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Jorts: An Oral History

The world’s leading experts on jorts finally speak out.

It’s hard to imagine a world without jorts. Many wouldn’t even want to. But not long ago, jorts, or jean shorts, only existed inside the minds of those who dared to dream.

We asked the world’s foremost jorts experts to talk about the origins of these denim booty covers in their own words.

The Birth of Jorts


Dylan Flerp: If you ask who wore the first-ever pair of jorts, you’re really gunning for a heated debate. I mean, that’s a loaded question. People get angry.

Miranda Winkelbottom: History’s first pair of jorts? How much time do you have? No, seriously. I’m asking. I have the unique ability to talk for extremely long periods of time, nonstop, about nothing but denim shorts. It’s my life’s only joy.

DF: If you want to get really technical, there are cave drawings that, to the trained eye, look like they could be wearing jorts. They are quite primitive, but the shorts look really short. We’re talking at least some butt visibility.

MW: We’re only talking about denim shorts here. Shorts made out of any other material are, quite frankly, disgusting and make me want to vomit. But denim wasn’t invented until the 1800s. And jeans as we know them today came toward the end of that century. Also, I have no other marketable skills beyond my expansive knowledge of jorts.

DF: The history books really only point to one guy. And that’s Bartholomew Bubbins, the first recorded man to ever cut off his jeans and turn them into shorts.

MW: Bubbins was a pioneer in the field of jorts. While we can’t prove that no one wore jorts before him, he did make great strides in jorting.

DF: Bubbins set the jorts standard.

Bart Bubbins III: My great-great-grandfather was, without question, the first-ever man to wear jorts. The Neil Armstrong of jorts, as more people should call him. And when I hear things about cave drawings and Renaissance art depicting jorts before Pop-Pop (that’s what my family called him), I get so angry I could punch a wall. I have punched a wall regarding this matter before and I won’t hesitate to punch a wall again.

MW: There are paintings from early 19th-century France where children are depicted, ever so delicately, wearing shorts that appear to be denim. They look like angels. Little jorts angels.

BB: Honestly, I would love it if historians could maybe spend three seconds not trying to destroy my family’s legacy. (punches a wall) Pop-Pop was basically best friends with Levi Strauss and he undeniably took one of his pairs of jeans and cut the damn legs off.

Ghost of Levi Strauss: I prefer not to comment. (spooky ghost sounds)

DF: The legend of how Bartholomew Bubbins made the first pair of jorts has always been a mystery. Some say it was to settle a bet. Others say it was to defend the honor of a lady.

MW: We can only assume the motivation for Bubbins to wear those jean shorts in 1879 was to test the limit of the human spirit.

BB: I’ll tell you why he did it. Pop-Pop gave zero fucks. His legs were hot. He took off his pants and had a horse-drawn carriage run over them until the legs ripped off. He put his freshly made jorts on and went back to business like an honorable man.

DF: Many accounts say the shorts were so short you could almost see his butt.

BB: You could absolutely see his butt. That’s not even up for debate.

Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

The New Dawn of Jorts


DF: Of course, they weren’t called “jorts” back in those days. People didn’t know what to call them.

MW: Cropped dungarees, half trousers. Those were some of the names floating around at the turn of the century.

BB: Pop-Pop called them his “blue babies.” I call them mini jeans, but no one asked me.

DF: The first people wearing jorts were the more risqué cowboys and miners of the day. It was the perfect solution for those who worked a rough job but weren’t afraid to show some sweet, sweet leg.

MW: The first woman to wear jorts was a notable figure in the Wild West. Mildred “The Rattlesnake” Jones, known simply as Millie Rat’snake, was famous for wearing jorts and killing people. She was notorious in every town west of the Colorado River.

DF: If you saw those legs coming, you ran away.

MW: She was basically a murderer.

DF: She killed a lot of people.

MW: The theory is that the ease of movement afforded her by the jorts gave her the unique ability to win basically every shootout.

DF: A lot of outlaws lost their lives to Millie’s death jorts.

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The Dark Days of Jorts


MW: People weren’t always so accepting of jorts. After the turn of the century there were more and more people calling them “the devil’s denim.”

DF: It’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always legal to wear jorts. Not like now. Hoo boy, not like now.

MW: Churches began hosting jorts burnings. People would actually roast marshmallows and hot dogs over the burning jorts and say it was God’s will. In the 1920s, under pressure from religious groups, states started outlawing jorts. If you were seen in public wearing them, you risked, at best ridicule, at worst, going to jail. They were called “trouser crimes,” and you did not want to get caught.

DF: The first person to go to jail for wearing jorts was Theodore Bardoosky. He was an avid jorts activist and very proud. He never let anyone make him feel ashamed for wearing jorts. A true American hero. I’m sorry. I always get a little emotional talking about Bardoosky. He sacrificed so much so that we today could have the freedom to wear jorts.

MW: The police of Millstone, N.J., really made an example of Bardoosky when they threw him in jail. Eye-witness accounts say he was screaming “Get your hands off my jean shorts!”

DF: “Get your hands off my jean shorts” became a slogan for the movement.

MW: Publicly, most people were still very afraid of retribution, but the underground jorts culture of the era was going strong. People would meet at secret locations and wear jorts together.

Edith Moopington:
Denim-clad butts as far as the eye could see. I was only 15 years old when I worked as a waitress at a secret jorts club. But I loved jorts and I was gonna be goddamned if the government ever took my jorts away from me. We were fighting for something back then.

MW: A lot of men made their fortunes off jorts smuggling.

DF: Jorts smugglers made a killing funneling jorts into the underground community.

MW: The jorts clubs were centers for debauchery. It turns out most of them were fostering the potent combination of jorts and alcohol.

EM: Sure, we were getting drunk. And that was illegal too. But it was mostly about the jean shorts.

DF: Most jorts activists were indeed reputed drunkards.

EM: You’d just sneak out at night, get hammered out of your mind and try to find a nice young gentleman who admired your short denim trousers. My brother was smuggling jorts across state lines. We would wear jorts five days a week. We didn’t care. It was jorts or nothing. That’s what I always say. Jorts or nothing.

MW: Finally, in 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Denim Length Act into law. It was no longer legal to outlaw denim shorts of any kind.

DF: Jorts were back. America was back.

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But Why “Jorts”?


Randy Blort: Why did I invent the term “jorts”? Hell, I don’t remember. Get off my property.

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