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Biker shorts and the campus pause

| Monday, September 7, 2020

I checked two things almost every day during the anxious period Notre Dame spent in the national spotlight: the COVID-19 dashboard around 12 p.m. and my Target cart around 12 a.m. The former of these sites changed quite a bit and the latter not at all, where a singular pair of biker shorts sat for almost all of the campus pause. 

The shorts in question, $7 Wild Fable black biker shorts (yes, I’m cheap), probably would have served me well in the two weeks we — or I — mostly spent within a three-minute walk of my dorm room. But I’m not an impulse buyer. My policy is to think about a piece of clothing, and if I still want it after a while, I’ll go back and add it to my physical or virtual cart. So I wrestled with the biker shorts every night, since I didn’t have much else to do. 

I considered the cons while balancing schoolwork and the uncertainty of our fate as a University. For those who are unfamiliar, biker shorts are basically leggings cropped three to five inches above the knee. With all the judgement and opinions that came with the birth of leggings as pants in the mid 2010s (and let’s not forget the great Notre Dame leggings debacle of 2019) in the back of my mind, I could hear the verbal and mental judgment. A considerable con. I’m honestly surprised there hasn’t been a greater outcry against biker shorts. Another con, if they looked atrocious on me, did I really want to deal with the disappointment and hassle of returning them? 

Now here were my pros: there is no better time for comfort-wear clothing. I’m so thankful the University and the students have successfully flattened the curve, but I can foresee another cycle of “pausing” the campus, especially as football season arrives. In that case, I only want to wear elastic waistbands and over-sized t-shirts again. Giving up on effort while maintaining the slightest sense of current style would be nice. Another plus: I adore leggings, but sometimes I just don’t want to wear pants, especially when its hot outside. We’ve had great weather in the past few weeks, but Midwestern Septembers often have the last word of summer. Wearing leggings but as shorts? Innovation has met j-chilling. 

In the end, I purchased the item not because of its utility, but because of the novelty of the shorts within the context of our times. Biker shorts started coming back from their vintage mid-90s days a few years before the pandemic and the ensuing lock downs skyrocketed the shorts in sales, controversy and clout. In other words, a medical disaster caused a boom in the lounge-wear market and this unwilling participant in the pandemic to suddenly consider a piece of clothing I wouldn’t have before. 

When I’m 50 years old reminiscing over my college days, I want to look at pictures and laugh at my clothes. I want to try the trends and take part in the cultural shifts, instead of always longing for “normalcy.” Biker shorts are a reflection of the times. Why not take an active part of this history, instead of always fighting against it? 

While I can never embody the timeless charm of Princess Diana’s classic gym outfits and probably not the casual chic of Instagram influencers, I’m content with my decision to purchase the shorts. If they work, maybe I’ll invest in more with patterns and pockets! In any rate, I’ll be armed with comfort no matter what the rest of the semester brings. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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