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noun [plural]

shorts (= short trousers that end at or above the knees) which look like jeans

'Us chicks have a nice variety of options: miniskirts, gauzy maxidresses, culottes … but for dudes, it's basically shorts. And WOW, there are some bad options out there. We know it's tempting to go with the flow and throw on a pair of jorts.'

Racked National 20th June 2011

Over the summer months there were doubtless more than a few of us who donned a pair of jeans shorts. Conceptually, these are the same as they've always been, whether short, sexy and stylish, or scruffy, faded, frayed-at-the-edges jobs hastily produced by a surgical procedure on an old pair of jeans. Lexically however they've undergone a bit of a metamorphosis, since in popular fashion speak they're now referred to as jorts.

it's perhaps no exaggeration to say that the invention of denim jeans was the fashion-equivalent of the wheel or the first computer

Jorts are simply shorts made out of denim, the thick blue cotton cloth which is stitched to a regular formula in the creation of jeans. It's perhaps no exaggeration to say that the invention of denim jeans was the fashion-equivalent of the wheel or the first computer. Jeans transcend all cultural and age boundaries, can look smart or casual, and there's barely a person on this earth who doesn't have a pair in the wardrobe.

It's perhaps no surprise then that fashion innovators, particularly in recent years, have tried to replicate the jeans look in other clothing items, attempting to combine it with the style and functionality of other garments. Jorts, conceptually if not lexically, have been around for a while, but a more recent example is of course jeggings, leggings with the look and feel of jeans. Jeggings are, however, only the tip of the iceberg, as it seems more and more clothing manufacturers have jumped on the 'looks like jeans' bandwagon. The US has recently seen the launch of pajama jeans, a kind of bizarre hybrid of jeans and soft, comfy pyjama bottoms. From sleepwear to underwear, fellas who want the denim look to be as intimate as possible can now invest in a pair of junderpants, boxer style briefs made to look like jeans. But perhaps the most jaw-dropping (and arguably the cutest) of them all, has to be jiapers, also humorously described as jappies, depending on which side of the Atlantic you are. Yes, even babies can't escape the denim treatment with the invention of disposable nappies which look like jeans!

Background – jorts

The use of the word jorts (a blend of jeans and shorts) is yet another example following the fashion industry's trend of combining words to create descriptions of 'hybrid' fashion items. Such expressions tend to be ephemeral, lasting only as long as the fashion trends to which they relate, but given that jeans shorts have been worn for years and seem unlikely to disappear, the word jorts may have some chance of survival if used widely enough.

Jorts isn't in fact the first time that the word shorts has been combined in this way. The word skorts (or skort) dates back to the 1960s and is used to refer to a pair of women's shorts with a flap of fabric in the front, giving the appearance of a skirt.

The word jeans as a reference to trousers made from denim dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, with its origins in the French expression jean fustian, which referred to a type of twilled cotton cloth made in Genoa in Italy.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 5th September 2011.

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