The History of Bermuda Shorts, Knee-Length Unique Clothing Once Inspired by British Army and Royal Navy Military Uniforms

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Bermuda is the only place in the world where they are the national dress for men. Millions of people who have not yet visited Bermuda may think they know of Bermuda Shorts. But only the dress Bermuda shorts – what male Bermudians and professional business newcomers from all walks of life wear for business attire and cocktail parties – are the real Bermuda shorts, worn three inches above the knee. Wear them as a uniform, day day attire, informal evening wear, casual wear, walking out wear.

Shorts owe much of their contemporary origins to the military. Possibly the earliest example (1880s) of modern-day shorts, is the uniform of the heavily respected Gurkha soldiers of the Nepalese army –– much like our khaki shorts of today, but four generous pockets and a distinctive cummerbund waistband with buckles and adjustable straps.

During World War I, Britain set up its North American Headquarters in Bermuda. There was a single tea shop on the island and because of the British soldiers, business boomed. The summer heat and the steaming pots of tea made the temperature inside the little tea shop often times unbearable. The owner, not wanting to spend money on new uniforms for his staff, took all the khaki trousers and cut them just above the knee. Rear Admiral Mason Berridge, who took his tea in this little shop, adopted the style for his fellow officers and named them “Bermuda Shorts”. The British Navy founded the yacht clubs in Hamilton & St. George, soon officers of the British Army serving elsewhere began adopting the smart looking, summer version of the khaki military uniform. Before long the men in London, who made such uniform decisions on behalf of the military, stated that standard dress was to be khaki shorts amongst all British soldiers serving elsewhere in the sub-tropics of The Old British Empire.

The local people of Bermuda certainly began noticing the smartly dressed British officers milling around the yacht clubs and tailors began copy and modify the style for civilian use. This helped to establish it and by the 1920s it had become the standard business attire of the local men. At the time, Bermuda was a very popular steamship destination and tourists arriving for winter holiday helped to spread the style back to the United States and elsewhere around the world.

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