I tried it: The day I wore ‘hoochie daddy shorts’

(Monique Wray for The Washington Post)
(Monique Wray for The Washington Post)
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Cold thighs on a hot day feels like a paradox. Or perhaps like a picnic spread with fried chicken from a cooler. But on May 21, as the temperature climbed to 88 degrees in Pittsburgh, I was possessed by an unusual feeling on my thighs. Maybe “cold” is hyperbole. Cold thighs on a hot day would suggest a serious circulation issue. Something in need of rheumatological intervention. But they did feel chilly.

I felt other unusual things there too. A light breeze. A drop of perspiration from my brow. A (presumably) hungry gnat. A spectacle of sensations due to a decision I made that morning, to put my slim-fitting, above-the-knee, Levi’s jean shorts on, and then cuff them so that they were (approximately) eight inches above my knee — creating a homemade version of what are now known as “hoochie daddy shorts.”

The etymological origin of hoochie daddy shorts is unclear. But the term entered our lexicon this spring to describe (presumably straight) men who’ve begun wearing form-fitting shorts that are short enough to reveal mid-to-upper thigh meat. (Which is something queer men have been doing, well, forever. But forgive us. We’re slow!) It’s a natural evolution of men’s fashion, where the loose and baggy clothes of the ’90s and early aughts have progressively given way, over the past 20 years, to slim, skinny and even asphyxiatingly snug fits. A glance at the NBA draft synopsizes this change. In 2003, the year future superstars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade were selected, they looked like sentient pinch pleat curtains about to arrest Al Capone. But if they were drafted in 2022, their suits would be tailored, their slacks would be tapered and their ankles and shins would be NC-17.

And while hoochie daddy shorts might be new to this generation, they’re not new. If you’re fortunate enough to have pictures of the 60- and 70-year-old men in your life from when they were in their 20s and 30s, you might see them in shorts so short they could be drawers. One of my favorite images from that era — and maybe my favorite of any era — is of Marvin Gaye and Jesse Jackson playing one-on-one. Both are wearing headbands, both look like extras on “American Bandstand,” and both are billboards for lavish leg meat.

Anyway, armed with the confidence of seeing dozens of contemporary men on social media revealing excessive thigh, I decided to try it myself. “If they can do it, so can I,” I thought to myself. (“How do you like them apples, Marvin Gaye?” I also thought, which might have just been the result of post-covid brain fog.) And then, two hours later, after venturing outside and running various errands, I had another thought: “Yeah ... this is paradoxical and anticlimactic.”

I anticipated catcalls, impromptu photoshoots, compliments on my “bravery,” invitations to secret societies and a cascade of hoochie daddies inviting me to hoop. Maybe I’d even encounter a hoochie daddy flash mob, and we’d frolic down the street together, eating tacos and crowding bike lanes. None of this happened.

I did not anticipate what actually happened, which is that having more exposed thigh meant that my thighs would be more exposed to the elements. With no fabric to protect me, my thighs got chilly. And then wet. And then ravaged by gnats. And then, when I got into my car, which was parked in the sun, it felt like I was sitting on lava. (For people who regularly sit bare thighs on hot car seats, is it something that hurts every time, like a tattoo? Or do you build up a gradual tolerance for fire on your glutes?)

Two hours later, after venturing outside and running various errands, I had another thought: “Yeah ... this is paradoxical and anticlimactic.”

Also, it felt like … hmmm. Have you ever joked “Get a room!” at someone being a bit too randy in public? It felt like the universe was telling my thighs to “Get a room!”

Other things it felt like the universe was telling me:

“Your wife said you left your zinc pills on the kitchen counter.”

“I told you not to skip leg day.”

“You are 43.”

That said, there were some unexpected benefits. I felt more evolved. Like I was the type of man who owned a monocle and only spoke in Shakespearean monologues, like Joe Morton on “Scandal.” I also felt taller. And, strangely, faster. Like the hoochie daddy shorts would’ve shaved a half-second off my 40 time.

Ultimately, I think straight men are overdue in freeing ourselves from the shackles of Holy Spirit-approved hemlines. Maybe the shortest of shorts aren’t for you, but our thighs should at least have options. Bare or covered. Regular or crispy. The customer is always right.

Would I do it again? Let me get back to you after I finish these squats.