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Short at work: Yay or nay?

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The question

Do you think shorts are ever office-appropriate? (I'm a woman, but my boyfriend also wants to know.)

The answer

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This section's Runway/Real Way column recently provided suggestions on how to wear shorts in the workplace (see the June 11 issue), but I'm always a bit stymied by the "office-appropriate" questions because you say office and I picture a sitcom of something beige and tie-wearing while in life I know of offices hanging with skateboards and plastic dinosaurs where camo-pattern shorts and Jack Daniels T-shirts are practically enforced. Is there really such a thing as an archetypal office? I know that the general rule in offices where employees deal with clients and the public is that men are never seen in shorts and women (whose sartorial expression we tolerate in much more permissive ways) only wear shorts whose hems extend to just past the tips of the fingers when the arms are hanging straight. Same Catholic-school rule as skirts, basically - just above the knee, no shorter. Personally, I don't find those kinds of knee-length suit-fabric shorts terribly attractive on women, but that's not a rule, just an aesthetic response. For men things are simple: Your hairy legs are just an unpleasant distraction.

Russell Smith's latest novel, Girl Crazy, was recently published. Have a fashion question? E-mail style@globeandmail.com .

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