Update: Since I last wrote about these, my colleague Alexis Swerdloff bought a pair in navy and hasn’t taken them off since Memorial Day. She says she loves the retro athletic feel, how they look when you fold over the waistline, and the side slits. “I do wish they had pockets,” she adds, “but otherwise, they’re just so comfy and look good with various tops of different lengths.”
Meanwhile, my pal Laurel Pantin, style director at InStyle and co-founder of jewelry advisory the Stax, pointed out another worthy option in the Soffe lineup: the men’s Ranger Panty, which, according to the brand’s site, is a “favorite of the United States military.” (They’re also known as “silkies.”)
“I’ve always loved the classic Soffe women’s mesh shorts,” says Pantin. “And this past summer, I wound up in Austin with almost none of my clothes, so I wanted to order some inexpensive shorts I could wear to go swimming, to exercise, or with a button-down. I couldn’t find the original women’s pair I had, but I found the Ranger Panty and I actually like them better. They’re super-super-short (I live for a hot pant), but the built-in underwear (remember, these are men’s shorts) provides a little bit of modesty, especially if you sit on the ground a lot, which you do with kids. The sizing is funny; they run fairly true to women’s sizes. They’re not massively oversize like some men’s things I’ve worn, so I’d say order the same size you wear in women’s bottoms.”
I was an eighth-grade cheerleader — and I didn’t enjoy the experience. I was slow to pick up choreography, stood five inches taller than everyone else, and found the hand-me-down uniforms unbreathable and scratchy. But our practice gear was a different story. Along with the hip Nike Cortezes, our “squad” wore these royal blue cotton Soffe short-shorts. They were nondescript, but, to me, signaled “cool-girl” far more the two-tone Umbros I had been wearing up until then. You could find them at any local sporting-goods store in a wide variety of shades, turning those round garment racks into a color wheel.
Last summer, when I needed something last-minute to go over my one-piece for a tubing trip in Oklahoma, I went straight to Academy Sports — and there was the Soffe station, a perfectly preserved relic that brought back routines set to “Let Me Clear My Throat.” We’ve both since expanded our range. The Soffe site now lists 44 colors, including a heather-y coral, a shockingly bright lime, and, perhaps your safest bet, a classic navy. They’ve raised their prices, but not gratuitously; a pair still goes for an eminently reasonable $9.
Too cheap and flimsy to wear to anywhere that might involve a subway trip, Soffe shorts are great for straightening up the house, cooking breakfast (or dinner), lounging on the couch, or weathering steamy summer days when even denim cut-offs are too much fabric. They’re also, I feel, an acceptable (though obviously not identical) dupe for Patagonia Baggies or the Outdoor Voices Relay Short, and you can wear them to do active things, too. Instead of triple-rolling the waistband down like 14-year-old me — I leave them unrolled for a high-waisted fit. Less early Aughts thot, more Dazed and Confused.
They come in nylon, too.
Pantin’s Soffe of choice: a super-short lined mesh style.
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