“Who wears short shorts? We wear short shorts.”
In 1958, a band called the Royal Teens released a song called “Short Shorts.” And while the lyrics were at that time geared towards women in tiny jean cut-offs, it may as well be the anthem of the United States Marine Corps.
Since the 1970s, Marines have donned uncomfortably short shorts during their workout regimens. Known then as “Ranger Panties,” these incredibly small drawers were first issued to the U.S. Army Rangers as part of the PT uniform, hence the adorable moniker.
“Ranger Panties are silky smooth,” wrote Adam Clark Estes, who reviewed them for Gizmodo. “The nylon tricot fabric is slightly stretchy and literally as soft as silk. Unlike real silk, the lightweight fabric is extremely breathable. The shorts are also extremely short with just a 2-inch inseam.”
As time wore on and the tiny trousers proliferated, they became known as “silkies,” for their satin-smooth sheen and quick-dry nature.
As of 2011, however, silkies have been banned for wear during physical training. While there was a spark of hope for an illustrious return as the Corps tested new Physical Training Uniform options in April 2021, it doesn’t seem likely that Ranger Panties will ever again be standard issue. Though they may make for excellent workout gear, they don’t exactly leave a lot to the imagination.
In 2014, Sgt. Maj. David Stocks with Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton said that while he appreciates the shorts, he doesn’t believe that they should be worn in public, particularly because Marines wear them a size too small.
“With current social norms, I don’t see silkies as appropriate to wear,” he said in a survey. “It’s unflattering or unsightly.”
However, some Marines report wearing them to PT regardless of regulations.
“I’ve never bothered with if it was an order and just wear them anyways,” wrote Reddit user Snarky_Answer. “I haven’t had any issues other than the CO and 1st Sgt. laughing about them while I was doing pull ups on the PFT. Then they gave me extra pull ups [because] they said them making me laugh cost me pull ups.”
As former Marine Ruddy Cano points out, there is a loophole in the regulations.
MCO 1020.34H, 3023 1 b. states that “olive green trunks of any material, similar in design to the current standard issue general purpose trunks, may be worn at the option of the individual on all occasions for which the PT uniform is authorized/prescribed. Optional trunks may be purchased through Marine Corps Exchanges or commercial sources and are not required to contain Marine Corps approval identification. For comfort and/or modesty, Marines are authorized to wear tights under the general purpose trunks that are not longer than, and the same color as the general purpose trunks.”
So technically it’s possible to get away with wearing them, though it may be discouraged by an individual command.
“The first loophole is that during individual PT one can wear whatever one wants,” Cano added. “The second loophole is if the leader of the formation decides the uniform of the day is silkies, everyone must wear it. The third and final loophole is there is no MARADMIN specifically forbidding them. There is no written rule anywhere that states you can’t other than MCO 1020.34H, which is vague at best.”
But for those that are not brave enough to risk breaking the rules, there are alternative options for off-hours.
Soffe, the company famous for making the gym shorts millennial girls rolled to uncomfortable heights during middle school P.E. classes, also has a military apparel collection. In it, there are classic silkies for just $14.99. And if you’re feeling fancy, you can upgrade to special print silkies for just $10 more.
There’s also Semper Silkies, which is a veteran-owned company that sells the caboose-cradlers with patterns featuring everything from Hawaiian print to a bootylicious bald eagle.
Semper short shorts.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.