Whenever I’ve read about people having a “favorite pair of jeans” I’ve always felt a mixture of confusion and incredulity. I personally have two pairs of jeans as far as I know: the dark ones that mated or otherwise reproduced because now I have about five pair when I can only remember buying one, and the light ones with the blood stains. The dark jeans all look the same to me, so if I had to pick “a favorite pair of jeans” like Esquire and GQ and Seventeen Magazine suggest everyone must have, it’d have to be the pair with the bloodstains. The blood is mercifully on the outside of the leg saving me from most period jokes but nevertheless I can’t really wear them out in polite company. However, when I forget I always enjoy telling a story about a receiving various injuries from glancing blows with broken bottles during barfights or chance encounters with a rare Appalachian Mountain lynx or being grazed by a birdshot after being caught escaping out the window of a preacher’s daughter. Since these jeans are beginning to get tattered and as much as high school kids would like to deny it (I think?), tattered denim died with Kurt Cobain. So I’ve decided to do the unthinkable: turn my bloodstained jeans into jean shorts, known colloquially as “jorts.”
Jean shorts seem so despised within the male fashion community that most mainstream outlets refuse to even acknowledge their existence. In preparation for my journey into jortsdom, I decided to take a brief look at the history of the garment, focusing on Bobby Weir, the man who might as well have invented the jean short since God himself, with the finest cloth available in the heavens, denim woven from clouds and the wings of angels, could not have tailored a finer pair of jean shorts.
For those of you who don’t know, Bobby Weir was a rhythm guitarist and vocalist for the Grateful Dead. He still tours today with Bob Weir & Ratdog and other acts, only sans jorts. During a press conference for the opening of the Grateful Dead Museum in San Fran, Bobby was asked to tell the story behind his jorts; he claims they were originally jeans that (like most of the fans) got so dirty and faded on tour that he decided to cut them off and let those gams breathe during hot summer shows. And so the jorts took on a life of their own for over a decade from the early 80s until the end in the 90s.
Above is a video of the jorts in action (and a pretty good rendition of Throwing Stones). You can see that the mobility of the jorts are well suited to his style of playing guitar, raising and stomping a leg when hitting a chord. I love Bobby in that video because, with his Marilyn Monroe tee shirt and jean shorts, he’s got the sartorial flare of a co-ed on spring break with the bluesy voice of a bearded black man sitting on a bench outside a rural gas station in Mississippi playing the harmonica and wearing overalls.
As Bobby Weir or Lt. Jim Dangle of the Reno Sheriff’s Department will tell you, jorts offer unparalleled mobility. They also keep your legs cool and allow a healthy flow of air up into your undercarriage, providing amazing comfort when belting out vocals, chasing down crooks on Comedy Central or just hangin’ out with the boys.
Speaking of “hanging out with the boys,” jean shorts aren’t just for comfort and mobility, they’re also a rare treat for the ladies. While men are treated to an occasional nip slip or crotch shot, there’s not much of an opportunity for men to have a wardrobe malfunction. The worst that can happen is a hapless zipper left open which, in most cases, is blocked by a secondary flap which has saved many a man from the pain of getting his steer slammed in the ol’ barn door. Jean shorts, however, are usually worn commando and thus afford ladies trying to catch a glimpse of what God gave ya’ a fighting chance of seeing the rare wild trouser snake in it’s natural habitat.
Anyway, it’s still a few months until summer so I have some time to decide if I have the body or balls (literally and figuratively) to pull off jorts. If you see a blinding white light this April, it’ll be the sun shining off my paper white thighs as I don my jorts for the first seasonably warm day of summer.