The Fascinating History Of Bermuda Shorts

Origins of an island fashion.

For the longest time, shorts were considered quite the scandal. They were only to be worn by young boys and athletes. Women, on the other hand, were expected to wear long skirts and modest dresses. Such an item would have been regarded as wildly outrageous.

This began to shift in 1914, when Nathaniel Coxon, owner of Coxon’s Tea Room, invented the Bermuda shorts to keep his employees cool and comfortable. When Admiral Berridge took his tea in Coxon’s, he decided to adopt the style for his fellow officers. It was then that the British Army, while stationed in Bermuda, adopted the shorts for use in the tropical climate.

Bermuda Shorts

Bankers and businessmen embraced the look, and were followed shortly thereafter by British and Americans visiting the island. These tourists brought back the popular trend, wearing the tailored ‘Bermuda’ shorts with high socks like the British army had.

Bermuda shorts became a popular sportswear item at this point, and well-known for their association with leisure and tropical getaways. Their name, it’s believed, was codified in the United States by The Bermuda Shop, a New York City athletics retailer.

During the post-war period, local merchants, including: Trimingham Bros. and H.A. & E. Smiths improved the design of the shorts to use bright-colored materials. Meanwhile, Vogue first used the term “Bermuda shorts” in 1948. The rise in popularity of these shorts coincided with the broader rise in acceptability of shorts as daily wear.

bermuda shorts
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Throughout the decades, they’ve been called: walk-shorts, walking shorts, dress shorts, or just simply shorts, depending on where in the world they were being worn.

In Bermuda, they are considered appropriate business attire for men when made of suit-like material and worn with knee-length socks, a dress shirt, tie, and blazer. This style is also known for revolutionizing women’s fashion. In the 50s, leisure clothing – such as Bermuda shorts, pedal pushers and capri pants – became popular attire in the West.

Recently, Bermuda shorts have come back into style, and are known for their grungy yet modest design. Bike shorts just might be the next iteration of this style. They blend form-fitting casual-wear with the same above-the-knee hem. Cruise shorts – a similar look – come in a preppy, color-blocked style that falls somewhere between the two. They capture the professionalism of Bermuda with the informality of bike shorts.

That’s to say, these shorts have evolved men and women’s fashion, leaving in their wake an evolution of cultural change.

Bermuda Shorts
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Samantha Bertolino

Content Editor Associate

Samantha is a Connecticut native and an avid lover of reading, writing and poetry. She spent two months in Florence, where she studied business and the architecture of old chapels, in addition to developing a taste for espresso and tea.)

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