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Choice words for short shorts

They don't know how lucky they are, those girls, their midriffs trim, in their oh-so-brief Soffe shorts.

By JANET K. KEELER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 15, 2003

[Times photo: Lara Cerri]
Rock Solid Allstars cheerleader Jessica Stover, 13, of Holiday, pauses before a routine at practice recently.

Oh to be young, gifted and brave and have words like PRINCESS or CHEER! written on the backside of our shorts.

The way things are going for some of us, the entire Magna Carta could fit back there.

If you've been to the mall, the beach, a girls athletic event, a cheerleading practice, a slumber party, a theme park, a skate park or a city park, you've seen these shorts. When the Royal Teens asked the musical question "Who wears short shorts?" in 1958, they could only have dreamed about these legal underwear.

The kids call them Soffe shorts, even the ones not made by M.J. Soffe, a manufacturer of active wear since 1946. Of course, in the beginning Soffe (say it SO-fee) wasn't producing shorts with TUMBLE or SOCCER adorning the rear end.

Soffe's girls athletic shorts are staples on soccer fields and in cheerleading gyms and may have even been the inspiration for the teeny-weeny velour shorts popularized by Jennifer Lopez, singer/actor/fashion designer/perfume manufacturer/restaurateur. University pride also gets cheeky tribute with NOLES, GATORS and USF visible on shorts and sweat pants both coming and going.

If it's just a name that needs a shout out, can get behind you for about $17. The online store also sells shorts emblazoned with 90210, the ZIP of Beverly Hills. Can area codes -- a la American Idol contestant Ruben Studdard's 205, a nod to his hometown Birmingham, Ala. -- be far away?

But for now, it's Soffes that are the must-haves. The shorts are 50 percent cotton and 50 percent polyester with a sewn-in elastic waistband that must be rolled down at least once if the wearer is to be considered at all with it. The shorts are made shorter by hiking them up before the waistband is tweaked.

These young, trim girls have the luxury of choosing to flip the waistband. They'll find out as they get older that a soft tummy will do that for them, exposing not a taut belly but something less awesome.

On a recent night at Rock Solid Allstars cheerleading gym in Pinellas Park, girls in Soffes, with and without backside messages, were executing aerial stunts and complete 360s from a dead stand. ROCK and CHEER and the cheerleading stunt count 1-2 down-up (represented by directional arrows) were flying on the seats of their pants.

The moms-in-waiting, none wearing Soffes, were fine with the skimpy shorts but wrinkled their noses at HOT STUFF, BOY TOY or other provocative advertising. Wouldn't it be great to look like that again? was the prevailing sentiment as they gazed through the viewing mirror at their athletic daughters. Many dads, one mom notes, prefer longer shorts on their girls. Baggy, turn-of-the-century bloomers, perhaps.

Jessica Norman, 15, a sophomore at Boca Ciega High School in St. Petersburg, claims nearly 40 pairs of Soffes. So does Carrie Bariteau, 18, a senior at Northside Christian High School, also in St. Petersburg. They are not unusual.

"They wear them all the time. They never take them off," chimes Brandon Bariteau, 11, Carrie's brother. "I've seen some that say ANGEL and HOTTIE."

Brandon is watching from the sidelines because mom Carol Bariteau is co-owner of Rock Solid. The youngest Bariteau cheerleader, Chelsea, 8, is practicing tricks on a trampoline. She's wearing black Soffes, rolled once. She models them with the waist turned down twice but Mom shakes her head. Too low.

When does a young woman have to switch from Soffes to knee-skimming walking shorts and perhaps, ultimately, to long warm-up pants?

Carrie and Jessica, being polite to a reporter obviously unsuitable for Soffes, seemed honestly stumped. They couldn't imagine a day when they wouldn't be wearing micro-shorts.

"You're never too old to wear them," Carrie says. "Wear them whenever you feel the need."

Jessica cautioned that it was best to wear the right size. She's probably unaware that the sizes don't include double-wide.

A trip through Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg turned up shorts that proclaimed LUCKY, TOO (for Limited Too), ALL STAR, and every sport imaginable, except wrestling. One pair even boasted DADDY'S GIRL, to which we imagine an exasperated father demanding to know "Who's your Daddy?"

If Carrie and Jessica are right and a woman over 30 can wear her heart on her bum, what would she proclaim? The shorts of youth brim with self-esteem and pride. The shorts of adulthood might be less enthusiastic.


That's enough. We don't want to scare Carrie and Jessica and all the other girls still rocking in their Soffes. After all, they are young, gifted and brave. So says their shorts.

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