#54 The Shorts with Many Lives

Since moving to my new place, I’ve reintroduced some older pieces into my day-to-day wardrobe, including this pair of denim cut-off shorts I was sure I’d never wear again. After spending most of my youth living and breathing in shorts all summer, at some point in my early 20s, I flipped a switch. One by one, I removed most of the shorts I owned, save for one pair I kept for reasons of convenience. As evident in a post I wrote last summer, I wasn’t shy about my disdain for them. Lately, I seem to have undergone a change of heart. Skirts are still my number one, but I’ve come to appreciate having summer bottoms that offer me a little more security and broader range of motion as an alternative option.

Denim Shorts (formerly jeans)

Purchased from: Salvation Army, 2012

Cost: $2

Material: 98% cotton, 2% polyurethane

Wears counted: 3 (since 2018)

These shorts first came to me in the form of regular, straight-leg vintage jeans I found at a thrift store in high school. I hate to sound like a grumpy millennial, but this was back in the golden age of thrifting: before fashion’s obsession with vintage denim, before finding a good bargain became a competitive sport, before resellers swept up all the best merchandise as soon as they hit the floor. I bought the jeans because I liked the wash and they were probably only $2. Back then, I didn’t think they were anything special and they certainly weren’t on-trend, as skinny jeans were still enjoying their day. I remember wearing these jeans a few times during my Grade-12 year and in early university before they fell to the wayside, buried under the weight of my very unkempt closet at the time.

What the jeans originally looked like.

In summer 2017, I rediscovered the jeans as I was moving into my first apartment with my then-boyfriend, now-husband. It was the beginning of the season and I thought I would get more use out of them as shorts. Feeling crafty, I decided to customize them myself – and by customize I mean taking a pair of kitchen scissors to them. At that point, I had just gotten an upper thigh tattoo and was taking pole dance classes regularly. This was the summer that the (very brief) “skimpy” phase of my style came into fruition. I chopped the legs off and wore the shorts with the legs rolled up to just under my butt. Was it comfortable? I doubt it. Did I feel like a hot, young thing with my exposed upper thighs? 1000%. These short shorts were a staple for me that summer, but then the tides shifted and they were once again relegated to the abyss of unloved, unworn things.

I must have contemplated getting rid of them at least a half dozen times over the past three years, but when I was going through my wardrobe before my most recent move, I felt compelled to give them another try. It’s funny that each time I nearly got rid of this piece, I managed to reinvent it to suit my style. From researching and making my wardrobe plan last year, I knew I was interested in a pair of longer shorts. It was indeed a mind-blowing moment when I realized I could simply unroll the folded hems, magically unveiling a longer pair of shorts. 

So far this summer I’ve worn them a few times, after a near 4-year hiatus. While they’re not quite the ideal shorts for me, I’m grateful I have them and I’ll be keeping them for now. On the positives, I like the rich blue of the denim and the material, likely from the 70s or 80s, is nicely broken in, yet sturdy-feeling. Wearing these shorts at the longer cutoff length also balances out the ultra-high-waist; the look is a little less pin-up-y and more softball at the park (in a good way). I also enjoy the raw hem detail and the natural fading throughout the denim. Unfortunately, they are a little too form-fitting for my taste and slightly tight in the thigh-crotch zone. The good thing is they aren’t cutting off my circulation at the waist, making them easy to move in and accommodating of that sweet summer BBQ.

With the help of a full-length mirror, I’ve realized that bottoms which are fitted around the hips are not the most flattering on me, given that my figure is more like the plains of North America than shapely valleys of the Rhine. If I were to look for denim shorts today, I’d look for a pair that had pleats or a slightly billowy leg shape so I didn’t appear so straight and narrow like a foosball figure. 


Denim is not my favourite material for sticky summer days, but I do like it for more vigorous activities, like cleaning out a filthy apartment and lifting heavy furniture. I’ve also worn them to casual patio outings and plan to take them on vacation in August, where I’ll be trying to get in as much hiking and beach time as possible. These shorts go with pretty much all my summer tops, from silk t-shirts to my trusty striped tank top that I love just as much now as I did in 2017. I also like to throw on an open button-down shirt over top if the weather permits – it helps to break up the straight and narrow line. Being denim cutoffs, these shorts always give me that beachy, county-fair, Americana vibe, which is a little more casual than my personal brand of style. However, I think if I really wanted to “elevate” them, I could do so by putting on some heeled sandals, a silky oversized blouse, and a pair of sunglasses for even more mystique. For now, though, I’m happy with my boyish combination of tank top + shorts + Birkenstocks.

I’m not sure if these shorts are totally back in my life, yet; I consider their re-addition to my wardrobe a soft relaunch, an experiment. They’re also a safe way to feel out my reconciliation with shorts, before I bring any new pairs into my life. But even if they don’t work out, I feel like I’m obligated to keep revamping and repurposing them at this point. I’m curious to see what they become, though it’s probably a safe bet that a denim thong will not be in my future.

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