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The glorious return of the skort

Once upon a time, when you complimented someone’s skirt or dress, there was a solid chance she’d reply with, “Thanks, it has pockets!” These days, you’re more likely to be met with a different response, or rather a correction: “Thanks, it’s actually a skort.”…



The glorious return of the skort
The glorious return of the skort
Once upon a time, when you complimented someone’s skirt or dress, there was a solid chance she’d reply with, “Thanks, it has pockets!” These days, you’re more likely to be met with a different response, or rather a correction: “Thanks, it’s actually a skort.” The skort, long relegated to the tennis court or the little girls’ department, has been heralded more for its practicality than its stylishness for the majority of its hundred-ish years-long history. But this summer, the garment — which is to say, shorts meant to look like skirts — are everywhere, much to the thrill of chafed thighs worldwide. Right now, there are more Google searches for the item than at any other point in the last 20 years. It is, gloriously, the summer of the skort. It’s possible that the film Challengers has something to do with this. Tennis fashion has always influenced style, whenever the culture pays attention to it. This spring’s sexiest romantic drama, combining sweaty, rock-hard limbs and bisexual polyamory, had Zendaya wearing a wide variety of skorts not only in the movie but also in her much-lauded press tour. The current iteration of skortsmania predates Challengers, though, and can be traced back to the spring of 2021, when a handful of skorts went viral on TikTok and searches for the garment on some shopping websites doubled. Trend forecasters chalked it up to renewed nostalgia for ’90s and Y2K fashion and internet-born micro aesthetics like dark academia, which fetishizes collegiate staples like tweed, sweaters, and preppy athletic uniforms. In the years since, brands have capitalized on the interest, creating more styles not only in traditional athletic fabrics but in cotton, linen, and material mimicking suitwear. Women unveil their skort hauls on TikTok, testing out the latest options from Lululemon or Urban Outfitters, praising them for their usefulness against wind or the dreaded riding-up that have bedeviled miniskirts since time immemorial. Crucially, they also allow curvy women to ward off painful chub rub and delight in micro-minis without resorting to mismatched bike shorts underneath. While Google interest in two related athleisure trends, bike shorts and exercise dresses, peaked in 2020 and 2021, respectively, skorts have only gotten more popular in the past three summers, helped in part by a serious skort fangirl named Taylor Swift, who’s been wearing them all over the place. Shorts masquerading as skirts, then dubbed “trouser skirts,” first appeared in the 1890s as part of a fun new craze: bicycling. By the early 20th century, college women embraced shorts because of all the activities they were doing that their mothers didn’t: They biked, they attended gym classes and played sports outdoors, and soon began wearing them for leisure, too. But shorts were derided by men and older women, just as much as women’s bloomers were in the mid-19th century. One etiquette writer wrote in 1936, “If you gals really knew how cute you look in a well-cut dress, you wouldn't hanker to wear shorts. Of course, you’ve got to be comfortable, ah, me! Even if you have to insult the aesthetic sense of men to do it?” This tends to be a pattern among countless fashion trends throughout history: Young women embrace a look despite outcries from the rest of the world, until eventually everyone else sees the vision and catches up. By the 1950s, the Bermuda short had become a wardrobe staple for both men and women. (These uproars are ongoing: Athleisure, a category of clothing that exploded in the US during the 2010s, was responsible for a decade’s worth of controversy around the idea that women were wearing leggings outside the home.) [Media:] As usual, college women’s tastes won the day: Deirdre Clemente, a fashion historian at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, explains that the rise of the skort was intricately tied to California’s place as a new fashion powerhouse after the Great Depression. Unlike the New York design houses, which released seasonal collections after the French model, California brands were consumer-demand driven, designing items based on what was selling. “Skorts became so popular because people were like, ‘We want them. They’re comfortable, they’re easy to wear,’” she explains. The introduction of rayon and synthetic fibers around the same time, she adds, was also crucial to the rise of the skort, allowing for more stretch at a cheaper price. The 2020s have seen a similar phenomenon. In early 2021, the just-launched fast fashion brand Halara began selling its first collection of skorts, which immediately took off on TikTok. Global Brand President Gabby Hirata says that the Lucid tennis skirt, a crisscrossed skort with a phone pocket, has been viewed on TikTok over a billion times. Since then, Halara has sold more than a million of them, making it the brand’s fifth-bestselling item of all time. Today, they offer more than 500 versions of skorts, which Hirata credits to how the brand obsessively crowd- and A/B-tests product designs and produces more based on what’s already selling. Sales of skorts “have continued to go up and stay elevated,” she says. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have done so many iterations.” Another unexpected boost came in April, when Taylor Swift was seen at Coachella wearing Halara’s buckle skort, which looks like a typical pleated mini skirt but has a garter belt-like buckle over the thigh. “That was quite a surprise,” says Hirata, because it didn’t look anything like the typical athleisure and tennis-inspired skorts on the market. [Image: Taylor Swift wearing Halara's buckle skort at Coachella in April.] Hirata explains that customers continue to be drawn to skorts that appear to be regular skirts but come with shorts sewn in. Go on any website where many young women buy skirts — Asos, Abercrombie and Fitch, Uniqlo, Old Navy — and you’ll find skorts made with nonathletic-wear fabrics. Miniskirts that a few years ago would have simply been skirts are now made with shorts sewn into them (Los Angeles Apparel, notorious for its sister brand American Apparel’s sexy schoolgirl skirts, now sells a variety of skorts). When fitness influencer Cassey Ho started her athleisure brand Popflex in 2016, “Everything was pretty much sports bras and leggings,” she says. In 2021, she released her first line of skorts, which she designed to “make you feel like a ballerina — very feminine and ethereal.” Her Pirouette skort, an athletic short with a tiered, petticoat-inspired outer layer, was released in 2022, and sold out as soon as a TikTok she made about it went viral. It was that skirt in lavender that noted skort-lover Taylor Swift was seen wearing in a video clip in April to promote her new single “Fortnight.” (She even possibly references it in the opening line of her song “imgonnagetyouback”: “Lilac short skirt, the one that fits me like skin,” she sings — it is technically a skort but as much as women love them, the term doesn’t really connote the same sexiness.) Swift’s video gave the brand its biggest sales day of the year and the second of all time. Skorts, says Ho, are now Popflex’s bestselling product category. Will the summer of skorts last? For now, it seems so. Hirata notes that one of the most crucial aspects of skort sales is that many versions come with a phone pocket. “People continue to be more and more addicted to their phone, and with that pocket, your phone is almost touching you,” she says. While younger women might love skorts because it allows them to wear shorter, tighter skirts without worrying they’ll accidentally show too much, they’re useful for older demographics too. “I bought my first skort when my daughter was 2 years old, and that’s a time when they start to move around a lot,” Hirata says. “The thing about skorts is that they meet the needs of the women wearing them,” adds Clemente. “As long as something is comfortable, practical, and easy to wash — these are the tenants of the American wardrobe.” As Derek Thompson wrote in the Atlantic, “The theme of the past century of Western fashion is this: We take clothes designed for activity, and we adapt them for inactivity.” Men — at least those on the cutting edge — are embracing skorts too. High-end menswear designers like Comme des Garçons, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton debuted skirted trousers in their Fall 2024 collections earlier this year. A perfect garment shouldn’t only be limited to women, after all, nor to mini lengths: Halara has recently begun experimenting with maxi versions, which now make up some of the brand’s most popular skorts. Hirata says, “The factories jokingly said to us, ‘Do you guys know what you’re doing? People don’t wear this to play tennis, what are you making this for?’ But eventually it took off.” I’ve always been a lover of miniskirts, but I’ve since graduated to the option that, I’ve come to realize, is superior in every possible way. For anyone who once imagined summer dressing as an unbearable pain, consider the skort. Your thighs will thank you.