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Why wear split shorts? The case for short running shorts

By Dave Spandorfer

3/26/13 2:31 PM

On the first day of cross country practice my freshman year of high school, I showed up with a cotton t-shirt and long mesh shorts that went past my knees. I was the quintessential novice runner, thinking that the same shorts I wore for lacrosse the spring before would be perfect for high school cross country.  By my sophomore year, peer-pressure from teammates led me to wholly adopt what most people consider the typical high school runner outfit: the 100% polyester running shirt paired with the distinctive “short-shorts” running shorts. Since the switch, I’ve never bought running shorts that come close to my knees.

janji mens rwanda running shorts

Last summer’s Janji line included Kenya and Haiti running shorts so short that most of my male friends refused to buy them. Yet the way I saw it, they were too long for my personal taste. That’s why this season’s Men’s Rwanda shorts (available April 6) get me so excited: they’re a great color, support a great cause, and with a 2 inch inseam and a split, they’re the perfect length.

Look, split shorts, with their 2 inch inseam, aren’t for everyone—especially those who want (ahem) a more modest look. That’s why we sell the Men’s Tanzania shorts (7 inch inseam) and Men’s Kenya, Bangladesh, and Haiti shorts (4 inch inseam). All four cover up far more skin for the more self-conscious runner. But those who have made the jump know why split shorts can change the way you run and why longer shorts, in comparison, have major shortcomings (ha! Get it?):

1)      The Practical

The primary practical draw to split shorts is the range of motion it allows. With less fabric and a cut seam up the side of the shorts, split shorts allow the leg to move back and forth without the traditional constriction that longer running shorts suffer from. Even runners who prefer longer shorts for most casual runs switch to split shorts for races because it allows them to move quicker without a feeling of constraint.

While there have been the occasional star runners, such as Christian Hesch (who was recently busted for blood doping), that pride themselves in racing in longer shorts, most runners realize the ergonomic benefits of wearing shorter split shorts for races.

2)      The Cultural

If you sift through images of old marathons, you’ll see split shorts on nearly every male runner. Split shorts were part of the standard outfit for runners for decades—and not just the fast ones. This trend extended from the 1940s until the early 1990s, when running became mainstream and more casual. Since then, the vast majority of shorts sold—and consequently worn—have a 4 inch, 5 inch, 7 inch, or even 9 inch inseam.

Part of what I love about running is being involved in a sport that’s rich with tradition. Unsurprisingly, I love wearing the same style shorts that have been worn by the great runners from Roger Bannister (1940) to Bill Rogers (1970s) to Mo Farah (today). Although 7 inch shorts have been a recent stylistic phenomenon for many runners, split shorts have been the choice of runners for decades. It’s a time honored tradition and a style that shouldn’t go anywhere.

 A record-breaking classic never dies

3)      Who Wears Short Shorts?

It’s easy to see why millions of male runners prefer longer shorts. Split shorts, which offer a stark view of the upper thigh, can be off-putting for most beginning runners. Most guys choose the darker longer shorts for a reason: long shorts offer a modest alternative to split shorts.

Of course that’s not the way it always was, and in my view, not the way it should be today. It took me some time to make the switch, but once I did I’ve never had a desire to turn back. While we at Janji will always cater to what Janji supporters want (i.e look for longer shorts as we continue to grow), my personal favorite piece is the men’s Rwanda shorts. I hope more people will try it out too.

Cue the music…

Topics: running apparel


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