I got legs, I don't know how to use 'em.
September 16, 2008 2:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm a guy who has ugly, pale legs and thus hasn't worn shorts in public since childhood. But living in a hot climate, I'd really like to be able to wear something besides jeans/pants in public without feeling insecure. What are your suggestions for alternatives to shorts that aren't pants but still keep most of my legs covered and where would I obtain said garment? Or might you have general advice about foregoing pants when you really, really don't like your legs?

Yes, I had a traumatic experience in elementary school when I wore shorts one day and a classmate made fun of me and my legs. Since then I've been very insecure about showing my legs in public. They are really pale, they rather resemble chicken legs in that they are a little fatty and ill-proportioned and are rather bumpy to top it off. And I'm quite tall, so they are very long. Also, I'm quite fair-skinned and can't tan, so giving them some sun won't really help.

A year or so ago I tried buying some casual cargo shorts from Aeropostale or some similar place, but had a hard time finding a style/size that would be long enough for me but not huge in the waist (I generally wear a 32x36 in jeans). And even if I had found the right size, I'd be much more comfortable wearing something that covers a little more of my legs than your average pair of shorts.

I'd perhaps like something that covers about 3/4 of the leg or so, which I sometimes see guys my age (college students) wearing. I just don't know what they might be called or where to find them.

Lastly, although I appreciate all suggestions, getting over my insecurity and "learning to love" my legs isn't really what I have in mind. I'm not there yet. Thanks, though!
posted by iamisaid to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (40 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You might take a look at hiking pants. They tend to be pretty thin and breathe really well. Look at sporting goods stores.
posted by valkyryn at 2:52 PM on September 16, 2008

Have you tried pants made from linen? I find them about as cool as shorts, but wrinkle-prone.
posted by exogenous at 2:56 PM on September 16, 2008

iamisaid posted "Or might you have general advice about foregoing pants when you really, really don't like your legs?"

Three or four shots of a good bourbon in quick succession will do wonders for overcoming insecurities. Careful not to go too far though, or you may find yourself shirtcocking.

Linen pants are nice and cool, but you have to iron them.
posted by mullingitover at 2:59 PM on September 16, 2008

Please do not wear manpris because you are shy about wearing shorts. Manpris require much more self-confidence than shorts to carry off correctly.

Lightweight pants, made of nylon or supplex (like hiking pants) or linen or lightweight cotton, are more likely to be to your taste.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:01 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

My husband is originally from Montana and we live in Louisiana. He too, was a short-hater. I got him hooked on linen cargo pants and I swear that's all he wears in the summer now. They are very cool and also have the added bonus of looking rather stylish. Pair them with a basic tee or a polo, and they look great for warm weather. Try Old Navy, their prices are good and the pants are well made.
posted by tryniti at 3:01 PM on September 16, 2008

Also, please do not wear a lunghi or sarong or whatever instead of shorts. That requires even more self-confidence than the manpris.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:02 PM on September 16, 2008

Kilt? Seriously, you have nothing to be afraid of. I recommend the microfiber cargo shorts they have at REI. They are pretty rugged and stand up to anything, they are my go-to for almost any activity, I even paint in them since they clean up really easily. Soon, you'll have a tan, and nothing to worry about.
posted by parmanparman at 3:04 PM on September 16, 2008

Yes, I had a traumatic experience in elementary school when I wore shorts one day and a classmate made fun of me and my legs.

For the record, that is Standard Operating Procedure. Everyone gets the haha-legs treatment, it wasn't really even about you.

Since then I've been very insecure about showing my legs in public.

That is over-reacting. This is what the other kids learned to do:
Start wearing shorts in non-public a few weeks beforehand.

You're legs aren't funny because they're funny, they funny because everyone's legs look pallid and funny when they've been out of the light under trousers for a year. You don't need a tan, you just need to let the light take away some of the pallor. If you want to speed up this process, then do things that will tan you, like doing some yard-work in shorts, or reading a book in the sun. Otherwise, just regular day to day stuff around the house will work over time.

Again, I must stress that teasing about legs was always and only the result of legs that had never seen the light of day suddenly being exposed for the first time (ie the first warm day of spring after a cold winter). Those same legs always looked perfectly normal and were never teased, a few weeks later. So don't worry about your legs, just give them some exposure around the house and then you can feel fine about doing the same in public.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:04 PM on September 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

I see a lot of guys wear 3/4 length pants (or manpris, preview-ously). The length generally goes right below the knees. I know H&M carries them during Spring & Summer seasons. Some of the 3/4 pants come in a cargo-ish style (if that's what you like) and I think are pretty easy fashion-wise to pull off.

The more urban-style stores carry long shorts of the not-cargo variety. You can take a look at those too but I'm not sure which places regularly carry them. I'd imagine Urban Outfitters has
posted by simplethings at 3:07 PM on September 16, 2008

Oh, I like manpris. (a rather dumb name for men's capris-length pants, but we go to the store with the English language we have, not the English language we want.)

I tend to buy pants second-hand, and cut them off a bit below the knee to make the length of shorts that I like. As long as you don't need to go anywhere fancy that frowns on raggedy hemlines, that'll work for toolin' around town.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:07 PM on September 16, 2008

go to a store that's cut european-style, like h&m (cheap) or thom browne (expensive), to find things that will fit you better. alternately: find things that are just the right length and slightly too loose and then just have a tailor take the waist in somewhat.

i'd love to poll all the men in my life about their legs because it seems like the ones that wear shorts just don't think twice about it: they just wear shorts, because it's hot out. the ones that never wear shorts think people are going to think weird things (too pale! too hairy! too skinny! too fat! too muscular!) about their legs if they do. honestly, as a man, if you're not an athlete or a model, no one is going to look at your legs long enough or care enough to form an opinion. the only reason i even notice who wears shorts and who doesn't is because the ones that don't get all hot and sweaty in the summer and make me feel uncomfortable through osmosis!
posted by lia at 3:11 PM on September 16, 2008

What about rolling up your jeans? When I don't feel like wearing shorts, I'll throw on a pair of jeans and roll them up to just under my knees.
posted by Geppp at 3:11 PM on September 16, 2008

p.s. what -harlequin- said.
posted by lia at 3:14 PM on September 16, 2008

Regardless of the clothing suggestion you follow, this is a great time for you to start working in the backyard wearing shorts, a little bit every day during daylight hours, to get some of the pale off. I was pale and pallid for the longest time, but after moving to a sunny climate I'm surprisingly dark. It may take a while, but everyone tans eventually.
posted by davejay at 3:15 PM on September 16, 2008

Nthing hiking pants. I have a lot of trouble finding them in the necessary 36" inseam/length, even more so than regular pants. Fortunately, most brands of hiking pants (especially Columbia's cotton pants) have ridiculous double rolled cuffs that can be let out to give you another 1.5".
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 3:17 PM on September 16, 2008

Also, I'm quite fair-skinned and can't tan, so giving them some sun won't really help.

Have you tried self-tanning lotion and maybe some excercise, like cycling/spinning?
posted by iviken at 3:22 PM on September 16, 2008

Shop for pants at places like REI and Altrec - there you'll find light weight, active pants that breath. They also have good selections of cargo shorts, lots of them come to or go slightly past the knee.

Cycling will really help you tone your legs up.

Also, work on the psychological aspect: we're all adults, no one cares what your legs look like.
posted by wfrgms at 3:27 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

There are convertible styles of pants that will zip off into shorts. You can carry both and react to your surroundings as you wish. Feel a little adventurous, turn them into shorts. Feeling weirded out, turn them into pants.

I think the key will be long shorts that reach below the knee + good shoes + good socks. You'd really only have a relatively narrow band of calf exposed.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:31 PM on September 16, 2008

Something I've never mentioned in a 'public' setting before that may help:

My lower legs aren't just oddly-proportioned, or merely pale - they're also literally twisted outward; if my knees point straight forward, my feet point at a forty-five degree angle to each other. The entire bone structure is malformed, so it's totally uncorrectable. I've been intensely self-conscious about them my entire life, to the point that it actually kept me from ever learning to swim properly - I was incapable of appearing in swim trunks around my peers. Plus, it physically impairs me from engaging in most (though not all) sports, and limits my exercise options, which has left them underdeveloped, scrawny by any standard, and very pale.

And you know what? I wear shorts all the time, nobody stares, and I've gone months in a new, sexually active relationship without my partner even realizing it, because she just wasn't paying attention to the curvature of my legs. I've had to tell people I have sex with that I have a twisted, malformed pair of legs.

You're fine. Trust me. Go, wear shorts, and know that nobody will notice.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:37 PM on September 16, 2008 [5 favorites]

(an ode to shorts)

Oh shorts,
How I love thee, how I long to wear thee year-round,
How I look at my jean-covered calves in disgust
How my love for swim trunks doth abound.

Oh shorts,
How I wear thee, as often as ever I can,
How whenever I can 'work from home,'
Its out to the patio with you, for a tan.

Oh shorts!
You're amazing, the breath that you bring to my legs,
The air in my crotch, with no pant legs to watch,
I can run, and ganvant, free always.

Oh shorts,
Be you cargos, be with your pockets so deep and so wide,
Be you floral-patterned or plaids, old and worn or new fads,
Its you I want covering my back side.

Dear shorts,
Never leave me, please say that you'll always be mine,
Always down to my knees (no longer, though, please),
If pants they require, I'll decline.


OK, I hope that gives you some inkling into how much I absolutely LOVE wearing shorts (this is not a joke, I love shorts. Jessamyn, keep reading, I eventually turn this into a real answer). I could write a few more stanzas but I have neighbors upstairs that I need to catch in the act of tossing their cigarette butts on my patio.

The majority of the advice above save -harlequin-'s seems to be skewing towards some form of comfortable pants, and I can't discourage you enough from that. If you decide to go that route, you're just going to find yourself, 20 years from now, with the same psychological issues with shorts, the same legs you have now, and I can guarantee you you'll be wearing pants when you do.

I'd advise two things, and two things only:

A) Work on changing your legs (this is not "learn to love them" - this is "change them into what you want"). Tanning lotion, lots of sun time (use a light SPF to keep the burn away, you'll have to find the happy medium), and so forth to work on changing the hue. Additionally, consider going to a local gym and telling a trainer that you want massive legs. Not well defined, not cut, just massive. There are different types of exercise that will help your legs gain mass and fill out a little more nicely. You'll need to figure out which ones they are and pursue them relentlessly, and probably change your diet to help towards that end too (hint: protein after working out). ONE OF THE BEST THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW TO START GETTING BETTER LOOKING LEGS is to start running, daily. There's a jillion threads on AskMe that can help you do that.

B) Work on enjoying the comfort and freedom of shorts. I HATE WEARING PANTS. I had to go into my office today to pick something up from the tech department and I made a risky decision - I decided to go without the shorts and hope I didn't run into one of the partners. This is how much I love shorts. They are more comfortable (mainly breath-ability-wise), less clothing to wear and get dirty, and in general just say - to yourself and to the world - hey, I'm taking it a little easier here. Which is something I need to say to myself a lot more often than I usually do. Shorts are just more fun to wear. I can break into a sprint for 5 blocks if ninjas attack me. You can't do that in pants, or if you do, you'll be soaked. They're so versatile.

So, to sum up - work on changing your legs, and work on enjoying what shorts have to offer. You have been missing out, my friend, but there's a whole world of possibilities out there that you have to look forward to.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:49 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Like previously mentioned, I say slap on some self-tanner. The gradual self-tanning lotion is pretty fool-proof. I also like Tan Towels. Or when you want a nice all over tan, splurge on Mystic Tan at a tanning place. (I go once a week.)
posted by texas_blissful at 3:51 PM on September 16, 2008

That was a teenagers-suck thing, not a your-legs-are-weird thing. I doubt anyone would actually notice your legs, these days. Suggestions in order:

1. Go to thrift store; pick up pair of shorts that are clean, fit well, are comfy, and cheap, but don't worry too much about how they look. Maybe some jeans or sport shorts or something. You're not a good judge of that right now.

2. As suggested above, work out outside! Seriously, I take forever to tan as well, but even just physically exposing your skin to the air more will make it look a bit less, erm, fishbelly, even if it's still pale. Do this for a week or two.

3. Yay, your legs are now ready for rad shorts. March on over to a men's clothing store with helpful associates, and ask them to help you find shorts. If you feel awkward about it, just explain that it's a few years since you bought a pair and you're not sure what's popular right now - they'll understand.
posted by bettafish at 3:53 PM on September 16, 2008

Suggestion on the tanning angle. Go on vacation someplace sunny. You won't have to feel as if your friends and neighbors will see your legs, and nobody will care your legs are pale, as you're a tourist. Use lots of sunscreen. Walk around, swim, snorkle, bicycle, lounge by the pool in the shorts of your choice. Voila! If not tanned, your legs will not be their previous shade of pale.

FWIW, I had a serious "I can't wear shorts" neurosis for years, but finally got over it and wear shorts most waking hours now. Men's cargo shorts from Old Navy are among my faves.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:11 PM on September 16, 2008

The name of the clothing you're looking for is "man-pris".

The real answer to your question is "squats".
posted by schroedinger at 4:14 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

One piece of advice: while we are all adults, if you're looking to recreate the experience of peers snickering about your legs then by all means purchase a pair of 3/4 length pants.

Shorts are shorts, nobody cares about your legs, we're all grown up, out of shape and pasty, c'est la vie. However, wearing capris will make at least one person per day laugh at you. Maybe not to your face, but I promise I laugh at guys in capris and I'm far from alone. Unless they're cyclists, in which case I laugh at them for being damned hipsters. Also, for the love of god, don't listen to the people telling you to purchase and use 'self tanning' solutions. The reaction you will get to capris + fake 'n bake will be sure to scar you deeply, and for the rest of your life.
posted by mullingitover at 4:17 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm a girl, but my roommate told me I have chicken legs. I don't wear shorts; don't become like me (although I do wear skirts, which might not be an option for you). I see guys wearing 3/4 length pants at my university all the time. Please don't listen to all of the people who say it requires more confidence to wear those. Confidence is all in your head, and up until now, it seems you had the confidence to wear those pants. Perhaps they could be the gateway to real shorts wearing. I've seen them at H&M. I don't know what they're called but they were in the same section as the cargo pants. My officemate has some from J Crew. I think they might be called clam diggers over there.

Also you could practice wearing shorts around the house and in neighborhoods where you don't care who sees you. That would have the added benefit of giving you some color. I know you said you don't tan, but everyone gets at least a tiny bit of color from being outside. I do the same thing when the summer starts. I wear tank tops and go walking in a part of the city where nobody knows me. This gives me a bit of a tan which prepares me to wear sleeveless things to social occasions where I don't want people to see my pasty pre-summer shoulders.
posted by bluefly at 4:17 PM on September 16, 2008

...alternatives to shorts that aren't pants...

posted by stubby phillips at 4:21 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

What are your suggestions for alternatives to shorts that aren't pants but still keep most of my legs covered and where would I obtain said garment?

You could wear a sarong. You can get them with expensive pockets, too.

You'd probably get fewer weird looks in shorts, even with your supposedly ugly pale legs, however.
posted by CKmtl at 4:23 PM on September 16, 2008

I see people with super skinny long, pale legs in shorts all the time and neither I, nor anybody around me has ever thought it looked weird. If you live in a place with white people, there are likely to be many skinny white legs in shorts around during the summer.

I'm not saying you need to love your legs. I don't love my legs, but I wear shorts because it's hotter than a mofo out side. It's about getting shorts that are flattering. Right now cutoffs and long jean or corduroy shorts are pretty hip for guys. But not baggy ones, more fitted ones. If you wear shorts that are closer to your body, your legs won't look as skinny as they would poking out of a baggy tent of shorts like the ones that used to be so popular for dudes. I have two VERY tall, pale (one's a redhead and the other is British) friends who look fine in these type of shorts.

You don't need to use tanning lotion. That has the potential to look way weirder than pale legs.
posted by fructose at 5:15 PM on September 16, 2008

One of my good friends was in the exact situation, his legs were really skinny and I think I've seen him wear shorts like once in 12 years. He also had some birth marks on his legs that the other kids were sure to point out, some people called him swiss cheese legs but that's now derailing. Anyway, he got tattoos on both legs, whole sleeves that covered up pretty much everything from the knee to the foot. I guess for something like this you'd have to be comfortable with getting tattoos, I'm not too into tattoos but the guy who did his was really good and they look pretty nice as far as tattoos go.
posted by BrnP84 at 6:08 PM on September 16, 2008

My father finally got over this by the time he turned 70 (I never saw him wear shorts before that) and now he's much more comfortable in the summertime and on vacation.

Don't wait that long.
posted by availablelight at 6:37 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

It depends on your style, but I have friends who have cut their tightish jeans off just above the knee, and when worn with slip-on vans or things like that, it looks good. As a general tip, you can use fake tanner even if you can't tan naturally and there are many that provide a lighter/more natural looking color. There are the "build a tan" lotions that, if you use them every day, will gradually add a little color, so there's no chance to get overly orange or streaky.

Here are some examples
posted by wuzandfuzz at 6:56 PM on September 16, 2008

Read what Tomorrowful has to say. You will notice every little deviation from what you perceive as "normal" appearance. Most if not all other people will pay no attention at all. That is human nature.

None of are normal. Many of us are rampantly abnormal, and obscurely so.
posted by yclipse at 7:24 PM on September 16, 2008

B) Work on enjoying the comfort and freedom of shorts. I HATE WEARING PANTS. I had to go into my office today to pick something up from the tech department and I made a risky decision - I decided to go without the shorts and hope I didn't run into one of the partners. This is how much I love shorts. They are more comfortable (mainly breath-ability-wise), less clothing to wear and get dirty, and in general just say - to yourself and to the world - hey, I'm taking it a little easier here. Which is something I need to say to myself a lot more often than I usually do. Shorts are just more fun to wear. I can break into a sprint for 5 blocks if ninjas attack me. You can't do that in pants, or if you do, you'll be soaked. They're so versatile.

Quoted for truth.

I'm a girl, with chubby knees. Oh noes! I refused to wear shorts all through high school because I hated my legs. Eventually, I came to love skirts, but I realized how impractical they were as an alternative to shorts after moving from New Jersey to Florida. Finally, this summer, in the 100+ degree heat, I realized I needed some shorts. I tried on plenty of pairs until I found ones that I felt comfortable in. I don't feel incredibly beautiful in them or anything, but I do feel . . . comfortable. Try on many pairs of shorts. Cargo shorts are a man's friend. You might not feel perfectly perfect in them, but that's because you're self-conscious, not hideous. The more you can integrate shorts into your routine the less conflated your fear of your body will be. I guarantee you that it's conflated, and some experiences that aren't completely horrific (and really, grown-ups are not as mean as elementary school kids, I promise) will help you feel more comfortable.

But watch out for tanning. Because, you know, skin cancer? Especially if you're really pale.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:53 PM on September 16, 2008

Just wear shorts that are comfortable. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks. That's what I do. So what if they laugh at me because my legs are skinny and pale? I'm comfortable. You can do it too. Life is too short to worry about what other people think of you. So what? That's their problem, not yours. Go for it.
posted by wv kay in ga at 11:01 PM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Manpris! Thank you! I'd wanted them for months and I didn't have any other term besides men's clam-diggers, which Google-fu'd useless. Clothing designers, in their infinite wisdom have shrunk the pockets of women's pants. I'm fat but at my normal weight still have a waist not much smaller than my hips.

I was in Switzerland two months ago and found what I wanted at the Manora department stores after a fruitless search in the States.

Wear whatever you like for everyday casual . Those who snark can get stuffed.
posted by brujita at 11:20 PM on September 16, 2008

Bermuda shorts with knee socks.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:37 AM on September 17, 2008

Kids are cruel. EVERYBODY has had something that some stupid kids laughed at and caused embarrassment. It is a universal part of growing up. Don't let those same stupid dunder heads make your adult life uncomfortable. Get some inexpensive cargo shorts, spend some time outside just to take the glow off the gams and wear those shorts with pride!! Be proud of yourself and save your paranoia for something else. Happy Shorting!!
posted by pearlybob at 6:29 AM on September 17, 2008

Carol Anne, that's just mean
posted by phritosan at 10:57 AM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Basketball shorts (target has great ones for around 15 bucks) are flattering on everyone, and extremely comfortable.

If you really, seriously, HATE your legs, can I recommend squats and lunges? They'll do wonders for your health and your legs will look great.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 8:31 PM on September 17, 2008

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