Explore Palm Springs: When Men Wore Shorts

Shorts were not always the fashion, especially for men.

Renee Brown History


As the days of summer grow longer and hotter, shorts become a fashion staple for both men’s and women’s clothing in Palm Springs.

But it wasn’t always that way, according to Frances Bigelow, the first director of the Palm Springs Historical Society.

According to an article she wrote in the April 1955 edition of the Palm Springs Villager magazine, local businessmen Herbert Sampson and Al Gardiner were walking down Palm Canyon Drive in the 1930s discussing a new fashion trend that the British were sporting in the tropics. They strolled into Lykken’s Department Store, located where Mr. G’s Toy Store is today, and asked Edith Lykken for a pair of “white duck” summer trousers that would be suitable for shortening.

After the pants were shortened to a comfortable length, the gentlemen proceeded to wear them as part of their casual summer attire. Sampson said that some remarks made by locals were favorable and naturally some did not understand why any man would want to bare his legs no matter what the temperature.

Eventually the trend caught on when Palm Springs’s own, Tony Burke, a publicist, promoter, and realtor as well as a former Englishman, really popularized the wearing of shorts and made them acceptable as an essential part of every Palm Springs wardrobe.

There is a multitude of ways to Explore Palm Springs, which turned 75 in 2013. One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring Palm Springs history. The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a story whose time and place corresponds with today.

The Palm Springs Historical Society is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Visit for more information.