COOKING COOKING
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My pro tip for hanging on to summer: Shorts and crew socks till late fall

(Bijou Karman / For The Times)
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The confirmation of the worst of my fears came Oct. 23. It got a bit cool. Oh no, I thought.

Sure enough, the average temperature at Hollywood Burbank Airport didn’t top 69 degrees Fahrenheit. Perceiving this shift — from summer balminess to below 70 — is in the DNA of the SoCal native. Fall really was here, and I was crestfallen.

For the first time in months, I had to seriously consider putting on jeans to go outside. That day, it struck me that I had worn shorts every single day — night and day, indoor or out — since about late June. That’s 18 weeks of not wearing pants, and I wasn’t about to start yet.

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Of course, the stay-at-home guidelines of the pandemic had an effect on my summer wardrobe. But I also realized I had become rather cultish about summer and coastal life in SoCal in recent years. That feeling in 2020 was only magnified by the coronavirus blues and the prospect of a “dark winter.” My approach to the closure of summer was to act as though it wasn’t really over for as long as I could possibly maintain the mirage.

My secret? I’ve learned to extend the sensation of summer by wearing shorts with socks pulled up to the calf. When fall officially rolls around each year, I break out my array of cotton crew socks.

These are the socks I wear any other time of year under jeans or slacks in colder weather. Gray and black are my preferred colors. However, they shouldn’t be confused with athletic tube socks that rise higher. I’ve learned that crew socks are an efficient and comfortable method to keep your lower legs warm during the fall transition while regular, old shorts — the ones that hit just below the knee for me, please — can handle warming the thighs.

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(Bijou Karman / For The Times)

Call it end-of-summer refusal wear. Since late October, I’ve been practicing it.

Call it end-of-summer refusal wear. Since late October, I’ve been practicing it.

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Every true Californian knows that no matter what’s printed on the calendar, summer in SoCal extends from August to October and, if we’re lucky, sometimes into November. (If we want to be honest with ourselves, there are also wildcat hot days into December and January too.)

When it gets chilly at night now, I throw on a sweatshirt and feel the vibes even more. The look becomes fire pit attire even if you aren’t anywhere near one. To strangers, it can look like you’re on your way there, to a backyard in Venice or Boyle Heights. Endlessly outdoors.

After I recently tweeted about this unofficial sartorial tradition in our region, reader responses were uniformly approving.

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“That’s just the uniform. That’s L.A. Guy,” said Brooke Wetzel, 39, a florist in Pico-Robertson and an L.A. native Chicana. SoCal women have their version of it, she said, adding: “So my fall wardrobe is what I call my fancy sweats, sandals because I cannot bring myself to wear real shoes right now, a tank top and a denim jacket.”

I became a shorts guy late in life.

Through my teens, I’d be hard-pressed to leave the house under any conditions without jeans or pants on. Heat played no role during this period. I had legs like a seabird and spent more time indoors anyway, working at my high school newspaper. I never played sports.

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The 20s for me came with an aggressive vintage phase: secondhand corduroy jeans or jeans worn naturally to a state of knee-less disintegration. For a long period, I trampled through life in a pair of vintage black boots from Camden Market in London and white jeans splotched with bleach and torn, like a ragged dish towel, in unusual places. Style was tantamount to my everyday existence.

When I discovered the value of comfort over chaos in my 30s, as I decided to place less value on the social dopamine of being “hip,” I began opening up to shorts as a basic code of my attire.

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Of course, this shorts-and-high-socks combo raises the implication that I might be mistaken for a “homie” or “cholo” on the streets of Los Angeles. It comes with the territory of being brown-skinned and of a certain ethnic origin. When guys who look like me dress a certain way — simple T-shirts, black sunglasses, shorts and high socks — a stranger might wonder if they are thugs. It’s a laughable prospect for me but a reality nonetheless.

I called an expert on the subject for some insight. “Honestly when I first saw you, I wondered if you used to ‘bang,’” said Brandon Loran Maxwell, a writer, commentator and former gang member. “I feel like the cholos in L.A. are uniquely qualified to tell the difference between someone who is from California and someone who is banging.”

Indeed. Naively I view my standard fall — I mean, extended summer — look as a version of “normal” or actual L.A. style, a celebration of the casual spirit of SoCal culture, one pair of calf-length socks at a time. Luckily the look also overlaps with the subcultures of skating and surfing. Neither of which I actually do, but at least I’m at the beach a lot.

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(Bijou Karman / For The Times)

Maxwell agreed. “It’s rooted in people wanting to be out late at night and keep that summer vibe going,” he said. “It makes sense and it feels good. I love that feeling on your legs.”

If being mistaken for a homie or a “foo’” (to use the trendiest term) comes with the territory, I just let it slide. And I’m sure that as I enter middle age, my wardrobe in October will register more and more as golfing gear or dad wear.

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Fine by me. Call it what you want. This shorts-and-socks combo gets me through the hot-and-coolness of our unique SoCal autumns: cool in the shade, hot in the sun, all the seasons traversed in one day. As far as I’m concerned, closing the book on summer 2020 will wait until the daily temperatures force my legs to fully hibernate hip to toe.

“I get it when I see it,” Wetzel said in an interview. But, she said, “if the long cholo shorts go way past the knee so there’s no skin showing, that’s pants.”

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