LEGS FOR DAYS
Raven Smith – a champion of shorts – looks forward to long, hot days and leg liberation
Winter is a time of great garments: cabled jumpers with rolled necks; legs double-wrapped in thermals and denim; occasional muffs. But under the cocoon of warmth, my ashy skin dreams of summer. Of long days by the lapping water with a well-thumbed paperback and a wet top lip. Of balmy evenings nursing a cool aperitivo. Of olives for dinner and occasional, accidental nights of dancing to house anthems and sipping from a fishbowl of watered-down ouzo in a cheap club.
As the temperature soars, fashion transitions – like a high-school movie when the girl in glasses goes to prom. We spring into shorts, we shimmy into swimmers. I yearn for a hat that shades the beating sun, the thin lick of a cotton T-shirt. Summer is a time of pedalos and pedicures and peeling shoulders and, of course, legs.
Last summer, I tried to get everyone to nickname me ‘The Legs’, but apparently you can’t self-assign a nickname. That’s not how they work. But suffice to say I love my legs. They’re just so great: functional limbs that become ornamental as the temperature rises. Winter legs are a Christmas tree in the attic waiting to be rescued for the appropriate season. That flank of leg, from the leather of a strappy sandal to the radius of a short short, carries us through the hottest days all the way to the beach and back to the villa… 34 inches of unapologetic midsummer.
Suffice to say I love my legs. They’re just so great: functional limbs that become ornamental as the temperature rises.
The small window of British summertime is where legs come into their own. But there are myriad ways to get it wrong. Cheap swimmers that fade instantly in the sun like a reverse Polaroid are a travesty, as are shorts that show the outline of your gonads. Too long and they’re capris, and you look trapped in 90s Glastonbury.
British guys are understandably averse to a bit of leggage: cue repressed memories about the knobbly knees of school PE before leg day was invented. But there’s hope if you cop good-quality short trousers and style them with confidence. I prefer my summer shorts with my normal trainers and white socks, a step away from winter without the near-nudeness summer fits can force.
Everyone wants to be Dickie Greenleaf, because he was rich and had his own place in Italy. But if you can let go of the obsession with keeping your clothes in pristine condition, then shorts are the gift that keeps on giving. Nothing feels as good as walking up the beach with a long-sleeved shirt thrown over your shorts, ice cream Jackson Pollocking your chest.
Our legs – those calf-y, thigh-y, knee-y beasts – are our tool in the fight against the emotional turmoil of winter. A lick of moisturiser and we’re away.
Raven Smith is a freelance creative director and writer, and a Vogue columnist.