Men in Shorts, Medellín’s New Fashion Trend

It's not unusual today to see a Colombian dressed like this guy, walking south on La 70.
It's not unusual today to see a Colombian dressed like this guy, walking south on La 70.
It’s not unusual today to see a Colombian dressed like this guy, walking south on La 70

Medellín, despite its growing popularity, embraces change the way Kim Jong Un champions democracy.

Ok, so it’s not that bad, but paisas tend to be very traditional. One aspect of their culture I noticed upon moving here is that all the paisa men wore pants. If they wore shorts, it was to go to the gym or do some other kind of exercise.

That has changed.

In the last year, I have noticed paisas wearing shorts everywhere: the grocery store, the mall, various neighborhoods.

Keep in mind, this occurs during the daylight hours 90 percent of the time. At night, wearing pants, especially jeans, is still the dominant fashion trend.

As Jeff, one of our new writers, once told me, his girlfriend and her friends favor guys who wear pants on a date, and I concur, for the most part. Once, on a mid-afternoon date to Café Zeppelin, I wore shorts.

One of those rare occasions when a Colombiano wears shorts at night, in this case, to a party at The Wandering Paisa hostel.
One of those rare occasions when a Colombiano wears shorts at night, in this case, to a party at The Wandering Paisa hostel

So then why the change of style at other times? Melissa will tell you more about men’s fashion overall in a future story, the same way she did with her informative piece of what women wear here.

In my story, I’ll focus only on shorts and I have a few theories for the fashion shift. I even asked some people in the fashion field their thoughts, to give this story a more diverse perspective.

My first theory is Colombians are strongly influenced by European and North American culture. Just look at all the fast food places around Medellín, the McDonald’s and Burger Kings, and is it just me or are there not an inordinate amount of Subway sandwich shops now?

Heck, even a Starbucks opened in Bogotá recently, and one will no doubt be coming to Medellín as the company announced plans to open 50 locations in Colombia.

Tourism is another factor.

The Colombian government estimates that the country will welcome more than 4 million tourists this year, a new record, and many of these tourists wear shorts.

On the Metro, I often see Colombians wearing shorts during the day.
On the Metro, I often see Colombians wearing shorts during the day

The locals notice this, said Steven Marin, whose family owns Lonmar Itda, a textile company in nearby Barbosa that makes clothing for popular Colombian brands such as Chevignon and Stop Jeans.

“Gringos rock the shorts and sandals,” he said.

There are other factors as well.

“Big brands like Chevignon and Americanino have been investing in publicity to sell more Bermudas and shorts for both men and women,” he said. “Plus an increase in temperature. Shorts are the practical way to go.”

With the El Niño weather phenomenon, it has been hotter and drier this year, so I’d have to agree with him there.

So does Mauricio Velasquez, director of the design and fashion wing of the Escuela de Arquitectura y Diseño at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana.

“Hace mucho calor,” Velasquez said, referring to the last couple of summers, the latest hotter than the last, and that one hotter than the one before.

That makes shorts more a necessity, he said, than a commodity.

But that’s not all.

Velasquez cited foreigners having an influence as well, but not necessarily when they’re visiting Medellín, more so just by living their lives the way they do at home. With the city libraries either new or upgraded to make them as modern as any in the world, the younger generations are able to see what people are doing around the world with the click of a mouse.

“Es un fenómino del Internet,” Velasquez said.

I have an Australian friend, someone who is like a little brother to me, who used to drive me crazy by wearing shorts everywhere in Medellín. It attracted attention, especially when he wore a pair as short as players in the 1980s NBA.

That style has yet to catch on here and probably never will, but otherwise, should he return and wear a pair that at least touches his knees, he would fit right in.

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  1. Wow. Good news.It was damn hot there this summer. I broke down and wore shorts some of the time. Mid afternoon can be hot and humid.

    • Yes, the weather seems to be the driving force behind the change. I’ve started wearing shorts too, something I never used to do here.

  2. I find this post awesome but funny, because my Paisa husband wears shorts all the time (of course, he is a drummer). I wear cargo shorts all the time too, which definitely brings on looks because im female.

    And I’ve never understood how guys (and girls) can wear long jeans all the time, even in summer.

      • I live in Cartagena and wear pants when I work. Jeans are too hot. Not many Colombians will wear shorts on the coast as it is not considered “formal” regardless of the temperature.

  3. I asked my Colombian roommate about the trend as Ryan was working on this article, and he said that it is becoming more common, in part, due to the influence of those from the USA.

    He said it’s still dependent on where the person is going.

    Picnic in the park – OK. Going out to a bar or club at night, you’re not going to see it even though it’s typically warm enough.

    • Hey,, It even catching on some, down here in Neiva. I still the stares and mine are cargo shorts down to knees. I hate to be stuck in jeans. Many days here are 95,,, they are just crazy. Certain places still pants, but shopping or average meals out, shorts ONLY

  4. With the exceptions of Manizales and Bucaramanga I felt it necessary to wear shorts in every other city I have visited in Colombia. At least during the day. The high humidity made it uncomfortable to wear jeans during the day. Any time after 6PM it was pants only though for men. Of course there are always the gringos there on vacation who were going to wear shorts no matter what time of day it was, particularly in the coastal cities of Cartagena, Santa Marta, etc. Great article Ryan, keep them coming!

  5. I used to be like this. I’d try to look, act, be and feel like locals. Now, I just like to be myself and experience the local culture. I don’t feel the need to hide the fact that I’m foreign. In my 20s, I’d almost brag about how I changed to fit in. I respect cultural mores and folkways, but I don’t try to be or act like locals. I’m just myself. I don’t mind if people know I’m from some place else. A lot of folks find foreigners interesting. It’s not like shorts are considered risque & I surely wouldn’t wear them out to dinner w/someone. Walking about on a hot sunny day, I surely would. I’d look like a foreigner…. because that’s what I am. There’s nothing wrong with that. I feel the same way about doing touristy things. If the touristy thing is interesting or fun, you don’t have to try so hard to avoid it just so you can say you did. Just enjoy yourself and stop worrying about locals finding you out. There’s not crime in being from out of town. …and, no, I’ve never been a target for a mugging because I looked foreign.

  6. We are going to Medellin and Cartagena The last week in October any recommendations on what to do places to eat and day trips ?