Both fans and players celebrate the freedom that comes with a shorter pair of shorts.
Uniforms matter. For instance, look at the episode of Seinfeld, “The Chaperone,” in which George Costanza champions a change of fabric for the Yankee’s uniforms from polyester to cotton, ushering in a grand performance owing to the players’ newfound ability to stay cool during sweaty games played in the summer’s heat. Of course, switching to cotton had limited success, as only one wash caused the uniforms to shrink, constricting the players in the following game, rendering them unable to move effectively. Maybe there’s something to polyester after all.
Still, uniforms are important. Not a substitute for talent or skill, a proper uniform does draw additional attention to a team, and certainly helps move merchandise. Diehard fans can only buy so many jerseys, but if a team really wants to rake in the dough, allowing supporters to look cute in team apparel is an important asset. Furthermore, uniforms spark conversation and emotional memories. Uniforms are a topic that weaves into a conversation reminiscing about Larry Bird and Magic Johnson’s Indiana State, Michigan State rivalry as tightly as the woven fabric of the oh-so-very short shorts donned by collegiate players at the time. Would a basketball player’s shorts by any other length still be shorts? Well, we finally have a recession to be excited about because shorts are shorts again! Giddyap.
It’s important to understand how we got to such a precarious position with players tripping over their baggy shorts to begin with. How do we go from the immodest cheek-huggers of yesteryear to banning any part of the thigh from seeing some action? Exchanging shorts for drapes, the freshman class of Michigan in 1991, the Fab Five, as they were known, which included Chris Webber and Jalen Rose, holds much of the blame. Soon, other teams followed suit, introducing baggier and baggier shorts to the delight of fabric salespeople everywhere. The 90s was full of fashion faux pas. This certainly ranks near the top of the list.
Indiscretions of the nineties aside, as a consumer and purveyor of sport, this trend of lengthy, droopy shorts should have been nixed from the beginning, but soon, free flowing fabric became the norm rather than the exception. Unkempt, college players took to the courts, accepting the baggy shorts, despite the logical fallacy. Swimmers, for important meets, drop suit sizes, squeezing into tight suits to improve performance. Could you even fathom a gymnast taking to the pommel horse with a leotard that drags? Would an Olympic runner opt for heavier shorts, or lighter shorts reminiscent of the shorts donned by Larry Bird himself? Why, then, would athletes in the arena of basketball be the exception? Certainly, if other athletes at peak performance opt for more streamlined attire, basketball players would also find improvement in performance by reducing unnecessary drag. Fortunately for both fans’ eyes and players’ comfort and performance, this realization is finally coming.
From a fashion standpoint, Mark-Evan Blackman, assistant professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York took note of a trend of shorter shorts increasing in popularity among athletes, told the New York Times of longer shorts, “That’s the antithesis of fashion. I’m glad to say goodbye.”
Certainly, fashion experts will not drive the change here if players are not ultimately on board. Before last year’s NCAA tournament, players for Michigan were profiled in the New York Times for abandoning the baggy shorts of their predecessors, even rolling the waistband of their shorts to decrease the length further. Unclear at the time of this piece, however, was if this trend of short shorts would take hold. Indeed, it’s a trend that seems to be growing in popularity.
Trevor Anderson, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who is making his Badger debut this season after sitting out last year due to his transfer from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, is fully in support of the trend of short shorts, both for looks and comfort. “I like the way it looks,” Anderson said of his short preference, “It makes you feel lighter.” Anderson, who as a true freshman averaged 9.8 points per game for UW-Green Bay before suffering a season-ending back injury is ready to enjoy a return to the court, bearing his thighs.
A player’s shorts touch, and are touched by, more than just the player who wears them. Brent Tonsoni, student manager for Indiana State University Men’s Basketball, says he was never a fan of long, baggy shorts. In addition to thinking shorter options look better, Tonsoni says, “This year, most of our guards chose to wear mediums instead of larges,” adding from his conversations with the players that it feels “more smooth and easier to run if the shorts aren’t baggy and long.” Tonsoni also points out that all of their players are given tights, given a choice between three-quarter and full-length tights. “It’s not just short shorts. It’s short shorts with tights, which gives it an updated and better look,” remarked Tonsoni.
Along with player comfort and performance, fans have responded well to short shorts. Avid fan of Marquette Basketball, Donovan Lyon stated he was fully and unequivocally in support of short shorts.
As seasons change, so does fashion. The dark, misguided era of bagginess seems to be on the verge of becoming nothing more than a memory, and a much happier era of unbridled thighs is upon us.
By: Dan Burkett