voter and a staffer, I expect more from the professionals who work for Congress and so should you.

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  1. Belle says:

    Yes, but where do they work? Like I said, if you work for a private company and your boss thinks it is okay, that is their right. However, when you work for the government, or in a very professional environment (law firm, financial firm, etc.) then they are not acceptable. And LA is a completely different environment than DC, the two are not comparable.

  2. Ms. B says:

    Good manners and appropriate dress are NEVER old fashioned. They are empowering.

  3. Belle says:

    Yes, but where do they work? Like I said, if you work for a private company and your boss thinks it is okay, that is their right. However, when you work for the government, or in a very professional environment (law firm, financial firm, etc.) then they are not acceptable. And LA is a completely different environment than DC, the two are not comparable.

  4. Ms. B says:

    Good manners and appropriate dress are NEVER old fashioned. They are empowering.

  5. Grammar Nazi says:

    “I’m willing to except that…” You mean “accept” here. Love you!

  6. Grammar Nazi says:

    One more! “I suppose that it is there right…” “their right.” Just trying to help!

  7. Grammar Nazi says:

    I HOPE THIS IS THE LAST ONE. “If you’re legs…” “your legs”

  8. Belle says:

    Thanks. I didn’t spell check before I posted. As you may have noticed, I have difficulty with homonyms.

  9. JM says:

    Dare I say, I believe skintern season is upon us. Prepare your eyes…Praying this girl is NOT a staffer!

  10. AL says:

    Please iterate to all that the so-called “shorts” suits are also a fashion faux pas for the Hill. I had a co-worker who wore one in the summer. ARGH! Ladies, we work on the Hill, anything with shorts, including that with a suit jacket or blazer, is not work attire. Leave them at home.

  11. Shannon says:

    Shorts are for watering the lawn, hiking, or tourons. They are not office attire!

    I wonder if the tourons and skinterns are in some sort of secret Bad Fashion Throwdown.

  12. amy b.s. says:

    if you are not joking that people are wearing shorts to work, i have to say, i really don’t know what to do with that! prior to working for the state i worked for an advertising agency and even at that wacked out crazy place, wearing shorts certainly never crossed my mind!

  13. ram says:

    I’ve seen this in my government office – and I couldn’t believe it. Granted, we are located just outside DC, so we’re a bit more casual then downtown, but I never thought I’d see short shorts. Of course, I also never thought I’d see gray jeggings, or velour tracksuits at work either, but I have!

  14. Belle says:

    Amy- I came off the elevator yesterday and saw a girl wearing white short-shorts a blazer and flip flops with her Staff ID and I did a double take. And then just when my anger had subsided, I went to a meeting and half of the nine men in attendance were wearing Bermudas. I nearly died.

  15. pqresident says:

    what about linen for the guys (and gals?) for the warm weather?

  16. Anon says:

    Men, break out the kilts! It’s the perfect solution!

  17. Grace says:

    This is ridiculous, your opinion. Your judgment is subjective to DC and capitol hill . . . but head to New York, LA, or any other major city and you will see women wearing perfectly acceptable and stylish shorts to work.

  18. Belle says:

    Yes, but where do they work? Like I said, if you work for a private company and your boss thinks it is okay, that is their right. However, when you work for the government, or in a very professional environment (law firm, financial firm, etc.) then they are not acceptable. And LA is a completely different environment than DC, the two are not comparable.

  19. I love your blog, but this post just feels like such typical pompous DC attitude – particularly, Hill attitude. First of all, sorry for being fat, but I deserve a little comfort in the summer, too – so if you don’t like the way fat folks’ legs look in the shorts that you feel should be reserved for the Barbie bunch, then just don’t look.

    That said, I don’t wear shorts to work & don’t necessarily think they’re appropriate. But to say that they’re not appropriate on Capitol Hill simply because it’s Capitol Hill is ridiculous. “But as a voter and a staffer, I expect more from the professionals who work for Congress and so should you” – I expect Congress & its staff to get things done, make the country run, & not screw the country over. They can wear whatever the heck they want while they’re doing it – seems our country’s got bigger concerns.

  20. Belle says:

    It has nothing to do with being fat. Shorts are unflattering for all kinds of reasons–fat, cellulite, vericose veins–but because they are accepted as the casual American summer uniform, so people never stop to wonder if they look their best in them. For example, I look terrible in shorts because I have short legs in proportion to my torso length.

    Just like any item of clothing, it just won’t be flattering on some people. For shorts that’s most people. If you want to wear them, it’s personal preference. Just try to find a pair that look good on you by trying on some different styles.

    As for the Hill attitude, I think people should take pride in the place that they work. And I was taught that when you take pride in your work and the place that you work, you dress up. It’s the fault of the old fashioned Southern women who raised me.

    Maybe you don’t agree, and that’s your right.

  21. Ms. B says:

    Good manners and appropriate dress are NEVER old fashioned. They are empowering.

  22. Honestly... says:

    I didn’t find this post pompous, at all. In fact, I rather think it’s simply a dose of common sense. Only in America is “comfort” the reigning opinion. In Moscow, where I live, going to work in shorts–ANYWHERE–is simply unthinkable. If you’re not specifically looking to avoid faux paus, why are you even bothering to read this blog? And Belle’s post was not targeting overweight people, at all. I don’t think the author should be expected to make apologies for your discomfort with YOUR body.

  23. MAA says:

    Shorts are not the only comfortable summer option for casual clothing. During the summer I live in my denim pencil skirt and khaki cargo skirt. With a cute pair of sandals, they’re just as comfortable and much more chic than shorts.

  24. Moran says:

    This is funny. I think something like Bermuda shorts is perfectly acceptable. They’re usually longer than a lot of skirts worn by women in the office and usually they’re not as tight as skirts and pants worn by women in the office. Look at the genesis of the term Bermuda shorts. Bermuda is super duper conservative, but shorts are the preferred attire after suits, mainly b/c they aid in driving scooters around the island. As people in DC rely more on bikes, I imagine shorts will gain credibility. Just a thought

  25. […] Shorts and flip flops to Work? You might be a skintern! […]

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