In 2007’s Superbad, one of the biggest bro comedies of the last 10 years, fashion was changed forever. As Jonah Hill’s schlubby Seth is agonizing over a suitable outfit to wear to the graduation party, Michael Cera suggests just leaving on his school clothes. “It’s completely unbecoming,” Hill replies. “No one’s gotten a handjob in cargo shorts since ‘Nam.”
With one dirty joke, the long baggy shorts were blasted out of bro culture.
“Cargo shorts have been super-stigmatized as trashy and déclassé amongst bros,” says Brandon Wenerd, a senior editor at Brobible. “They’re now culturally associated with a type of ignorant mouth-breathing meathead who’d try to fight a bouncer outside a bar or something douchey like that. In other words, bros don’t want to be that guy.”
So what’s a young upstanding member of Beta Chi to do? Enter Chubbies, the colorful skimpy shorts created by four California bros who are completely obsessed with three things: the weekend, their personal brands, and creating “the most radical shorts company on Earth.”
If current sales are any indication, they just might be successful. As their shorts say behind the zipper: “Boomshakalaka.”
Kyle Hency, Rainer Castillo, Tom Montgomery, and Preston Rutherford are the Stanford University grads and fraternity brothers behind Chubbies. In 2011, they decided to quit their respective jobs and make a go at starting a business together. Chubbies avoids a top-down structure — there is no CEO, and each founder takes their product with an evangelical seriousness.
“[Shorts are] what you wear when you’re ready to go out and have fun,” Montgomery says. “Pants are what you’re wear when you doing things that you necessarily don’t want to do like being in the cold or work or whatever, and so it’s just a really fun natural extension of the way that we were and the way that we feel.”
The elastic waist is where the shorts gets their name from — i.e., you can wear them when you’ve gained a couple pounds and you’re chubby (“We’ve heard there’s some double-meaning with the term, but we don’t put much credit in that,” Montgomery says).
The shorts have a 5.5-inch inseam known as “the chubseam.” Compare that to American Eagle’s cargo shorts, which have a 12.5-inch inseam. Chubbies come in over 30 variations including a stoplight-yellow pair called “The Funkadelics” and a variety of tiki print pairs with names like “The Mai Thighs” and “Sex on The Beach.”
Wenerd is an owner of the brand’s most popular pair — the stars-and-stripes ones known as “‘Mericas.” “I let a veteran buddy friend of mine wear them at a bar after a wedding back in June and he more or less owned the place,” he says.
The company’s website reads like an extension of the guys too. There’s a page of “The Facts,” with Chuck Norris-inspired aphorisms like “Chicks dig the Chubbies tan,” and “Recent scientific studies have conclusively shown that wearing Chubbies increases the rate of facial hair growth by 3.6x.” Then there’s “The Weekender” section: an open letter by “Mason ‘The Radmiral’ Robinson and the Chubsters” praising Saturdays and Sundays, complete with hockey fight GIFs and Tom Selleck pictures. The central thesis: “BoomSlamThankYouMa’am see ya never Monday through Friday because now it’s time to get rad-iculous.”
The mention of Selleck is no accident — if the shorts remind you of the ones your dad used to wear in his youth, you’re making the right association. That’s where the four founders of Chubbies got the idea in the first place.
“We were kind of looking back at photos of our parents and ’80s legends and sports stars, people like Tom Selleck and whoever, and saying shorts are in a weird place,” Chubbies’ co-founder Kyle Hency says. “Everyone is wearing really long crappy cargo shorts and weird man-capri-type things, and so for us, we felt like it was a really easy message. And also we wear these shorts.”
Helping them out on their quest to fix America’s shorts problem are the 27 loyal employees in the company’s San Francisco office. One key employee is the office’s “fun commander,” Lauren Haugh, who also goes by the nickname “First Lady.” She’s the person whose job it is to come up with fun, team bonding ideas, and surprises for the rest of the team. (She also doubles as one of the designers and production managers for the swim line.)
Rutherford says they try to “treat every day like it’s a vacation.” That means all of Chubbies’ full-time employees take an hour of “vacation time” daily to do something like go outside to lay on a hammock, spend time at the gym, or throw a football around. (Employees do tend to work through their lunch, which is delivered to the office every day.)
Perks aside, these employees must feel pretty secure with Chubbies. Rutherford told BuzzFeed that in the first seven months of 2013, the company more than doubled its 2012 revenues (an increase of around 220%). Similarly, the first half of 2013 saw an 840% revenue growth over the same period of 2012. According to a blog post by the consumer tracking service NPD, men spent $1.3 billion dollars on shorts sales from May 2012 to April 2013.
The debate over whether or not it’s acceptable for men to wear shorts is never-ending. Some men feel that they are only fit for children, but fashion stigmas aside, men over the age of 35 actually account for most shorts sales in the United States.
The founders say it’s been a challenge to grow while keeping their product made exclusively in the U.S., a rare thing for clothing manufacturers. They now have nine sewing facilities in San Francisco and Los Angeles producing their shorts. They’re currently looking in South Carolina for longer-term production ideas.
But now that summer’s over, opportunities for wearing shorts are decreasing. Though maybe not, if the Chubbies founders have their way. Montgomery says, “We’re also coming out with some ridiculous custom-built-for-winter lines of shorts that, in the case in which one is wearing socks, will knock them right off.”
It’s important to note that you won’t be seeing Chubbies in stores anytime soon. “We don’t want there to be any reason you need to ever go into a store to buy shorts,” proclaims the website. Chubbies sees itself as “disruptive” and in the same conversation as online specialty stores like the hipster glasses startup Warby Parker. And although you do get a Chubbies tank with your fourth order, the company isn’t looking to expand into other apparel just yet. “We want to be the experts of shorts,” Rutherford says before adding that athletic wear and outdoor shorts are coming.
Fratty-type guys seem genuinely excited by the brand. The company received over 1,000 applications for its campus ambassador program, where the Chubbies gives free products to college kids it sees fit to represent the brand on their college campuses (“no jerks”). The company now has 125 of these guys who hold photo contests and wear the shorts around as manly walking billboards.
“Chubbies certainly takes it to a hilarious extreme, but that’s the novelty of it,” says Andrew Frank, a recent University of Maryland grad, former frat boy, and owner of Chubbies. “They’re fun. They’re funny. And you will be the life of the party with a pair of those bad boys on your hams.”