When the weather warms up, something crazy happens out there. Shops suddenly abound with clothing that nobody should ever, ever — ever — wear in public.
Moving on. There's a new winner in the category of least-flattering style of the season. And with hot pants you get a twofer: a terrible look and an insulting name that suggests sexual promiscuity.
"Hot Pants 5 Ways. Your Summer Must Have," read the sign I spotted in a Topshop window recently.
In fact, in a four-block stroll along a major shopping street there were at least six window displays of hot pants.
They come in denim, lace, sequins, every imaginable cotton color and even — ick — black pleather (bet those are comfortable on a hot summer day).
In response to the misguided Topshop window display, I've put together "Hot Pants 5 Ways They're a Big Mistake":
1. There's no right place to wear them.
There is no occasion or place that's appropriate for wearing short shorts. Think about it. Would you wear a swimsuit to the office, lunch with the in-laws, preschool pickup? Hot pants show just about the same amount of flesh as swimwear.
"They are appropriate never," says Susan Swimmer, fashion features editor of More magazine. "I can't think of a single occasion when something else wouldn't be better."
"Even if you have the quote-unquote perfect shape, it still looks like you're wearing your underwear," says Kathryn Finney, founder of The Budget Fashonista blog.
2. They're totally uncomfortable.
"First of all, hot pants were not invented by a woman. We can all pretty much agree on that," Finney says. Yes we can.
"Hot pants show all your jiggly bits — on display for everyone. Most of us like to keep our jiggly bits covered and packaged. … Then, you have that horrible wedgie factor. It's fashion physics. There are certain items of fashion that are very difficult to wear and be comfortable in," she says. (A strapless bra, stilettos and thong underwear also come to mind.)
And if you're riding in the car, sitting on the bus or even a park bench, your flesh is going to stick to the seat. That is so not a glam picture.
3. You'll look like a hooker.
The "Starlet or Streetwalker?" segment on Joan Rivers' "Fashion Police" show on E! comes to mind when I see a woman in these short shorts. Even stars with stylists and perfect bodies are mistaken for strumpets when they sport this style.
"In women's fashion, it's always a fine line between sexy and trashy," says menswear designer Lee Allison. "Really sexy can be cringeworthy but still hot — just not on your girlfriend or wife," he says.
"You can't do anything but stand upright in them. You bend over to pick up anything and suddenly you could be arrested for indecent exposure," Swimmer says.
4. They flatter no one.
Well, that's not entirely true. They flatter no one who has reached puberty, with the possible exception of Victoria's Secret models.
"They're flattering on the minuscule percent of the genetically blessed," Swimmer says. Her trainer looks good in them and so does Swimmer's 5-year-old daughter. But that's about it.
5. They'll be out of style — fast.
This is the good news. This fashion statement will be yesterday's news before the summer is over.
Instead of this style "don't," there are plenty of good options. Consider tapered shorts (not the big boxy Bermudas), or a pretty floral skirt to the knee or an inch above. Even a tapered lightweight pant that hits just at the ankle, a la Audrey Hepburn.
One alternative to avoid? Do you need to ask? Capris.