It was completely pouring down put that did not appear to put off the volunteers for what could be described as Britain’s weirdest custom as a large number of individuals had gathered at the appointed meeting point. A man with a loud hailer then called the people to order but as soon as he spoke another man with a loud hailer started saying ‘do not follow him he’s not the official person…if you go with him you won’t be insured.”
Insured? What was going to happen?
Despite the protestations, a sizeable group did depart with the rogue ‘no trouser’ person. The official organising tutting and disapprovingly saying ‘ I don’t know what he’s problem is…he came last year and decided to do it himself….he’s dangerous.”
Dangerous!? I did wonder why….was he the pied piper of pantlessness (as our US partners would say)?
Standing in the rain, the rules were explained to us and the need to wear underwear which covered the necessary bits, (although I did think this might be a bit late of a warning) and that we all had to enter the tube and in the first train remove one’s trousers and then from this point the aim was to travel to the Elizabeth line which had not been ridden trouser less before!
A load of pants
Beginning in 2002 in New York as No Pants Subway Ride by 2013 it had spread event to sixty cities. Organized by Improv Everywhere, it has slowly but surely becoming part of the rich tapestry, very British in its eccentricity and so beloved of the photographers and the press.
Down the steps, over the turnstiles and into our first carriage at which the organiser, keen to stress that we had to keep in sight of him….well we wouldn’t want to wander trouserless alone! He then said ‘right remove your trousers now’…easier said then done as it was short trip on the train. Then we were off, up and down escalators to the considerable dismay of the other users and smirks of many of the underground staff who probably had been prewarned! Although the juxtaposition between the top half, many were wearing thick coats and the lack of warmer clothing underneath made it even odder! Once we had entered the next train carriage we were encouraged to act normally such as reading a book, newspaper or searching on our phones and mingle with the troused..as the organiser said ‘there’s more impact if we split up’.
Pants to that!
I asked why people did it. One group of young city types – dressed in full smart suits and umbrellas, blamed one of their number saying ‘he always picks something to do unusual once a year for his birthday…this year this was it.’ Having said that they were not shy of the cameras, happy to pose in the usual watercooler moments for the photographers. A much older gentlemen said that it was a sort of response to a rather oppressive past relationship ‘she’d frown at this’ so that’s why I do it. Quite a few said this was a repeat appearance and that it had become some sort of strange addiction. There were also many oversea tourists who had seen it ‘on Facebook’ and one who just happened to be walking through China town asked what it was about and just went along with the flow! One dressed splendidly as Captain America (top only of course) clearly was keen on photo ops. However, the commonest response was ‘why not…it’s fun!’
Baring in all at Paddington
The group then arrived at Paddington where the well known other ‘bear’ (bare get it) statue was the source of some great poses from the press and a group photo facing and read ending was done for the patient press. And then a record was broken as the group entered the Elizabeth line. Although I laughed as a voice came over telling a photographer not to take photos ignoring the lack of clothing of the people. I soon left them and returned to normality.
On reflection the no trousers day on the tube is a rare sort of custom; completely pointless, unless raising a smile or shocking others is really the point, but one which brings together all ages, all backgrounds, all ethnicities, all genders and all sexualities. A real camaraderie being developed. A welcome addition to the wacky subgenre of British customs in the ‘pointless fun’ category.