Issue June 7, 2011

Worldwide pants

Here are a few topics that were on my radar for this week’s column:

• A quick reminder for those who have seemingly forgotten that the economic tar pit in which we are attempting a synchronized swimming routine is the legacy left to us by the last president, who is still a fucking criminal and needs to be brought to justice.

• A short review of the very simple fact that environmental calamities like mountaintop removal coal mining and the resultant toxic slip ’n’ slide formerly known as Kentucky’s streams and rivers are a demonic brood sired by faceless corporations who believe they are above the law — and are also pretty certain they deserve to make piles of money at the expense of both our health and nature writ large. (Feel free to plug in the Super-Ag Food Industry, the Pharmaceutical Machine, the Banking Trust, et al. Fish in a barrel, all.)

• A discussion of the betrayal I feel when I’m made to hear Monsanto commercials on National Public Radio. It’s like going to the health food store and being clobbered by a gang of Burger King employees who pin you on the ground in the bulk aisle and cram mini-Whoppers into your gullet. Please stop it.

• And finally, pants.

I realize one of these things is not like the others, which is to say that one seems not important at all. But secure as I am in the knowledge that Fox News wouldn’t ramrod our brains every 15 minutes with heady discussions about the president’s jeans if it wasn’t desperately important to the national psyche, and using their implicit integrity as my beacon, my choice wasn’t difficult.

Pants are, I believe, dreadfully important.

While I am not a fashion hound (on the contrary, I’m a plain dresser with very simple requirements), I am interested in how and why people choose their dress, consciously or otherwise, as a way of conveying a message, and how others internalize and respond to those messages.

I was speaking with two like-minded friends recently when we found our attention drawn to a young man wearing what is now a pretty ubiquitous outfit for American youth: gigantic shorts positioned eight to 10 inches below the waist; a huge T-shirt that is, more than anything else, a large and shapeless smock; and a flawless baseball cap perched precariously atop the head like a ship teetering on a sandbar in the harbor.

Using said youngster’s attire as a springboard, we considered the importance of fashion in our culture, its implications, and the ways in which it alternately binds or separates us. The conversation was apt, stimulating and un-timid. Just as I was feeling pleased to be flanked by such erudite fellows, I looked around the table and was forced to point out to my frankly unpolished friends the provincial and disheveled state of our own dress and appearance. Between our frayed hoodies, tousled hair and patched knees all of us could have, at that very moment, strolled up to a good ol’ fashioned hobo trashcan fire without raising any eyebrows. A message for the messengers I suppose.

While my ideas of fashion are subterranean compared with those of, say, the entire nation of Spain, and while as a youngster I too wore my pants half off my ass, I am, at least and at long last, convinced of the importance of a good fit.

I believe in pants. The value of a well-fitting pair of trousers to a person’s overall constitution, emotional health and confidence cannot be overstated. A man without a pair of pants in which he feels comfortable is a man without a country.

Like the food cycle in the animal kingdom, like the endless progression of water from icecap to stream to ocean to stormy rain cloud, so too the circuit of trousers in and out of our lives is a natural force that sometimes smiles on us and sometimes leads to none but ruin.

Reader, I know I am not alone in despairing when the knees finally blow out on a pair of jeans that have securely guided me through years of daily use. A shrewd tactician will have entered a new pair into the cycle anticipating future need, avoiding undue emotional duress.

While I know that I’m opening myself up to endless scrutiny, I will leave you with maybe the most important advice that I may ever impart: Add to your roster early, and find a tailor.