Something is emerging on campus. Maybe it is the heat that brought them out.
The first time I saw them, I was taken aback. I thought it was a one-time sighting — like seeing someone wear a FSU shirt to class. But no, they have become as frequent a presence as the protestors at Turlington.
They are the crescent-shaped bare undersides of UF students wearing shorts with hems that arch up like disbelieving eyebrows. And this trend is not the result of an overzealous attempt to cut off denim jeans, but rather an intentional design choice.
The exposure most famous for the start of the “underbutt” trend was Rihanna’s revealing tweet of her bum. She almost full-mooned the world, wearing denim shorts that were cut into a thong in the back. Though the tweet was quickly taken down, the impression was made.
Miley Cyrus followed suit with cheeky shorts that, though modest in comparison to Rihanna’s, are what’s being shown off on campus.
Wolfgang owner, Matthew Turner, 31, said his shop does not sell any shorts of the “underbutt” variety. “I am a fan of girls wearing high-waisted jean shorts, but if your butt is falling out of them, it is probably not best to wear in public,” he said. “Keep it classy.”
From malls to music festivals to university campuses, you will see the young getting behind the trend. And I wonder, is this the first of many fashion crazes I am not going to understand? Though I have grown out of my teenage years, I’m still young. I like fashion; I’m not prudish, but I think these shorts would be uncomfortable and problematic.
Walking across campus right now is like taking a trip to the sauna, but immediately having to go to work before you have time to towel off. I can just imagine the wet blobs of human dough protruding from cinched hems sitting and sticking to bus seats and lecture hall chairs. I would prefer to maintain the divide between public toilets and all other seats.
And I am not alone. Chloe Dye, 23, albeit not a teenager, said she would not wear the risqué shorts and would rather no one else would either. “I wouldn’t want to sit down in a lecture hall class chair if I knew someone with underbutt had been sitting there,” the UF art history graduate student said.
But besides the discomfort, I wonder about the professionalism. I can see these shorts working at Bonnaroo, where it is socially acceptable to wear body paint, continually flash the peace sign, become spontaneously patriotic and do drugs, all at the same time. However, I don’t know see how you transition that look to an atmosphere constituting professors and academia.
Yet, women’s fashion is constantly evolving, and social norms continue to change.
Co-editor of the “History of Fashion” and master teacher of costume studies at New York University Nancy Deihl wrote in an email that “Women’s fashion depends on novelty, and sometimes the only thing that can be new about an established part of the wardrobe is how it is worn.”
Shorts are obviously not new — actress Catherine Bach of “The Dukes of Hazzard” and model Marilyn Monroe wore down those barriers, so now designers are trying to figure out a way to one-up the style, she said.
“The ‘underbutt’ is a real challenge for many women as you have to be shapely plus in shape for that crucial indentation to exist!” she said. “It’s a style that exists be- cause our culture is driven by change and fascinated by public nudity, even in small portions.”
The question now is, where will fashion go from here? Will the next semester’s trend be the two-fifth shorts?
What will happen to the canned, comedic trope where the protagonist dreams of going out in his underwear, when this dream (or nightmare), depending on your perspective, has become reality?
This story originally ran on page 7 on 8/22/2013 under the headline "Underbutt overdose at UF"