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Men's fashion: Hemlines are rising

Gant by Michael Bastian—chunky cardigan, seersucker stripe shirt

Gant by Michael Bastian—chunky cardigan, seersucker stripe shirt and military roll-up shorts. Credit: Handout

Look out ladies, you'll be seeing a lot more of men's legs come spring.

"It seems everyone got tired of those baggy cargo shorts at the same time," says designer Michael Bastian.

Yep, men's shorts will get shorter and leaner next season, according to a variety of men's runway shows held during New York Fashion Week earlier this month. And that's big news in an industry that -- unlike womenswear -- adopts new trends rather slowly.

"In menswear, how often do things change?" asked designer John Bartlett. "Never."

Yet, even with menswear the eye wearies of seeing the same silhouette for too long, "then up or down hems go," Bastian explains. "We're in an up moment."

The look -- a lean, dressy short, sometimes cuffed or rolled, reaching halfway down the thigh -- is already being sported by fashion-forward types on the streets of New York, but designers think the look can cross over to the mainstream.

Bastian and Bartlett, plus other popular labels such as Tommy Hilfiger, Billy Reid and Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown, all showed shorter shorts paired with tees, button-downs, even blazers.

Other trends -- lean suits, flat-front pants, skinny ties -- remain steady from past seasons.

Hilfiger honed his collegiate "Prep Club" look, featuring seersucker blazers (with horizontal stripes), V-neck varsity sweaters (worn without tees) and clever, button-down shirts with a print placket down front looking like a skinny tie.

Hoping to reinvigorate the brand, Perry Ellis brought on as creative directors Steven Cox and Daniel Silver, the edgy, British designers of Duckie Brown, and their premiere collection featured Perry classics (dot prints, lots of tan) and Duckie brazenness (drop-crotch pants).

Gilded Age designer Stefan Miljanic was inspired by the 1983 film "Rumblefish," which starred Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke as street thugs and is all about "the rebellious, restless spirit of youth," he says. That translates to slim jeans, graphic tees, vintage-y check and plaid shirts and leather moto jackets.

Bastian showed suiting -- from classic windowpane to camo prints -- in his eponymous line, and tweaked these ideas in the sportier Gant by Michael Bastian, offering camo jeans, an olive madras blazer (worn atop a button-down oxford with sheared-off collar), and an Explorer Blazer with mesh elbow patches.

Bartlett, dedicated to cruelty-free eco-fashion, dressed his "plant-based man" in a sustainable, all-linen collection of Western blazers, plus (harder-to-sell) tunics and djellabas.

And Alabama-based Billy Reid did up his Southern prep gents in slightly more relaxed, fuller-cut jackets and pants in oatmeal tweeds. His shorts? High, low and in between, including a tailored, trousery cargo short, which means you don't have to give up your cargos cold turkey.

"Guys are gonna want the longer short, and I think it's still relevant," says Reid. These days, he explains, "silhouettes are all over the place." Which means guys have more choices than ever.

Whether they choose the shorter short, of course, remains to be seen.

"All it takes is for one person to say, 'Wow, that looks great on you' -- and then they wear it for the next 10 years," says Bastian. "That's the great thing about guys. They just need that little bit of encouragement."

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