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Thom Browne Fights a Lawsuit While Wearing a Shorts Suit

If the idea of “shorts as formalwear” has enjoyed any sort of renaissance over the last few years, it is thanks to the American designer Thom Browne, whose signature shrunken short suits have turned Met Gala carpets, NBA tunnels, and global fashion weeks into notably leggy places. Tom Ford may have once banished shorts from the island of Manhattan, but Browne and his rowdy cadre of celebrity ambassadors brought them back to the city, surfing a wave of boyish gray twill accented with varying three-, four-, and five-bar stripes.

And Browne, often his own cheekiest advocate of the formal-shorts agenda, has found an even more interesting place to wear them: to court. Arriving at United States District Court in Manhattan this morning, the designer Thom Browne wore the archetypal head-to-toe Thom Browne kit: shrunken jacket and tie, knit cardigan, leather brogues, and tailored suit shorts hitting just above the knee—all the better to display his hiked-up, four-bar-striped athletic socks.

For context: in 2021, the German sportswear juggernaut Adidas filed a claiming trademark infringement lawsuit against the Thom Browne label, citing what it calls a similarity between its famous three-stripe branding and the parallel stripes (in sets of two, three, and most often four) often seen encircling the calves, thighs, and upper arms of Thom Browne garments. The lawsuit  asserts that “Thom Browne sportswear and footwear feature three and four stripes in ways that adidas claims is likely to deceive, confuse, and mislead actual and prospective purchasers of adidas’s merchandise,” with particular focus on the label’s sporty ongoing collaboration with the Spanish soccer giant FC Barcelona (and that club’s longtime Adidas-associated star, Lionel Messi). The label disputes this assertion, essentially saying Adidas is rehashing already-squashed beef: “What is important to understand is that Adidas gave its consent to Thom Browne over 10 years ago and in fact suggested that Thom add an additional stripe to reach four on the sleeves or the pants and that this would be OK by Adidas. From that point for over a decade Adidas never said a word to Thom Browne,” a spokesman for the brand told WWD in 2021. “It is only now, with Thom finally achieving some real success that Adidas has behaved differently.”

Adidas and Thom Browne may both make shorts of many stripes, though you’d probably only get away with wearing the latter’s shorts to court—even if only Thom Browne himself could get away with it. That said, it seems like the designer was just following the advice he gave GQ about wearing shorts in non-shorts places: “…dudes…if you want to…then do it…”

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