Lounge shorts

Ultimately, about the (semi-technical, commercial) categories of the clothing industries: named types of Xwear that mostly lack labels in everyday language. (Parallel in many ways to the categories of the household supplies industries, with named types of Xware.) But first:

On my Facebook feed yesterday, this ad for men’s lounge shorts (a type of outerwear) from the Nice Laundry company:

(#1) “The Palms Lounge Short”; from their ad: “The most comfortable lounge shorts ever featuring 4-way stretch nylon with soft Micromodal® interior. Made in the shade.”

— which caught my eye for two reasons. First, the label lounge short (with the commercial singular usage; from other companies, lounge shorts, with the everyday plural usage); I didn’t recall having previously experienced lounge as a modifier naming a type of short(s) before. Second, the gorgeous pattern (of palm fronds), rivaling some gorgeous floral patterns for men’s underwear — briefs, boxers, jockstraps — that had been appearing on my Facebook page recently. (As for colors, the Nice Laundry company offers lounge shorts in everything from the plainest of solid black and navy blue through various more arresting solid colors and patterns to the palms.)

The larger category embracing lounge short(s) is labeled loungewear, and is defined in the NOAD entry by in the NOAD entry:

noun loungewear: casual, comfortable clothing [specifically, outerwear] suitable for wearing at home.

— a compound with first element lounge:

verb lounge: [no object, with adverbial of place] lie, sit, or stand in a relaxed or lazy way: several students were lounging about reading papers.

As for function, loungewear is designed for particular occasions of use (informal occasions, especially at home, alone or in the company of others); and to afford properties desired by wearers (providing comfort, via light weight and freedom from restriction, while protecting the wearer’s modesty: the fabric is opaque, and loungewear bottoms for men — lounge shorts and lounge pants — have no flies).

Like athletic / running / fitness / exercise / gym shorts — see my 6/29 posting “Rainbows and penguins at the gym” — lounge shorts (and lounge pants) are beltless, supplied instead with elastic waistbands or drawstrings (more formal shorts, with belts, are streetwear). Unlike gym shorts (which are customarily worn with briefs or a jockstrap as underwear, however, it seems that lounge shorts are worn without (constricting and bulky) underwear: to get the advantages of lounge shorts, guys sacrifice the advantages of underwear (protecting their private parts from the world and the world from their private parts) and go commando. (Or so it seems; underwear is neither mentioned nor depicted in material on lounge shorts. Since the item is unfamiliar to me — I lounge at home in gym shorts, and wear them as informal streetwear in warm weather as well — I could use some first-hand reports on the customs of men’s lounge shorts from users.)

Three examples. Illustrating some of the variety.

Nice Laundry. Illustrated above. On the alternatives available:

6″ pocket lounge short  – in black, navy blue, burgundy, grey, marble, palms, tiger stripe camo, fun short (half light blue, half light yellow)

also a 4″ pocket lounge short in various colors; and a 4″ without pocket. On the latter: “Substantial enough to lounge around in, sleek enough to wear as a boxer. Go to work, walk the dog and lounge all night in these. No pockets for sleek profile.” (So, usable as a fly-less boxer.)

Patagonia. The company treats its Baggies™ shorts mostly as sportswear but also advertises them as lounge shorts. From its website on Baggies, advertising its material: “lightweight yet durable 100% recycled nylon”. Patagonia advertises them in a range of intense colors and in some patterns, including the handsome Hevea Leaves: Superior Blue (men’s 5″):

(#2) (Hevea brasiliensis is the rubber tree)

Lands’ End. The company treats its lounge shorts as another way of using its “sleep shorts” / pajama shorts. From its website:

It’s tough to beat the comfort of pure cotton jersey. So we didn’t even try. These jersey sleep shorts are as comfortable as they are handsome, with 100% ringspun combed cotton that’s sueded for extra softness.

They offer the shorts in only three colors — navy, charcoal, hazy blue — with an 8″ inseam, two front pockets, and one back pocket. Here they are in hazy blue:


Labels of commerce: Xware and Xwear. Note the profusion of apparel types with semi-technical commercial labels in –wear (alluding to the function of the garments): loungewear, sleepwear, gymwear, sportswear, outerwear, and so on. (Underwear is, exceptionally, a long-standing piece of everyday vocabulary.) The usage has been extended to fetishwear and, in my writing on underwear aimed at a gay male audience, to homowear (referring to underwear designed to display the male body for the pleasure and arousal of this audience).

This terminological move echoes a similar move for categories of artefacts in the domain of food preparation and consumption — categories with Xware names. From my 5/28/11 posting “Dishes”:

From a Language Log posting of mine from several years ago on “commercial categories”:

“Unlabeled” categories — those that have no relatively brief, conventionalized, everyday, widely used labels that are not just descriptions or enumerations of the things within the categories — are incredibly common, much more common than most people imagine. They are all over the place in domains of meaning that have to do with social groups and relationships and with cultural artefacts of all sorts. But there are contexts in which people want to tap into those unlabeled categories. So they label them [with “semi-technical terms”].

One such context is commerce: in reference to these categories in advertisements, catalogues, directories of goods and services, department designations in stores, and the like. This is what has brought us flatware (or, for some people [note: some people], silverware, regardless of actual silver content, and excluding many items made of silver) for knives, forks, spoons, and serving implements; dinnerware (or, for some people, china, regardless of the constituent material) for plates, bowls, cups, etc. (attempts to describe the referents of such terms tend to trail off into “etc.”); glassware (or drinkware) for glasses of all sorts (glass itself referring usually only to the central members of the category, with wine glasses, martini glasses, champagne flutes, shot glasses, etc. all treated as special cases; glass on its own normally refers to a specific range of types of drinking glasses); tableware for a category that embraces flatware, dinnerware, glassware, and some other items; cookware for, very roughly, pots and pans; bed and bath for yet another category; and housewares for tableware, cookware, kitchen accessories, small appliances, bed and bath, and more, all taken together.

(Cookware takes in pots and pans plus ladles, tongs, whisks, colanders, sieves, graters, and much more.)

Entertainingly, in addition to homowear, there’s a Homoware. From the travelgay site about Homoware:

Gay lifestyle shop in Copenhagen, that sells sex toys, lubes (the largest collection in Scandinavia, apparently), condoms, underwear, fetish gear and lots of accessories.


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