Minimum-protection shoulder-strap wetsuit design, covering a surfer's trunk, chest, back, and thighs, usually constructed with two-millimeter neoprene and a small back zipper. The short john— or "shorty"—is one of the original surfing wetsuits, along with the legs-covered long john and the front- zip long- or short-sleeve jacket.
From the mid-'50s until the mid-'60s, short johns were often used from fall through spring, as surfers more or less braved the cold as best they could. Today, with full-coverage wetsuits available for virtually every climate, temperate to arctic, the short john is most often used in tropical or subtropical areas.
Just when this style of suit became known as as a "short john" is a little unclear. In a 1964 SURFER featured titled "Winter Surfwear," a short john is simply called an "open-arm suit." Around that time, O'Neill wetsuits advertised their "surf johns," and in 1969 ad featured a young surfer shaking hands with an adult surfer, under the headline "Meet John." The adult wears a "short john"—which sells for $27.95.