Ode To The Cutoff

Story And Photos By Emily Smith

As the long, sizzling days of July creep upon us, I am constantly reminded that nothing can remedy a near bout with a dog day scorcher quite like an endless supply of ice-cold water. Whether I’m drinking it by the bucketfuls, lazily lounging beside it as it trickles down one of Arkansas’ meandering rivers, or wading my way through a chlorine- (and child- ) ridden public pool, I cherish every ounce of H2O that summer brings my way.

Many of my fondest heat-riddled, childhood memories involve trips to my hometown municipal pool with my two sisters. Scantily clad in our finest bikinis and cutoff denim shorts, we would trek our way to the local park by way of bicycle, often peddled with bare feet. After paying our $1 fee, we would pretend to “shower”— a requirement to enter the facilities for some odd reason—then make our way to our mutual summer Mecca known only as “The Big Pool.”

I still find myself longing for the taste of cheap popsicles that we’d purchase as yet another way to beat the summer heat, staining our lips with deep shades of red, blue and green.

I rather enjoy reminiscing about the times we gathered our courage to take the plunge off of the “high dive” and the endless hours we spent bobbing in the shallow end playing a game of Marco Polo. Ironically enough, although I am no longer the 8-year-old with the dirty bare feet and cherry stained lips, I continue to find myself pairing my latest bathing suit with a fabulous pair of cutoff denim shorts.

Cutoffs have been around since the invention of the jean (thank you, Mr. Levi Strauss), a 100-plus years before I sported them in the 1980s, and they will surely prevail long after I am past the appropriate, leg-baring age to wear them.

My mother proudly wore her super short cutoffs adorned with hand-stitched embroidered hearts and butterflies in the early 1970s and before her, my grandmother wore a more modest, knee-skimming cutoff denim short during the 1960s.

And, although I am riding the proverbial cusp of “past her prime” to be wearing cutoffs, I will forever be an advocate of the timeless and understated summer staple that can be worn by men and women alike.

You can easily make your own pair by simply taking scissors to your old pair of 501s (make it your first Do-It-Yourself project of summer), or you could visit Cheap Thrills in downtown Fayetteville for a readymade pair priced well under $10.

Heck, even the high-end boutiques have gotten into the cutoff game, selling various designer brands in tons of lengths and styles, but prepare yourself to pay upward of $75.

Regardless of cost, by far the best aspect of the timeless summer staple is its ability to be worn with almost anything.

Consider your new cutoffs as versatile as your favorite pair of jeans during the fall and winter months.

Dress them up with heels and a silk top on a Saturday night. Dress them down with a great worn-in pair of Chuck Taylors and your favorite T-shirt on a leisurely Sunday afternoon.

However you choose to wear your cutoffs, by all means, just wear them! Wear them proudly and without caution. Wear them with all the zeal and zest that summer brings and show a little leg while you still got ’em!

Categories: Features