In search of The Perfect Shorts
Oh, the places these shorts went.
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I found The Perfect Pair of Shorts in 2009.
Up to that point I pretty much exclusively wore black KR3W jeans because one time in middle school gym class some girl pointed out I had chicken legs. I didn’t know what that meant but it felt like an insult, so I clutched my jeans even tighter, even in the height of the Virginia summer. I was kind of a dumb kid.
But my senior year was time, I decided, to see what the hubbub about shorts was all about. I walked into a T.J. Maxx, flicked through the Men’s Active Shorts rack and like a truffle hog, pulled out a perfect pair of shorts.
To the naked eye, they’re a regular pair of Adidas shorts, but I feel like I need to anthropomorphize them because it really does feel like these shorts lived a life of their own.
In July 2016 I remember laying in my tent in the Utah desert, writing postcards. I was thousands of miles from my home and even further from knowing what I wanted out of life. I remember it was so dang hot that the Adidas shorts were the only thing breathable enough to bear the heat and the feeling of the buttes looking down on me.
And back in summer 2009, whether my friends and I were playing beach volleyball or hanging out in each other’s driveways, savoring those magical nights together before we went our separate ways to college, I was in these shorts.
I’ve sat around and done nothing for hours in them, and have made consequential life decisions in them. I hope everyone’s so lucky to have a piece of clothing so reliable that it feels like it grows up with you.
(Also the most salient thing about these shorts is they introduced me to the gospel of short-shorts. 7-inch inseam max, y’all. I will never look back)
But last summer, after 11 glorious years together, after spending nearly every single summer morning of my 20s in them, I realized I had to retire The Perfect Shorts.
The logos had faded, the elastic lost its stretchiness years ago, and the drawstring has pulled through the guide in the waistband. I wore these shorts until they literally fell down.
These days they sit folded, resting at the bottom of my shelf.
But because I have Peter Pan Syndrome and refuse to let go the parts of my youth that continue to bring me joy, I decided to try to find a new pair. I felt I owed it to them to at least see if any of their kin is out there.
As a journalist, I figured I might have the tools to dig up the info I needed to find a new pair. The trouble, I soon found, was that I couldn’t have picked a more difficult piece of clothing to replace like-for-like.
They’re over 10 years old and Adidas annually makes ~200 new styles of men’s shorts. The pool of Adidas shorts styles I had to wade through was 2,200+ deep.
I got them at an off-price retailer whose whole M.O. is trotting out whatever random stuff it gets.
Tags containing their model name, serial number or any other identifying data have long since faded or fallen off.
Adidas does seem to embrace the depth of its catalogues. They launched an online archive in 2013, but it didn’t seem to be active very long.
I also found that the brand with the three stripes also keeps what looks to be a pretty complete register of its products at its headquarters. While assembling a crew of ragtag thieves, flying to Germany, and breaking in and stealing the last remaining pair of Perfect Shorts is absolutely something I considered, I sadly didn’t have the means to actually pull that off.
With my leads dwindling, I pulled up the Wayback Machine and went as far back as it would take me. Maybe, just maybe, a model name for them from the men’s shorts section of Adidas’ website in 2009 is out there, waiting to be dug up.
The furthest back the web archive would take me was to late 2014. Another dead end.
I decided it was time to go to the immediate source: Adidas.
I wrote an elaborate story, not much shorter than the one you’re reading, explaining my love for The Perfect Shorts and that if I could not find them, my development as an adult would be continued to be arrested.
They let me down easy.
“We're sorry to advise that the item you described has been discontinued,” the CS rep wrote. “Here at adidas we are constantly developing our range and our products, but regrettably sometimes this does mean products are superseded.”
Gimme a break. NOTHING will supersede these shorts.
I started thinking, “Shit, I’ll be 30 this year. Maybe it was right to let those shorts be a totem to the past, and move into this next phase of life with new, different shorts. Maybe this is isn’t a story about holding onto beloved memories, maybe it’s about letting go of the things that’ve run their course.”
Until one night.
While in a delirious state at around midnight on a Tuesday, scrolling through the 2,800+ search results on eBay for “adidas mens shorts pockets,” my jaw dropped.
All my life I’ve heard the phrase “I couldn’t believe my eyes” thrown around, but I genuinely felt it. I thought after all the wasted hours searching for these exact shorts, my brain tricked my eyes into seeing them on the screen.
It couldn’t be true: not only did I find The Perfect Shorts, but I found them in my size!
“These Adidas shorts are in excellent condition,” the description read. “They are a size medium and have pockets. Smoke free home.” I was never going to ask questions about the seller’s smoking habits, but I appreciated their candor.
I went downstairs, grabbed a sledgehammer, and smashed the Buy It Now button and sat patiently. A few days went by before they were shipped, and during that time I began to worry I was on the wrong end of an elaborate prank.
But it wasn’t. They arrived not even a week after I bought them, and I still can’t believe it.
Now that I have them, I don’t know if I should wear them, or store them for safekeeping like a potato seed bank during the Siege of Leningrad.
I think I’ll wear them.
They’ve got some breaking in to be done, and plenty of memories need to be made in them. But I feel a lot better about heading into this new world we’re in wearing Perfect Shorts II.