Men's shorts are OK. (Women's shorts are also OK, but they are much more obviously OK, and not what we are talking about.) Summers get hot around this part of the solar system; why swaddle those vast swaths of leg-skin behind fabric when you could use them, sensibly, to radiate your body's internal (and rising) heat?
Shorts of a reasonable length—hemmed somewhere in the near-vicinity of the knee, that is to say—embody a neat compromise: between society's understandable preference for not exposing our tender eyeballs to the horror of the male buttock any more than absolutely necessary, on the one hand, and our also very understandable preference for not sweltering to death on the other. When the weather is hot, people should wear shorts. Men should wear shorts.
The suit, on the other hand... OK, it has its uses. As determinedly punctilious display of formality, it works! And, hey, that's not nothing: Sometimes you want your dress to express reverence and propriety—at a wedding, say, or a funeral, or an interview for a Serious Grown-Up Job. When you want your clothing to say I am concerned with observance of etiquette and convention, and thus may be trusted with the nuclear launch codes. It's good for that. Good for the suit.
But, here's the thing about formality: The very particular thing it signifies is prioritization of etiquette over comfort. This is what makes it formality. All those buttons and collars and tie knots and lapels, the ironing and starching and tucking and tying: These things exist not because they produce comfort (quite the opposite!), but because they're elaborate-looking. Our dipshit forebears created an agglomeration of fine details to get right, involving layers upon layers of expensive fabric, so that by possessing all of that fabric and getting the details of its arrangement right, a man could signify the class status that privileged him with the knowledge of how to get those details right, as well as the wealth to afford specialized formalwear, and, possibly, the personal attendants to assist him in putting it on (and/or receive a merciless flogging for sending him forth into the evening with an insufficiently starched collar).
Class-warfare ramifications aside (fuck suits!), you can see that this puts the suit at precise odds with shorts. Shorts embody a choice of comfort over fanciness (even when they look OK, as they do on dudes with toned calves and slim ankles); the suit, by its design, says I have chosen to be uncomfortable for the sake of propriety.
Do not make the intellectual error of thinking that a suit with shorts represents a compromise between formality and comfort. For one thing, the pants are the least-formal part of a suit; all the mannered discomfort is in the upper half, and none of it is mitigated by the inclusion of shorts. For another, comfort is anathema to formality; like Harry Potter and Voldemort, the two simply cannot compromise with each other. A suit with shorts is a "compromise" between formality and comfort like black silk Zubaz pants are a "compromise" between formality and comfort: not. Not a compromise.
No, the suit-with-shorts is a getup at fundamental odds with itself. It signifies a wearer who wishes to reserve for himself the class status signified by formality, but also the indifference to class status signified by the choice of comfort over decorum. It signifies a dipshit.
Which, actually, there's something kind of perfect about that, because it also just kinda makes you look like a fucking dipshit. Like Little Lord Fauntleroy. It is a bad look for bad people with bad clothing opinions.
Don't wear a suit with shorts. Thank you.
Image by Sam Woolley