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Old white men’s legs

Let me be clear: I am of the ‘male, pale and stale’ cohort myself, as one of my young, female and black colleagues likes to describe my type.

Published: 05th July 2020 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th July 2020 12:10 PM   |  A+A-

You can emblazon your upper body with as much gilt and bling as you please, but if you insist on exposing those pale, aged limbs below, all the world can see you for what you are. Just another old man. 

You can emblazon your upper body with as much gilt and bling as you please, but if you insist on exposing those pale, aged limbs below, all the world can see you for what you are. Just another old man. 

In these terrible times, we must savour what few positives we can find. For me, self-isolation has at least spared me the ghastly sight of old white men in shorts, at least for this summer.

Let me be clear: I am of the ‘male, pale and stale’ cohort myself, as one of my young, female and black colleagues likes to describe my type.

But I am not so lacking in self-awareness as to think someone like me wearing shorts is anything other than a travesty. 

Why do others expose themselves so? Can they possibly think the sight of their skinny, pasty legs, knobbly knees and withered shanks are at all appealing?

Maybe it’s a reflection of that arrogance and sense of entitlement that have made my type so universally disliked? At primary school I learnt early on an important lesson: Big boys wear long pants.

I couldn’t wait (aged 9) to make that transition and have never had the slightest inclination to revert to shorts.

In the half century since then I can think of few pairs of male legs I’ve ever seen that have struck me as anything other than loathsome.

An Italian chap in East Africa in the 1980s.

A personal trainer at my gym. They’re about the only exceptions that spring to mind. And what do they have in common? They were both under 30 and had worked hard to achieve such statuesque pins.

This isn’t just about good taste. Consider the rise and fall of the British Empire. In long trousers, tiny little British grabbed a quarter of the planet. Then some fool decided that administrators, soldiers and policemen should don shorts.

Big mistake. Uniformed services have a breathtakingly complex range of badges of rank: Stripes on the arm, pips on the shoulder, ribbons around the neck, big feathers in the hat.

Their common purpose is animal in its simply: The more important you are, the more gorgeous your plumage.

You can emblazon your upper body with as much gilt and bling as you please, but if you insist on exposing those pale, aged limbs below, all the world can see you for what you are. Just another old man. 

Authority is usually based on an illusion. It is a confidence trick which relies on a willing suspension of disbelief by the majority of the ruled.

But that demands the rulers act, and look like, they have the right to rule. In shorts, human frailty is horribly exposed.

The result? All that the British had snatched and held over two centuries was lost in a matter of decades.

Not convinced? Check out images of the fall of Singapore. The message is clear. Winners don’t wear shorts. 

Neil McCallum
Author of five novels, Mrs A’s Indian Gentlemen* being the latest
Twitter: @dawoodmccallum *Writes as Dawood Ali McCallum


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