Style Q&A: Is There a Professional Way to Wear Shorts?

When the office is a sauna is it ok to opt for something more comfortable?

Is there a way to wear shorts professionally? Working in a hot office next to the server room in the summer is no joke as far as the temperature goes. At what point is it ok to wear shorts? When the office is at 78 degrees? 80? 90? There's no formal dress code at my workplace, but everyone wears jeans/khakis and polos/button-downs. – Michael K.

Mentioning the words “professional” and “shorts” in the same sentence is a bit of an oxymoron. One is all business.  The other is inherently casual.  However, in the modern age of menswear these two polar opposites, which at one point in time would’ve repelled each other like the negative sides of magnets, have somehow become relatively homogenous.  Shorts are obviously meant for warm weather and/or overheated environments in which one would rather not have his pants stick to him like a polyester suit.  On the other hand most offices (at least in America) would ostracize the wearer of shorts outside of the company picnic or softball game.  So what is a guy like you to do?

Well, it sounds like you’re in the IT profession by your proximity to “the server room” and if you’re not in IT you need a new job if they stick you in the corner next to the hot boxes.  At that point you might as well work construction outside.  But since we live in reality its sounds like you’ll be staying on this job for awhile.

In my experience most IT guys I know wear the standard issue “IT guy” uniform consisting of pleated, paper lunch bag brown khakis two sizes too big with a black belt and Blackberry hip holster that resembles an alien mother ship.  If this is you, whether or not to wear shorts is the least of your problems.  If however, you happen to be on a different level (I know you are) and your pants actually fit well, then you may think shorts are the next logical option.  They aren’t.  Call me traditional, conservative; even boring if you will, but if you work inside an office building with four walls and you’re not in a creative field such as fashion, art, music, etc., then you have no business wearing shorts to work no matter how hot it gets.

This is a similar rule with men and jackets.  Women suffer through wearing heels too tall and too tight without removing them in public and we men equally suffer through the heat wearing a jacket which should never be removed if worn properly.  The same goes for your pants.  Keep them long and suffer the heat, or suffer ridicule (silently or otherwise) from your co-workers and more importantly those in positions above you of which you may like to occupy one day.  Is your boss, supervisor, or manager wearing shorts?  Do you work for UPS or some other parcel shipping service?  If the answer to these questions is “no”, then you have my answer to your query.

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Grant Harris

Grant Harris is Owner & Chief Style Consultant at Image Granted; a Washington, DC based Image Consulting Company dedicated to solving the complex image, style & fashion issues of today's professional man. He has a healthy obsession with socks. Follow him on Twitter & Facebook.