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FASHION POLICE

Summer Wear: The Short List

April 30, 1999|JEANNINE STEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Summer is only a few weeks away, and that can only mean one thing: People will be wearing less--a potentially frightening prospect. Some recent questions regarding shorts and sandals came our way, so grab a glass of lemonade, put on the Beach Boys and read on:

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Dear Fashion Police: I'm pretty much fashion-unconscious but trying to improve. I was puzzled about a recent statement in your column about the combination of shorts, sandals and dark socks. I accept what you said, but exactly which part(s) is (are) so terrible? For example, would shorts, sandals and light socks be OK, which is perhaps what is implicit in what you wrote? Or is it just socks of any kind with sandals that's very bad? Or should sandals not be worn with shorts? Please help!

--WILLING STUDENT

Dear Will: We apologize for causing so much confusion. With warm weather coming, it's a good time to go over the basics of acceptable shorts-and-footwear combinations for men; a sort of Shorts 101 for the puzzled.

Shorts should hit from mid-thigh to the middle of the knee. We prefer some bagginess; leave the Spandex to the triathletes.

As for footwear, sandals are OK, but keep the flip-flops for the beach. Nix the socks, dark or otherwise. And those backless sandals we've seen students wearing with socks? Yuck. Too sloppy.

Various kinds of sandals send different messages. Birkenstocks say, "I'm a sensitive guy who always recycles." Fisherman sandals say, "I've been to Europe--or at least I watch the Travel Channel a lot." And those black rubber things with the nylon straps say, "I know these are ugly, but I really don't care how I look."

Please remember to do a foot check before you venture out into public. We don't want to get too graphic--just do some maintenance.

Shorts can also be worn with high- or low-top sneakers and white socks.

Some men like the sockless Topsiders or loafers look; that's only allowed if your name is Biff, Kip or Chip, or if you prepped at Exeter, or if you own a yacht.

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Dear Fashion Police: You had comments awhile back that had to do with wearing shorts. I had to do the coat and tie routine for 35 years in the corporate world. For the last 25 years, I've worn Ocean Pacific shorts out to [social] dinners. Now that I am retired (for the last five years) I don't own a pair of [long] pants. I have no problem with a nice sport shirt and shorts in the best restaurants. This is Southern California--enjoy and relax!

--PANTLESS

Dear Pantless: In all our time on the Fashion Police force, we have never before heard from a grown man crowing about not owning a pair of trousers.

And to think the younger generation gets blamed for so many fashion evils.

If you lived on a secluded tropical island, we'd applaud your decision to chuck the suits and the wingtips--but you don't. You reside in a crowded metroplex where considerate people dress appropriately for various places and occasions. Having worn a coat and tie for more than three decades doesn't earn you points in the frequent shorts-wearing program.

You may not have a problem with wearing a sport shirt and shorts in the "best restaurants" (and we're curious how you define "best"), but we do, and we're sure other patrons do as well. Dressing appropriately is about respecting your fellow human beings, not thumbing your nose at manners and common courtesy for the sake of being comfortable, retired or not.

What will you do if you're invited to a wedding or attend a funeral? If you decide to go to the theater? Haul out the OPs?

Do yourself--and the rest of us--a favor and get thee to a men's store. Humanity will thank you for it.

Write to Fashion Police, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, fax to (213) 237-4888, or send e-mail to socalliving@latimes.com.

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