Why do postmen always wear shorts?

The rain has come, the chill is upon us and the shorts have been packed away. Unless, of course, you are a postman.

Rain, hail and even snow cannot deter the hardiest of postmen from wearing their shorts.

Bierley_Newport_Road_post_box_snow
The famous frosty postbox
Source: Wikimedia
So why does the posty keep showing off his knobbly knees, even when the rest of us are shivering away in thermal long johns?

The history of the uniform

Postman's knock portrait
The famous “knock”
Source: The British Postal Museum and Archive
Postmen haven’t always worn shorts. Traditionally, delivery workers, wore trousers. Just like today, red hues dominated the uniform, but things were a bit more formal back in 1973 and posties had to wear a scarlet tailcoat every day!

The first instance of lighter attire for postal workers wasn’t until 1896, when they were given a summer hat. Shorts were still nowhere to be seen.

In humid India, postal workers did wear khaki, but in 2004 opted for red and blue, like UK postal workers. But unlike UK postal workers of today, who have worn shorts since the 1940s, Indian postmen wear trousers.

Comfort

Postman_in_shorts by van
An unnamed shareholder in shorts
Source: Ashton-Under-Lyne
Walking 10 miles over 6 ½ hours is thirsty work, and would make even the fittest athlete sweat. To stop getting so hot on their rounds, postmen wear shorts. And while mens trousers with a high cotton content are breathable, they still aren’t as airy as shorts.

Postman have to walk those 10 miles even in the winter, so they still get hot from all that exercise. Even if it’s sub zero and snowing!

Safety trousers

ice treads
Essential for the British weather
Men like to compete to show how tough they are, but the big bosses don’t seem to think their postmen are that tough at all. Well at least not as tough as these people.

In Cheltenham, postal workers were banned from wearing shorts, after one slipped in icy conditions and grazed his leg. A pair of mens cord trousers may well have limited the damage, but better ice and snow treads would be even better.

The postmen in question were not happy with the attempt to ban trousers. Luckily the “ban” was lifted when the snow and ice thawed.

From the posty’s mouth

Postman Pat in named chair
Ready for your interview Mr Pat?
Source: Tennant News
To find out why postmen always wear shorts, we spoke to Leicestershire postman, Lewis Morrish.

He said “It’s not for a bet or any macho reason, but I just prefer it. When it rains I don’t have wet trousers chafing my legs, and I put on waterproof leggings if the forecast is bad.”

Shorts wearer yes, but trousers aren’t a complete no-go-area for Lewis, “I only really wear long trousers if it turns icy and slippery after snow – I don’t want to fall over and cut my knees!”

So like in Cheltenham there is a risk of injury, but is there any reason not to wear shorts? Well Lewis said, “There is nothing showing in my original contract BUT shorts are available as a catalogue item so by a logical conclusion, shorts can be worn and it doesn’t stipulate that these can only be worn on suitable occasions.”

“Basically, we have a choice!”

The Royal Mail has come a long way since 1793, when summer hats were revolutionary. And though its slightly more perilous to wear shorts in the winter, it seems that posties just find it comfier. And if you believe our postman, then there is no competition aspect to it…honest.

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