Walking through our local Dick’s Sporting Goods store, I noticed a display for running gear featuring shorts with three different inseam lengths: 5″, 7″ and 9″.
That might not mean much to most runners. But having emerged from the era when male runners mostly wore shorts with 1″ inseams, it spoke volumes.
I clearly recall when the running short culture began to change. I actually blame/credit basketball superstar Michael Jordan for causing shorts to lengthen. When he entered the NBA, basketball shorts were high enough to expose the entire thigh of the players. But for whatever reason, players like Jordan preferred longer shorts. And when Michael Jordan made a move in those days, people followed.
That had a cumulative effect on the entire fashion industry when it came to short lengths. Even the length of Bermuda shorts for casual wear evidenced what I’d call the Jordan Effect. They grew longer. Like, 1950s longer.
That meant that running shorts started to cover the thighs as well. As the trend took hold, I found it absurd to see high school runners traipsing around the cross country course in what looked like abbreviated pajamas. At the height of my racing career, I wanted nothing on the legs that might restrict my stride, cause more weight or create more wind resistance. Running a half marathon in the wind was hard enough without having a pair of sails flapping around your thighs.
I know that fashions go back and forth. But it looks like there’s a middle-of-the-road compromise taking place in the running world. Men can now choose what length of running shorts they want to wear. To some degree, that’s true for women too. But mostly it seems that women are allowed (even encouraged) to expose their thighs while running. But the sight of a man’s thighs in public still causes some people to blanche.
That’s particularly true for men of a certain age or older. I suppose it’s not so pretty to see the often pale and wrinkly thighs of an aging runner out there on the streets. Those of us that have lived through forty years of fashion changes in running shorts will probably have to satisfy ourselves with memories of fast days speeding down the road in short shorts. I loved the Salazar line of running wear for that reason. Just a shiny tech layer of material to cover your crotch and buns and away you go.
The thighs have it tough these days when it comes to what is appropriate wear for running. But maybe we’ve come far enough to live and let live. Thigh certainly hope so.