The Changing Politics Of Pants


I read somewhere that we have the late lamented British fashion designer Alexander McQueen to thank for the concept of pants that don’t fit properly. Apparently, according to those who claim to know, McQueen kicked off the trend of constantly having to pull up your waistline  with the launch of his infamous ‘bumsters’ sometime in the 1990’s.

Hm. I’m not sure I’d want to be remembered for that. Call me a bluff old prig, but the notion of a giant slab somewhere bearing the words “here lies Jason. He’s the reason your pants don’t fit properly” fails to tickle what I’m always being told is my enormous vanity.

True, as callow and fantastically self-absorbed students, we all dreamed of somehow changing the world, altering the consciousness. I once had a conversation with a teenage would-be Blofeld who was loud and proud about his determination to storm the advertising industry. As far as he was concerned, the whole purpose of life was to get into advertising.

At the time, I was balancing student life with part time journalistic work in a local newspaper, so I had my own, admittedly jaundiced views about the glamour of advertising, but this guy was John the Baptist, if John the Baptist had decided to chuck all the baptizing and go into advertising.

“Think of it: if I can make 100,000 people start using a different toothpaste or aftershave, simply through the power of my words: that’s power, that’s change. What kind of idiot just sits around for thirty years writing novels no one’s ever going to read when the power to do this is out there, waiting for you?”

Ok, maybe he wasn’t quite as rhetorical as I’m making out, but still, it was difficult to argue with his logic. On reflection, it’s a kind of a pity someone like him wasn’t around when Hitler was a student. Imagine if the Fuhrer had channelled his energies into the marketing of pile creams and prophylactics instead of conquest and genocide: what kind of world would we have today?


Ok, it’d probably be exactly like the one we have now. There’d be a regrettable vogue for strange trousers and moustaches, but is that any different to awful hipster beards and the ubiquitous profusion of builder’s bum?

In the case of pants, Alexander McQueen or his marketing people demonstrated an amazing power. Ok, it might have been power with a pretty silly purpose, but consider: prior to the ‘bumster,’ anyone who regularly flashed his hairy, fleshy hemispheres at work or social gatherings would have been firmly excluded from any society that considered itself remotely polite.

Seriously, years ago, who could ever have imagined that builder’s bum would become a desired commodity, like a Ferrari or aftershave with a picture of a Ferrari on it? Only a short time ago, socially speaking, the regular exposure of massive amounts of pale male or female posterior bits would have been treated as ridiculously aberrant. You might have got sectioned; someone would certainly have had a firm, caring word in your ear.

Now, you can come across it anywhere: in the street, at parties and football matches, down the pub (if the customers aren’t sporting it, the staff certainly are), in board meetings and at funerals. Only a few months ago, while sauntering through a local municipal park, I passed two ladies sitting, having a conversation. Both were sporting the regulation public bum, one in particular was exposing cavernous amounts of gawping flesh.

How could they not have been aware? Didn’t they notice a breeze or something? They didn’t exactly look like one of those delightful feminist groups who protest against Donald Trump et al by taking their clothes off (and more power to all of them!).

More importantly, what was my obligation here? Should I have called their attention to it? Would that have marked me out as a caring citizen or as some sort of mullah of the municipal park? It really is so hard to know these days.

Hours passed with me staring, frozen in indecision like some sort of Barack Obama, before they went off, and I struggled to remember what I’d come into town to do.

To every trend there is resistance, of course. There are those Mark Corrigan types with their silent shriek of ‘not in my name.’ Actually, if you think about it, the mere presence of resistance simply confirms the power of those who are being resisted. What, otherwise, would be the point of giving a poop?

I deliberately buy the oldest fashioned cuts of pants I can find. I don’t care how they make me look, I’ll just never be comfortable with the world seeing my cleavage. I’d fret too much about whether it was suitably clean, and I repeat: how can you not know? Isn’t it freezing down there?

I’ve been unable to prevent one modern cut of jeans from infiltrating my wardrobe, and on those occasions when putting them on becomes unavoidable, the same pattern always ensues. Things aren’t too bad at first. I wonder briefly if I haven’t been terribly unfair to the pants. But within a few hours, things head south, in every sense.

There are concepts in science fiction about semi-sentient furniture that moulds itself to the contours of your body. My pants do the exact opposite. Like the terrifying Weeping Angels in Doctor Who, they wait for me to blink, or for my attention to be elsewhere momentarily, then begin the inexorable slide down my bottom.

For the rest of the day, I’m fighting a losing battle to keep them hitched up. Belts don’t work: the ingenuity of the design finds a way around them as well. The Weeping Angels have only one thought: to kill you when you’re not looking, my pants are similarly monomaniacal, they exist only to expose my cheeks to a presumably adoring world.

As for trying to readjust everything when you’ve been to the toilet, forget it. I’ve thought of burning them as a protest, but they’re denim so I figure I’ll need an awful lot of fuel.


No. Fame like that is hardly worth the spur. Who wants to have their poor shade cursed by generations of angry pants wearers? Some things, it seems, are worse than dying in obscurity.

Next week: Thongs. What the f***?


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