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The Evolution of Pants

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Nothing makes me erupt into giggles more than someone saying, “I’m going home to put on some slacks.”


I’m not sure why I think “slacks” is such a funny word, except that if you believe slacks can be used interchangeably with pants, I must ask you: Do you ever hear anyone saying, “I dropped some coffee on my slack leg?” Or “Aren’t these slacks rockin’”?


Here’s a hint to anyone who wants to appear they live in this century—just don’t use the word. Slacks, simply, are just uncool pants. Or worse, they’re pants that are 50 percent more likely to be constructed of a polyester blend and 100 percent more likely to have an elastic waistband. Slacks may even have a perma-crease down the front of the thigh. Do you really want to wear something called “slacks?” It just sounds goofy.


According to the dictionary, “slacks” are simply “casual trousers.” Now, there’s another funny word—trousers—maybe the only garment word for the bottom half that is funnier and used less frequently than “slacks” (if you don’t count “gauchos”).


Imagine an online dating site. These sites recommend detailed descriptors you can add to your profile to suggest the type of significant other you are looking for. A suggested description a guy might write could be, “Looking for a woman who is as comfortable in jeans as they are in a dress and heels.” Have you ever seen a guy write, “Looking for a sexy babe as comfortable in slacks as she is in a cocktail dress”?


I doubt it.


I do remember a pair of slacks I desperately wanted to fit into as a kid—they were melon-colored bell-bottoms that belonged to my sister. I was eight, and she was twelve. She owned not just one pair of the luscious pants, but she owned two—a second pair was turquoise blue. But neither pair fit me. I was still wearing Carter’s painter’s pants and brown Levi corduroys, and man, did I long for those spumoni-colored things. The pants were four inches too long. But every month or two, I tried them on anyway, just to see how much closer I was getting to fitting in them.


It was 1977—the year that Apple Computer was incorporated. The year Donnie & Marie launched, and the year Richard Dreyfuss made a mountain out of his mashed potatoes. At that point in my brief little life to date, I longed to be hip. I wanted to be Marcia Brady. If I had those pants/slacks, I’d have it made. If I couldn’t be Marcia, I could at least be Jan.


But in the end, I never inherited the pants. By the time they would have fit a few years later, my mother had given them away and I was well into a new era anyway. I had moved on to Calvin Klein Jeans and stunning adolescent outfits from The Limited.


I still remember my first pair of Calvin Klein jeans. Of course, they were only complete with one mandatory accessory—a hot pink comb in the rear left pocket. One must have a hot pink comb in order to keep one’s feathered bangs in place. If you were really cool, over time the comb jutting out of your pocket would create a white creased outline showing where the blue dye wore off on your chair in social studies class.


By high school, I had progressed to Guess Jeans that had a small gold zipper at each ankle—that white triangle tag on the rear pocket just made me feel sointernational. And then there was Esprit, of course—they had all kinds of funky styles and colors that made me feel as if I lived in San Fran, even though I was from the booming 2000-person metropolis of Hancock, New Hampshire.


Of course, it’s worth a mention that the zippers on the Guess Jeans made them, somewhat, like skinny jeans. And I regret to note that skinny jeans have made a comeback. Personally, I think they only returned to style because bellbottoms won’t fit inside Ugg boots, and without skinny jeans, what else would size zero Hollywood models wear inside their fuzzy footwear?


They say this year we have a lot to look forward to in the slacks department—Aladdin-style harem pants (thanks to J-Lo for that); pleated pants that are throwback to the 1980s; and leather pants, which can play up the grunge look (if you are going for that kind of thing).


I may be boring, but I will probably pass up all of those exciting styles and stick to my favorites. Some basic work slacks, a few pair of casual trouserssome capris, and my Lucky jeans.


Although I’ve been thinking about wearing a pair of pajamas pants to work someday, just to see what everybody says. 

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