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Are Shorts ever Appropriate for Men?

Hello TIA,

I think I have read everything on your website looking for an answer to this question, but I cannot find it.  Is there ever an appropriate occasion for men to wear shorts, such as while doing manual labor?

In the 21st Chapter of Saint John’s gospel, was Saint Peter in his loin cloth or something similar to what we call shorts while fishing in the boat. Would an example like this point to there being appropriate cases in Antiquity where it was appropriate to wear shorts while doing manual labor out at sea and apart from females?

Thank you very much for all of your writing and research contributions.


TIA responds:

Hello B.W.,

Although we have not addressed in detail this particular question about the appropriateness of shorts for men, we have answered similar questions here and here. We have also criticized this trend throughout our website and in numerous articles, either markedly or in passing: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Nevertheless, we thank you for giving us the opportunity to analyze the topic in further detail here.

For an encompassing answer, we believe the best way is to see how the clothing customs for men of our Catholic past developed (see also here, here, here, here, here, and here), how they were attacked and, finally, how they were almost completely destroyed by the Revolution in our days.

Dignified clothes in the West

Greek and Roman soldiers

Above, Greek & Roman soldiers, below left, a 8th century Frank soldier, right, a 13th century one

Medieval soldiers
Although man's legs do not attract per se, we observe in History that there was a increased tendency to cover them as an expression of dignity. So, in the Ancient times, we can see the uniforms of Greek and Roman soldiers were a type of above-the-knee kilt. As the Catholic Church preached the good news of Jesus Christ, the customs became more and more civilized and the uniforms tended to cover the warriors' legs - see pictures at right.

The progress of Catholic Civilization, however, was not the only factor for covering man's legs. Indeed, even in the Ancient times we know that Assyrian soldiers as well as Mongol, Chinese and Japanese soldiers wore long uniforms either to cover their legs from the lower temperatures of their countires or more protection in the battlefied. Nonetheless, we sustain that the progress of the Catholic Faith in the West had as a byproduct the greater dignification of the customs of society, reflected in the military uniforms.

During the last millennium we can say that with few exceptions – the Scottish and the Gurkha warriors – all the nations that integrated in Western Civilization adopted the customs to cover soldiers' legs.

Further, as a reflection of the civilized customs, the military uniforms in the West reached a great splendor in the 19th century. After World War I, however, they started to quickly decay and assume different fashions, one less dignified than the other.

Such a decadence followed the march of the Revolution, which spread egalitarianism and vulgarity as much as possible. The military uniforms follow suit in this fall.

A short history of shorts

Shorts, as we know them today, appeared in the early 1900’s, a time when Catholic morals were being rejected and many people, excited by the advances in technology and science, were open to modernity and extravagance.


Burma military police, 1911, 1930 & WWII; below, British adopt shorts for the 1st Bermuda volunteer corps

british military corp
The Gurkhas were always fierce soldiers. For historical reasons, they, like the Scotts, kept their uniform short, showing their legs.

It was actually Gurkha soldiers from the Nepalese army who became a model for the revolutionary English men to introduce that short uniform into the Western world.

In the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814-1816) the British admired the Gurkha fighting spirit so much that when the Treaty of Sugauli was signed in 1816, the Nepalese were allowed to enlist and fight for the British Army. Not only the men – but also their shorts – entered the British forces. (1)

It is not surprising that the English, whose bad tendency was often a love of extravagance, might copy and adopt this Gurkha style for their uniforms. It is not, however, one that should be accepted by the Catholic world, because it lacks the dignity and high standards of Catholic decorum of the Western military dress.

Thus did the British military uniform begin to adopt the shorts in hotter climates, such as in the Bermudas. From there it spread to the civil society. The English military introduced the same "Bermuda" in his golf and tennis clubs. The Revolution saw there a way to break the dignity of the masculine dresses and made of it a fashion.

One concession follows another

When one concession is allowed, the boundaries quickly dissolve, and by the 1920’s men’s shorts were becoming a widespread fashion for tourists in warmer climates. Bermuda was one of these destinations where shorts worn by soldiers became business attire. This is the origin of the popular “Bermuda shorts.”


Young men sporting shorts with formal wear in the 1950s

By the 1920’s, shorts were replacing longer pants in sports clothes, from hiking to golf to tennis. At first, they were restricted only to private use. Gradually, they became acceptable to wear in public sports, though not without causing scandal to traditional-minded persons.

Until the 1950’s shorts were still mostly frowned upon for daily wear; some conservative American States even went so far as to ban the wearing of shorts in public. But the trend toward the casual won the day, and shorts began to be seen everywhere: the home, the shopping center, the office and even in the church…

It is easy to see that what started as a military concession to comfort in hot climates became a lauded right claimed by all men everywhere for the sake of their own personal comfort, and to fit in the revolutionary trend. It started as an exception to the rule and became the rule...


1890's Lederhosen, below-the-knee style

The traditional attire of Germany, known as Lederhosen (leather pants), were originally longer and more loosely fitting leather pantaloons, rather than the better known above-the-knee and tight-fitting hosen often seen today.

It is not our intention to discuss the origin of the Lederhosen here, but surely the ideal costume would keep the hosen below the knee with stockings covering the remainder of the leg (the standard style maintained up until the 18th century).

We have not found any other Western culture that includes shorts in their traditional attire, so one can infer that shorts are a modern fashion that became popular in the 1900s.

With this brief history of shorts, we hope that our readers can readily affirm that shorts should be rejected by Catholics. Their usage led to the loss of dignity man owes to himself, God and his neighbor, and contributed to the downward slide into the casual, egalitarian and vulgar clothing for men that had triumphed by the end of the 20th century.

St. Peter in shorts?

In answer to your inquiry on St. Peter in shorts, let us look at the conditions of the time.

peter on water

St. Peter traditionally pictured in the smock-style undergarment

The Jews at the time of Our Lord and from Antiquity were very concerned about modesty, often more so than the Romans, who would wear short tunics, as we mentioned, in contrast to the long robes of the Jews.

Nudity was always regarded as shameful, and a man would be considered “nude” when clad only in the tunic undergarment that extended to mid-calf (note that this is much longer than the modern men's’ shorts).

In the Gospel passage where St. Peter is fishing and sees Our Lord, it reads: “Simon Peter, when he heard that it was the Lord, girt his coat about him, (for he was naked,) and cast himself into the sea.” (Jn 21:7) Reliable Catholic scholars agree that Peter was not actually naked, but rather was wearing only an undergarment. The “coat” used in this translation most likely referred to the outer mantle that Jews wore over their tunic undergarment.

We do not believe that that situation in which St. Peter wore an undergarment for his work should be taken as a model for today's men to wear a similar apparel in society or in his work. 


Distinguished uniforms for officers & sailors

Even though the sailor’s work is very hard on clothing, under the good mores of Christian Civilization, sailor’s uniforms developed that fully clothed the body and even looked quite distinguished. In the modern world, the Navy of every country developed a dignified uniform that was worn even when out on the sea.

The traditional Peacoat of the 19th century American and English sailors even became a respectable coat for a layman’s daily wear.

Even pirates in the 1700’s wore striking clothing when aboard their vessels. In short, we cannot find any excuse for the modern sailor or fisherman to wear shorts.

As we reach the end of this answer, we reafirm that we do not agree with the modern trend toward men wearing shorts for either comfort or working reasons. It was not a part of the customs of Christendom, and we believe it will not be a part of the future Reign of Mary.

We hope this explanation answers your question.


     TIA correspondence desk

Dignified dress even for simple fishermen


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted December 14, 2021



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