An Ode to Jorts
On the extreme, exhilarating freedom of jean shorts
The weather has just hit the mid 70s, and my butt crack is thirsting for some fresh cut denim. This marks the start of The Summer Ritual, the only one that really matters: JORTS.
I head to a thrift store and get myself a pair of high-wasted, boot-cut mom jeans from the 90s (probably by Gap or Levi’s). They cost around 5 bucks, a small price to pay for an entire summer of violent, passionate wear and tear. These jean shorts will become my second-skin. They’ll see sand, and grass, and dirt, and concrete. They will feel beer dribble down their front and sweat beads drip down their back. Fuck a worn-in t-shirt — my jorts are the most intimate pair of clothing I own.
Maybe it’s the closeness one has with a pair of jorts that makes them such an easy target for mockery. There’s even a website dedicated solely to that purpose. Jorts.com urges you to upload a photo and “share it with Jorts enthusiasts around the world.” You can view others pictures, comment on them, and rank Jorts accordingly.
But Jorts.com only scratches the surface of jorts meme-ification. This play on lyrics from “Last Resort” by Papa Roach is a personal favorite:
There’s also the #jorts on Twitter and Instagram, and when you google “jorts” these are the top two related searches:
Urban Dictionary definitions draw on the obvious Daisy Duke association. Dukes of Hazzard actress Catherine Bach inspired the colloquial use of her character’s name to describe extremely short jorts. (She also famously made her own costumes, perhaps contributing to the notion that jean shorts are somehow low-class). Even though they’ve taken on a new name in the Internet age, they are still a kind of “white trash” signifier:
But there are some key differences between a daisy duke and a jort. Jorts are longer, less revealing of the ass cheek. Most importantly, though, the jort is gender neutral. We can all enjoy their greatness, freedom, and versatility. At least in theory.
If the online ridicule and rage of fashion bloggers is any indication, it is NOT okay for men to wear jorts. A Buzzfeed listicle claims they only look good on women: “The world doesn’t want to see your impossibly white thighs.” The heteronormativity is strong with this one, but in a moment of clarity, the writer accurately calls jorts the “macaroni necklaces of adulthood.” Only he thinks that’s a bad thing! Quite the contrary: they’re simplicity, cheapness and DIY vibe are exactly what makes them awesome.
A similarly tone-deaf and offensive Esquire piece, which actually aims to defend jorts, makes one good point:
Jorts are unquestionably the sturdiest, most un-stainable, and surely least effete shorts humankind has ever created.
I think it’s funny that part of the hatred towards men-in-jorts is the idea that they are feminine. But is there not something “traditionally” masculine about jorts in conception? Rugged. Down-to-Earth. Confident yet casual. Essentially, they are AMERICA. And the man who wears jorts confidently is like second term Obama: he has zero fucks left to give.
If you are willing to look past the hyper-sexualized Jessica Simpson version, I think you will find jorts offer women a similar sense of liberation. In stark contrast to the jean skirt, which was big when I was a teen in the early 2000s, jorts are liberating. (Jean skirts were a kind of chastity belt, not allowing you to spread your legs, or even comfortably sit on the ground).
Jorts, on the other sexy hand, were specifically designed for indulgence. For someone to slip their hand in your back pocket. For making out on top of a car; for drinking/eating too much trash on a first date and sneakily undoing the top button. That’s the reason why it’s usually necessary to throw them out at the end of the season. Because if your jorts aren’t stained, holey, and stringy as hell come September, you aren’t jorting out correctly.
There’s a reason why — and it’s not his confused sexuality — that Tobias Funke (the Never Nude from Arrested Development) dons jean cutoffs all the time.
He wears them under his pants. To bed. Even in the shower. Sure, he has a bizarre psychological condition and is generally insane. But it’s still of note that jorts are the closest he can get to being naked; They’re the most intimate pair of clothing he owns. And goddamn, is it beautiful.