Are Jorts Fashion’s Most Divisive Piece of Clothing? An Investigation

Eight writers weigh in on the surprisingly controversial subject of jean shorts, most commonly referred by the portmanteau “jorts.” Finally, we can settle the immortal question: Are jorts chic?

This weekend, thousands of concert-goers will descend upon the California desert for the 2017 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, bringing with them crop-tops, sensible shoes, and lots and lots of jorts. A portmanteau of “jeans” and “shorts,” jorts are a staple of any festival setting, as well as a summer favorite for men and women alike. The most traditional kind come mid-length and medium wash, though longer versions have been making a comeback lately thanks to the likes of Kim Kardashian and Gigi Hadid, and, of course, there will always be the case for Daisy Dukes (in the appropriate setting, of course). But it begs the question: Are jorts chic? Do they belong in the fashion vernacular? And what’s more: should they be celebrated? The results may not be a straightforward as you think. Here, eight writers attempt to answer an immortal sartorial question.

Jorts Are the Best. Period.

Lauren McCarthy: Twelve days ago, I had an existential crisis about jorts.

Let me paint the scene. It was a Monday afternoon, and I was in the midst of a long weekend in Florida to celebrate a friend’s birthday and do my most sensible recreation of Spring Breakers (Hi, Mom). We were sitting on the beach, contemplating second margaritas, when my phone pinged with a message from W‘s Slack: “Thoughts on doing a jorts roundtable?” The idea had stemmed from an image of Kim Kardashian West (a personal favorite of mine—another think-piece for another day) wearing a pair of knee-length Bermuda jean shorts.

I was ecstatic. I love jorts. Let me say that again: I loooooooove jorts. To quote Woody Allen, love is too weak a word for my feelings towards jorts. For as long as I can remember, they have been a major part of my life. Unlike other fashion items I’ve loved, I cannot pinpoint exactly when they came into my life—there’s no “Rosebud” moment, if you will, no one celebrity paparazzi shot or runway look. And perhaps that’s why unlike, say, maxi skirts or cargo pants, jorts have been a constant in my wardrobe for well over decade. They are not trend, but rather, timeless. In my mind, jorts are a classic fashion item beloved by all—no woman’s closet is complete without.

This all came crashing down when the first follow-up to the roundtable proposition came through. It read, simply, “Ew.” It was as if the world had stopped. Suddenly, everything I knew to be true and sacred was gone. Was I to understand that jorts were not universally renowned as oh-so-chic? As the subsequent opinions filtered in, the answer was clear: jorts are, in fact, a very controversial topic.

I was shook. I cycled through the stages of grief: denial (“You guys must be confused—are we talking about the same thing?”); anger (“You are all wrong and stupid.”); bargaining (“Okay, but what about when Kate Moss wears them to Glastonbury?”); depression (“My whole life is a lie and my summer wardrobe is garbage.”) Finally, I have now arrived at acceptance. Not everyone needs to love jorts as much I as do; in fact it’s probably for the best. And I can live with the fact that not everyone thinks my summer wardrobe of a t-shirt, jorts, and ankle-boots isn’t the pinnacle of high fashion—it’s not! But it makes me happier than any designer item du jour, with memories of sun, sitting in Central Park, going to Governor’s Ball, dancing in hidden basement bars. And that’s good enough for me.

Jorts Are the Worst. Period.

Caroline Grosso: Jorts. It is not that I’m against wearing denim shorts; I think just about every piece of clothing has a time and a place (and sometimes, it can even have a whole decade). But that word conjures images of girls at Coachella squeezing themselves into stretch-denim cut-offs, where for some reason or another, the hem on one leg rides up higher than the other leg, and every time they stand up they inevitably have to bend over forward and tug on one side, or they have to do a small squat and use their two pointer fingers to pull their jorts out of their bum. Not pretty, and not chic—just like the word—jorts. You know how some people get weird about the word moist? That’s me and jorts.

Now, Coachella-goer, I’m not here to rain on your parade. I’m just here to offer a few little tips and suggestions of some new jorts alternatives to buy this festival season. For the sake of my sanity, let’s not let the pockets on your shorts hang out below the hemline (or for that matter, please don’t wear shorts so distressed that I see your pockets through the holes). Throw away the jorts that are more elastic than denim. Perhaps try a board, short-length denim short. Try a tailored dark denim short. Take a cue from Kiernan Shipka at Coachella last year—and she was very ‘chella, wearing embroidered butterflies on her denim—but she, and her shorts, looked tailored and put together.

So, for once and for all, let’s never use the word jorts again, and if you are as tired of barely-there denim cut-offs as I am, here are some jort alternatives to wear this festival season.

21 Chic Alternatives to Jorts, Just In Time For Coachella

Victoria, Victoria Beckham printed ‘Palm Springs’ canvas shorts, $320,

Sonia Rykiel lace-up linen blend shorts, $473,

Isabel Marant Oscar tie-waist cotton shorts, $270,

Dodo Bar Or Moav shorts, $195,

A.P.C. indigo denim shorts, $165,

Saint Laurent high-rise denim shorts, $590,

Rockins high-rise hem-slit denim shorts, $280,

Amapo high-waist dark denim shorts, $95,

Keji wrap-effect blue denim shorts, $365,

MSGM ruffled-hem black denim shorts, $172,

Marc Jacobs classic raw-edge mini skirt, $495,

Frame rigid re-release Le High Mini, $225,

Bassike denim skirt, $280,

J.W. Anderson asymmetric ruffled denim midi skirt, $450,

AG Jeans Sydney dress in renewal, $245,

Givenchy overalls in dark blue denim, $1,490,

Stella McCartney denim playsuit, $945,

Current/Elliot Jamie denim playsuit, $375,

Valentino Jamaica butterflies embroidered jeans, $1,434,

See by Chloe, $296, square-neck seersucker jumpsuit, $296,

Sportmax red jumpsuit, $965,


Jorts Made Kim Kardashian More Relatable Than She’s Ever Been

Katherine Cusumano: There’s a certain comfort in riffing on a look that you know has its desired effect. It might be a pair of jeans you wear one too many times during the same week because, for a few days, they fit in all the right places. Or perhaps it’s a dress that isn’t yet weather-appropriate, but that reminds you of a person, a place, a feeling. So, you press on forward. And for a week in September, it seemed Kim Kardashian, a woman whose supernatural foresight and strategic acumen led her to video-tape a phone call between her husband Kanye West, Rick Rubin, and Taylor Swift, could fall prey to these same fashion whims as the rest of us. (When you’re the subject of such intense paparazzi scrutiny as a Kardashian, you become something of an expert image-maker, and no sartorial choice goes un-analyzed.)

She adopted a uniform during the Spring 2017 fashion season, opting alternately for thigh-high slouch boots or knee-length shorts with bodysuits. In the thick of New York Fashion Week, and mere days before the now-infamous Yeezy Season 4 show, Kardashian ventured out to the spa with La La Anthony, wife of Carmelo Anthony, in one such ensemble. Kardashian’s was the least-cool look in the world, the ultimate mom look, until, simply because it was Kim Kardashian, it wasn’t: a ribbed bodysuit tucked into knee-length black denim cutoffs, Manolo Blahnik sandals, and one of those ubiquitous Vetements bombers pushed just off her shoulders. Just the previous day, she’d worn knee-length bike shorts with a corset and an overgrown silk varsity jacket — more cloak than jacket, if we’re being honest. Her jorts were a subtle variant on that tried-and-tested look, splicing together different elements to create a similar impression. At the time, I imagined, maybe Kardashian just felt good in knee-length shorts and bodysuits as the New York temperatures crept upwards of 80 degrees. We’ve all been there. But ultimately, Kim isn’t just like us—because in jorts, she managed to turn the ultimate mom look into the ultimate cool mom look. Street style has Kim to blame for the jorts Renaissance.

Andre Agassi: King of Jorts

Fan Zhong: As a man who goes to an office building every day, I have a tradition: Every summer, as New York becomes a sweaty, gross bath, I seek out shorts that are workplace-appropriate, without being over-fussy and ultimately self-defeating. Every summer, I fail. Which is why I come here to celebrate Andre Agassi, who wore teeny, tiny jorts with an elastic waist to his place of work: the 1998 U.S. Open. This was during Agassi’s wild-mane phase, of course (or should we say his wild-maned toupee phase?). And while I’m not really sure how he performed during that tournament, I would venture to say that his match results are completely irrelevant. We know what the real outcome was: This was the first recorded sighting of athleisure.

Man Jorts Are A Particularly Tricky Puzzle

Kyle Munzenrieder: I hate to be a fashion absolutist, yet while trying to think of acceptable male jorts looks only a few seem to come to mind. 1) The standard hipster jorts look. You know, with thigh-hugging dark washed skinny jorts folded to just above the knee with a faded band t-shirt and canvas sneakers. A look perfectly inoffensive for anyone who just rode in on a fixie. 2) Maybe that thing where you’re really committed to giving off a free spirited ‘70s bisexual vibe, with jeans cut short (by yourself, of course, with stray hanging threads to prove it) with ample thigh showing, worn with a printed short sleeve button up left mostly undone and, probably a mustache. A strong look, but if that’s your thing, well you do you. More power to you. 3) Oh, and Pharrell Williams in jorts, but only Pharrell Williams.

Otherwise I’m just imagining blue jorts horror stories (many from growing up in Florida, man shorts capital of the country): A Gators jersey tucked into loose, long jorts and worn with Tevas; the German dad who didn’t want to spend any money on new clothes before his family Ft. Lauderdale beach vacation; comically objectified man in a Dixie Chicks video; someone who spent $1,500 on a paintball gun; Kevin Smith at a gas station.

The truth is that jorts can go very wrong, very quickly. While both jeans and regular shorts are meant to be relatively casual and easy to wear with anything, somehow the combination of both presents a style challenge far riskier than its worth. There’s just so many variables to consider between length, tightness, and wash, all of which can contribute to making everything look so wrong. It’s just not worth it. Ask yourself before trying to pull off jorts, “Wouldn’t this just look better with regular shorts?” The answer in 95 percent of cases is probably “yes.” Even a Gators jersey and Tevas become somehow slightly more redeemable worn with a simple khaki short. If you’re not about trying too hard in the summer but still want to look decent, pick up a few pairs of (non-cargo) regular shorts. Leave jorts to men who are really particularly committed to solving the styling puzzle jorts inevitably present.

From Taylor Swift to Victoria Beckham, Celebrities Love Jorts

Alexa Chung wears jorts while attending Glastonbury in 2010.

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Emma Watson wears jorts while attending Glastonbury Festival in 2010.

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Beyonce wears jorts for an appearance on MTV.

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Agyness Deyn wears jorts while out and about in London in 2008.

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Victoria Beckham wears jorts while out and about in New York City in 2010.

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Lana Del Rey wears jorts to perform at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2012.

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Candice Swanepoel wears jorts while out and about in Miami in 2013.

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Jennifer Aniston wears jorts while out and about in New York City in 2013.

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Rihanna wears jorts while out and about in New York City in 2013.

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Miranda Kerr wears jorts while arriving at a Japan airport in 2013.

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Gisele Bundchen wears jorts while out and about in Boston in 2014.

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Jennifer Lawrence wears jorts while out in New York City in 2015.

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Chloe Sevigny wears jorts while out in New York in 2015.

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Dakota Fanning wears jorts while out in New York in 2015.

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Selena Gomez wears jorts while out in New York in 2015

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Lara Stone wears jorts while out in Paris in 2015.

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Ciara wears jorts while out in London in 2015.

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Taylor Swift wears jorts while out in New York City in 2014.

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Diane Kruger wears jorts to the 2015 Global Citizen Festival.

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Hailey Baldwin wears jorts while out in New York City in 2015.

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Cara Delevingne wears jorts while out in New York in 2015.

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Elizabeth Olsen wears jorts to an event in Los Angeles in 2015.

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Emily Ratajkowski wears jorts while out in New York in 2016.

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Lady Gaga wears jorts while out in New York in 2016.

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Gigi Hadid wears jorts while out in New York in 2016.

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Kendall Jenner wears jorts while out in New York in 2016.

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Kim Kardashian wears jorts while out in New York in 2016.

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Jorts Bring an Important Sense of Nostalgia That Should Be Celebrated

Gillian Sagansky: I bought my first pair of jorts from Abercrombie & Fitch. I was 15 years old, and snuck away to New Jersey with my friend and her too-cool-for-school mom for the weekend. Those first jorts were light blue and had a length comparable to boy shorts. Yes, like the underwear. My father would never have approved, which was all the approval I needed. I wore these shorts religiously for the next 5 years, which also happened to be my oversized vintage shirt phase, meaning my shirts draped over the shorts so I looked like I was never wearing pants. When I turned 21, I decided my Christina Aguilera days were over, and I bought a pair of black mid-thigh shorts from Courtshop, which laced up the side and were totally okay to wear in public. I knotted the ends with silver beads from India, and I wear them to this day.

Jorts Bring an Important Sense of Nostalgia That Is Best Left In the Past

Emilia Petrarca: I have a distinct memory of receiving money from my grandmother for my 19th birthday and deciding that the most logical way to spend it—all of it—was on the perfect pair of jorts. Summer was around the corner, and it was made clear to me by friends and fashionable strangers that jorts were just as necessary as water, air conditioning, and sunscreen. Maybe even more vital for a 19-year-old and soon-to-be college student, since none of the above garnered you popularity or male attention. When I finally found a pair that hugged my body just right (vintage Levis from What Goes Around Comes Around), I swallowed my dignity and dished out far too much cash for the far too little fabric that was still intact. But over the next four years and change, my purchase paid for itself. I wore that denim diaper until it literally unraveled on my body, from concerts to parties to all those pseudo-sexual picnics that take place in college. And to totally be honest, they 100-percent worked in the male attention department. The miracle of jorts is that they give every bony white girl a tush. Alas, since they disintegrated a year ago, I haven’t bought another pair. Maybe because I haven’t found a fit or cut that’s quite as perfect, but mostly because jorts remind me of a time in my life when I’d trade a perpetual wedgie for a compliment.

Why I’m Not Badass Enough to Wear Jorts

Sarah Leon: I have owned many pairs of jorts over the years—there are currently at least three pairs in my closet—but I’ve never really been able to own the look.

Now, I have always wanted to be the kind of easy, breezy girl who can just roll out of bed, throw on a tank top, tie my hair into a ponytail, and slip on a pair of perfectly worn in denim shorts. The aesthetic in mind? Think effortlessly grungy French girls, or Olivia Wilde in The O.C., or Olivia Wilde in Drinking Buddies. (Pretty much any Olivia Wilde, for that matter.) It’s cool, it’s messy, but best of all, it’s a little bit dangerous. But it’s just not who I am.

No, when I roll out of bed it’s a much more orchestrated affair. It’s an admittedly not quite high, nor not quite low, maintenance routine that says, “I will plan for my future. I care about back pain, and sun damage.” It’s not as cool, and Anna Kendrick would probably play me in a movie, but it is what I’m comfortable with.

When I wear denim shorts, I feel like a poseur. I’m neither a waifish French rocker chic nor an athletic California girl. I live in New York and dress like it, meaning jeans, t-shirts, dresses, and plenty of black. That’s dangerous enough for me.

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