Every reason why I hate 'no pants day' and it needs to stop

Taking off one’s trousers for a ride on the underground once a year has now become what we like to describe these days as 'a thing' 

Will Gore@willjgore
Monday 08 January 2018 16:13
New Yorkers go trouser-less for the annual improv Everywhere No Pants Subway Ride

Don’t get me wrong, I like a bit of frivolity. But not as much as I like wearing trousers.

What’s more, I think on the whole that trousers are a GOOD thing. Not only trousers, mind you. Dresses and skirts are similarly useful, if you prefer. Shorts, too, are perfectly reasonable things to don in the summer. In fact there are a whole host of clothing items which can keep your legs warm and decorum satisfied.

Yet on the other side of the trouser equation, there is the bizarre spectacle known as “no pants day”.

This event – said to be a “celebration of silliness” by organisers – is, needless to say, an American gift to the world.

Indeed, given that it is named after one of the more irksome American deviations from the English language, the only reassuring thing that can be said about it is that it does not proscribe the wearing of undergarments.

Beginning in 2002, “no pants day” (I’m not going to cap it up) originated with a prank in which seven jolly young men entered a New York subway train sans pantalons at seven consecutive stations, each studiously ignoring the other while telling anyone who asked that they had simply forgotten to slip on their trews.

As a one-off example of improvisational comedy, it’s quite amusing. Rather as the April Fool’s Day fight among Grandstand’s news reporters in 1989 was funny – because it was a one-off.

Instead, though, taking off one’s trousers for a ride on the underground once a year has now become what we like to describe these days as “a thing” – presumably because there is no better word for describing such an utterly pointless and facile gesture.

It seems that thousands of people in 60 cities around the world had literally nothing better to do with their lives on Sunday than to sit around on public transport in their undies (assuming of course they got the message about it being those pants, not those pants).

Hundreds of Londoners rode the tube for an hour and a half, unnecessarily exposing their legs and briefs to their unsuspecting fellow travellers. Those involved (I hesitate to say participants for obvious reasons) were told: “Don’t wear a thong or anything else that might offend people”. Well, thank the Lord for smalls mercies.

In New York, even thick snow and temperatures hovering around minus 7C were not enough to put people off. But at least they have the excuse that they will never look as daft without trousers as their President does even when fully suited.

An unsuspecting subway passenger reads a book next to participants of the No Pants Subway Ride in Berlin

When reading reports of this peculiar phenomenon in past years I’ve naturally assumed that there must be some sort of charitable objective – perhaps to raise funds for good causes or awareness of people who simply don’t have access to the kind of “pants” they’d really like.

Yet as it turns out, it really is all just in the name of “silliness”; an opportunity for show-offs to remind others how hilariously whacky they are. Even Improv Everywhere, the New York-based collective which organised the original “no pants subway ride” 16 years ago, seems unable to muster a substantive explanation for its perpetuation, noting: “Since this is the 17th year we’ve done this, there’s not too much to report other than it was another awesome time.”

Yep, really awesome. Good one guys.

In case you’re wondering if all this antipathy is the consequence of some childhood trauma, let me assure you that, no, I didn’t go to boarding school and, no, I’ve never been removed of my clothes by high-jinking students. Honest.

I just think that we can do better.

For instance, rather than celebrating the alleged absurdity of not wearing clothes over our legs, what about celebrating the enduring robustness of corduroy, or the jaunty chic of kilts? Granted, jeans are a little bit prosaic nowadays and leggings don’t work for everyone. Likewise, Slacks Day doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

But if it’s silliness you really want, a day on which we all pull on a pair of brightly coloured chinos ought to do the trick. And rather than confining this event to underground train travel, we could all go for a brisk walk in the countryside, chino-style.

So, next “no pants day”, let’s give it the thumbs down, and the trousers up.

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