Who wears short shorts?

Showing off your legs takes confidence, but it's worth it

Like many teenagers, I spent much of my adolescence worrying about how I looked. It's only now when I look at photographs of me during that time that I realise how cute I was simply by virtue of being so incredibly young. I wonder, instead of all that angst, why did I not spend all of my time in hot pants and a sequin boob tube? As it was, I fretted that I was overweight, despite never going over seven and a half stone until I was into my twenties, and desperately trying not to attract too much attention because I simply didn't have the confidence to deal with it.

Much as it saddens me - I hate fashion rules, despite bandying a fair few around myself (see below) - there are certain items that, beyond a certain age, one can only really wear on the beach or in the garden. And the particular garments I am thinking of now are shorts. Shorts are already making quite an appearance this summer, more so than ever before, since the playsuit is particularly del momento and shorts are a more wearable spin-off. One of the advantages of the very slow-moving buses in London is that you really get a good chance to spy on people and shorts elicit more backward glances than almost any other item of clothing. They are cheekier, easier to wear and generally more playful than a very short skirt. There are a few rules, however.

Shorts work well with high heels if you're really confident in heel-wearing and the shorts. Otherwise it's best to stick to flatter, strappy sandals or wedges. That said, don't try to dress down really short shorts unless you're on a beach: you need to acknowledge that you're making a statement and go with it. Men should resist the urge to wear denim shorts that are so short that the linings of the pockets show (just bad manners), or wear to-the-knee shorts with walking boots (too much of a fashion cliché). Be brave and wear Mediterranean sandals instead. Otherwise, enjoy them. Shorts are fun.

The first shorts I had that I remember were lemon-curd yellow. There are pictures of me, aged about seven, in Kew Gardens wearing them and in the New Forest resting on a milestone after having walked through the bluebells. I loved my yellow shorts and felt as if I had betrayed them when I grew out of them. We wore shorts, masquerading as skirts, for PE at school, and for a time I wore Bermuda shorts as a teenager and cut-off denim ones, an act of the scissors that made my jeans go that bit further. But after the lemon curd shorts, I never again went back to short shorts. Pity, because I would personally pass a law that anyone under the age of 18 should wear shorts regularly whether they wanted to or not. It may seem a draconian sort of law, but you'd thank me for the photographic evidence that you'll have to sustain you in later life.

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.

This article first appeared in the 02 July 2007 issue of the New Statesman, The Brown revolution begins