First there was Paul Mescal, clutching a bag of Co-op prawn cocktail crisps and pre-mixed gin tinnies in a pair of white O’Neills shorts so short it was impossible to stop looking.
Then there was Harry Styles, posing in Gucci’s new film in a candy pink tee tucked into a pair of frayed denim cut-offs. Then came the real thirst trap-cementer: This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia, leaving a Los Angeles gym in a set of thigh-skimmers rolled so high that really, you have to zoom into the picture to check they’re actually there (no really, you must).
Styles has since been spotted wearing an even racier pair of thigh-skimmers on the beach while filming new movie My Policeman with Emma Corrin. Of course, the musician is no stranger to bucking gender stereotypes when it comes to fashion, but it was Ventimiglia himself who officially called it: “it’s short shorts summer,” the three-time Emmy nominee, 43, told reporters after his accidental thirst-trap went viral.
“The shorts are normal length, but when I work out I kind of fold them up just so I can work a little harder,” he added, later posting a picture on Instagram of the black gym shorts, captioned “ride em high kids”.
Clearly, the internet has been listening (and scrolling thirstily through Ventimiglia’s Instagram to see more). The real status symbols of #hotvaxsummer aren’t crop-tops that skim your corona-abs or tanks that show off your newly toned arms, but tiny gym shorts designed to skim those muscular, bulging quads (also see: Orlando Bloom and the Rock on recent outings in tiny gym shorts).
Some say the look is Seventies fashion making a comeback (think: John Travolta in Greece). Others say it’s a bid to put our pins back in the spotlight after 18 months hidden away on Zoom calls. Either way, the dress code for summer 2021 is official: the shorter the shorts, the better. Welcome to #ThighGuySummer.
For purveyors of this new male fashion trend, the devil is in the detail. According to insiders, five is the magic number of inches guaranteed to make your crush go wild. If you don’t believe the fashion journalists (Nike’s extra-short running shorts have been declared the shorts of summer on Twitter), believe the 2.4 million viewers currently thirsting over the #5inseam hashtag on TikTok.
“When he wears 5.5 inseam shorts,” writes one woman alongside a clip of her swooning. Others show girls secretly hemming their boyfriends shorts to make them shorter, while one man claims 7.5” shorts are “old news”, daring male users to opt for a 4.5” pair if they’re really feeling brave.
Of course, good legs are not essential – but they help. “In the past, it used to be about the arms and shoulders and chest,” personal trainer Josh Grimm told the New York Times last month. “Now it’s about the legs,” he says, noting how the Mescal effect has triggered a boom in male clients putting greater focus on leg day. Personal training gym Roar Fitness in Kensington and the City reports growing numbers of men wanting strong glutes and quads as well as arms.
“People used to skip their legs at the gym, because they were just focused on trying to get a six pack,” founder Sarah Lindsay told the Observer this week. “But legs are a big contributor to how strong you can be. If you don’t work on your core – which your quads and glutes are a part of – then your upper body will always be limited and you’re more prone to injury.”
Erick Wilson, a chief instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp agrees. “Deadlifts and squats are the new biceps curls and ab exercises,” he told Vox after Ventimiglia’s public thigh appearance in April.
Naturally, the look lends itself to gym and swim-wear, but short shorts aren’t just for dead-lifts and beach trips. #ThighGuySummer is cementing itself on the runway, too, with Gucci launching a pair of white nylon O’Neill-style thigh-skimmers following Mescal’s Co-op appearance, and models Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons boasting high-end, uber-short shorts with rolled-up hems at Prada’s SS22 menswear show this month.
For other thigh society appearances, fans are looking to the sports pitch. And with rugby season over, all eyes are on the tennis court. Insiders have long teased that Spanish star Rafael Nadal’s shorts get shorter every year (see: his pre-2009 look, in pedal pusher-style bottoms that fell below the knee), with fans on Twitter joking that Nike deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for the player’s pink booty shorts at a recent match in April.
Nadal’s latest thirst-trap wasn’t a rare one. The Spaniard regularly serves up some upper thigh on-court, but there is bad news for Londoners hoping for another appearance at next week’s Wimbledon. The 35-year-old has just announced his withdrawal from this year’s Championship, blaming a calf injury (did he dedicate too much of leg day to the quads?). Perhaps our main man Murray will have to take one for the team.