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Bermuda Shorts in the Office
You may have heard of Bermuda's peculiar business fashion, and you may even have seen pictures of businessmen in shorts and long socks, but nothing can quite prepare you for the first sighting. First-time visitors have been spotted sniggering in shop doorways after discovering the bottom half of a blazer-and-tie-clad executive on his cell phone. After all, where else in the world could he walk into a boardroom wearing bright-pink shorts without anyone batting an eyelid? Only in Bermuda. These unique, all-purpose garments, however flamboyantly dyed, are worn with complete seriousness and pride. Bermudians would go so far as to say it's the rest of the world that is peculiar, and they have a point—particularly in the steaming humidity of the summer months.
What is surprising is how the original khaki cutoffs evolved into formal attire. They were introduced to Bermuda in the early 1900s by the British military, who adopted the belted, baggy, cotton-twill version to survive the sweltering outposts of the Empire. By the 1920s Bermudian pragmatism and innovation were at play as locals started chopping off their trousers at the knees to stay cool. Tailors seized on the trend and started manufacturing a smarter pair of shorts, and men were soon discovering the benefits of a breeze around the knees.
But for an island that has a love affair with rules there was always going to be a right and a wrong way to wear this new uniform. Bermudas had to be worn with knee-high socks, and a jacket and tie were the only acceptable way of dressing them up for business. But it didn't stop there. Obsession with detail prevailed, fueled by gentlemen who were disturbed at the unseemly shortness of other men's shorts. A law was passed to ensure propriety, and the bizarre result was patrolling policemen, armed with tape measures and warning tickets, scouring the capital for men showing too much leg. Officially, shorts could be no more than 6 inches above the knee, while 2 to 4 was preferable.
Other rigid but unwritten rules made it unheard of to wear them in hotel dining rooms after 6 pm or in churches on Sunday morning, and even to this day they are out of bounds in the Supreme Court, although in 2000, legislation was changed to allow them to be worn, even by ministers, in the House of Assembly. Viewed as conservative and respectable menswear for almost any occasion, they can be seen paired with tuxedo jackets and are even acceptable (provided they are black) at funerals.
But if Bermuda shorts are practical, smart dress for men, where does that leave the island's women during the sticky summer months? Wearing brightly colored cotton dresses and skirts, it would seem. Shorts are not considered ideal business wear for women and are only really acceptable on the beach and while shopping (but again, not if they're skimpy). In a country where pink is a man's color and men's bare legs are all but mandatory for six months of the year, perhaps the men feel the need to stamp their masculine pride on their pants.
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