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Does the above image give you intense flashbacks to middle school gym class, cheerleading practice, and/or sleepaway camp?
Extremely same. Soffes, as they came to be called, were the hallmark of a particular slice of middle and high school for a huge swath of girls who came of age in the aughts. According to sources familiar with teens, the shorts are still in vogue among cheerleaders, gymnasts, and “normal teens.”
To a late-blooming nerd like me, it felt as though one day the Girl Coalition held a meeting and decided that Soffes would be our official uniform. All of a sudden they were everywhere, worn in every color of the rainbow at every conceivable practice, rehearsal, and game. They were especially popular, in my largely Jewish town, as souvenirs from bar and bat mitzvahs, emblazoned with the honoree’s name on one of the front legs — or, if they were really narcissistic, across the butt.
And over a decade after our Soffe heyday, a casual mention of the shorts among the Racked staff caused a litany of nostalgic shrieks. Here, in a more legible form, are those shrieks.
Soffes were (in)famous for their rollable waistbands.
“The thing I remember most about my beloved Soffes is that I always rolled them a little — okay, make that a lot — shorter than I probably should have. We're talking two to three full waistband rotations, people, and they were already pretty diminutive shorts to begin with!
I wasn't the only girl in my class who did this, of course, which led to my high school's PE program outlawing Soffes altogether and making us wear knee-length basketball shorts instead. Nonetheless, I still had my old Soffes hanging around in my childhood bedroom closet until last year, when I finally purged the last few stretched-out, faded pairs.” —Elana Fishman, entertainment editor
And despite their undeniable cachet, there was something democratizing about them.
“Soffe shorts were the Nike shorts before we had Nike shorts (a.k.a. Norts). As in, they were the bottom half of the Every Girl's lazy day uniform, and it was cool to collect them in a bunch of different colors. And at $6 a pop, Soffes were a lot more affordable for middle school loungewear than today's Nike shorts are.
They were ubiquitous. They were equalizers. They weren't ‘cool’ necessarily, but they were there, and by there I mean on the butt of the hot cheerleader that was a few grades above you, and also on your own butt (just sans the ‘Cheer’ slogan across it). They were at sports practices. They were at church retreats, just not rolled down. Soffes were on every girl butt you knew.” —Stephanie Talmadge, social editor
Which meant that you, too, could shop (and flirt) like a cool girl.
“At camp, Soffes were definitely the cool-girl shorts. They were so basic they had that casual I-didn't-try-at-all air. But more importantly, they were kinda sexy and flirty — sure, because they were short, but really because you could roll the waistband down to show a little more leg, a little more hip, a little more tummy than was counselor-approved. And since flirting with boys is truly the number-one ranked activity at summer camp, way above archery or pottery making, Soffes were essential.
The day I discovered they were only about $8 at Kohls — and therefore something my mom would readily buy me — might be one of my most revelatory shopping experiences to this day.” — Ellie Krupnick, managing editor
And they’re still just as popular now as they used to be.
“Me and my whole cheer squad practically live in them. We wear them to every practice, in between games, and to cheer camp. They are practically a necessity. I feel like mostly people who play sports have them because we're broke and they're cheap. But all of my friends at least have one pair, whether they play sports or not. We always get them for spirit week or Halloween or whatever when we need to put together an outfit.” — Julia Cheresko, actual teen
Luckily(?) for you, if you missed out on the glory of Soffes or just want to relive the cotton-jersey magic, they’re still around, and still insanely cheap.
You can get them on Amazon for about $6 a pair. And at prices like that, you may as well buy them for your entire over-the-hill crew. While you’re at it, why not spring for your names across the butt? Ah, to be young again.