Thursday, January 29, 2009

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Sweat Pant

There are many things that are universal truths. The dirtier the men’s room, the better the rock club. The smaller the town, the crazier the people. The larger the record collection, the more socially awkward the man. And it’s always a man with a large record collection.

However, nothing is truer than this simple statement. If you wear sweat pants outside in public in anything except an athletic contest, you have “given up”. Please note, I am not talking about the equally lame “wind pant” favored by morning disc jockeys, Eastern Europeans, and guys named “Trevor”. I am also not focused on the “fashion sweat” favored by upscale Jewish women, active divorcees, or in some horrible and extreme cases, couples with matching sweats flying together to discount Caribbean resorts. I am talking about the one color cotton sweat pant with elastic waistband.

I was struck by the undeniable truth of The Tao of the Sweat Pant while driving through the heart of Cleveland’s legendary Sweat Pant District. This is located roughly at West 44th Street to West 110th Street on and around Lorain Ave for you day-trippers out there. It is there where you see many of the open mouthed, dumbfounded sweat pant army waddling around convenient stores, waiting for buses, and generally doing not much of anything.

How does it happen? One day you must be a strapping young lad participating in recreational sports. You have promise. I’ll bet you consistently wear legitimate clothing in which you could secure a table at the average Applebee’s without a fuss. Suddenly, the next day, you only wear expandable waistband pants? How does this metamorphosis occur? Is it a toll from having to always say “no” to that extra chicken wing, 16 oz Mountain Dew, or Zinger? After a point in time, you just snap and say “Fuck it, I’m gonna get that Domino’s pizza with the cheese baked into the crust. I know I’m never going to get another girl/guy. Who am I kidding? My best years are way behind me. Why keep trying? Let’s really let ‘er rip!”

Next thing you know, you are shuffling around in red sweat pants, open work boots, and a non licensed Cleveland Browns warm up jacket. (You probably also have a Bluetooth in, but that’s a previous discussion.) You cut your hair two or three times a year at whatever discount place that sends a coupon. Shaving happens bi-weekly. (Girls, this will happen even less.) Dental health is questionable. You don’t feel weird staring openly at other people with your mouth slightly agape. You had a job a few months ago, but quit because “they were a bunch of dicks”.

Many people would suggest that this fate is due to poor genetics, or the “nature” argument. You were born to the sweat pant. You will die in the sweat pant. You can no more change your fate than change your skin. You are the sweat pant, and the sweat pant is you.

I completely disagree with this assessment.

Many of you have gone toe to toe weighing arguments about other so called “tinderbox issues” like abortion, political theory, and crunchy vs. smooth peanut butter. In turn, I have devoted many hours of contemplation to this sweat pant issue. I feel very strongly this is nurture, not nature. I ask you, what is the first thing you see when you see some dope in sweats scratching their ass at the post office at 2pm on a Wednesday? That’s right. Their mother, also clad in sweats, right by their side. Look, they have to team up to handle a big job like mailing a box. This will be the biggest project the household has all week, and it was like a fucking rubix cube on acid to the pair of clowns I was standing behind two days ago. (By the way, where do elderly women find those gray/blue faded sweats that hang off their big boxy ass? They all must get them at the same place. Kohl’s maybe?)

Let me put this out to you… Is it not a parent’s responsibility to say “Hey, put some Goddamn clothes on if you are going to leave the house!”? Is it not that blue/gray sweat pant Mom that said to her mutant son “Let’s go already! We’ve got one hell of a situation to deal with at the Post Office. You look fine in those stained red sweat pants.”? Of course it is. She has taught her son that to throw in the towel is an acceptable lifestyle. It is only by not trying that he can realize the self-fulfilling prophecy of continuing the rich tradition of the Sweat Pant District. He has been nurtured into thinking it’s a Jim Dandy idea to walk around in those filthy cotton formless pants.

But where did this idea first form? Who was the Father of the Sweat Pant? I have not yet secured the data to back this up, but I believe it was Alan Hale. Hale, better known as "The Skipper" on Gilligan’s Island, was a well known fan of relaxing “in the buff” between takes on set. Producer Alan Sherwood was believed to be the first to suggest to Hale he ask wardrobe to create a “relaxation pant” to quiet the cries of the female cast members. (Ironically, actress Tina Louise that played “Ginger” was a bit of a prude and allegedly led the cast rebellion.)

Hale’s newly designed pant was such a hit that soon people involved in television production on the West Coast began to wear them at home, and later out on quick errands. From there the trend caught on, but fell out of favor quickly amongst the jet setters. However, the simple cotton pant became part of everyday life to many fans of the quirky situation comedy after photographs of Hale wearing red sweats on a TV Guide cover first appeared in 1967.

Regardless of Hale’s role in the rise of Sweat Pant Nation, I think we can all agree it is a learned behavior. We may debate if Hale is, in fact, ground zero in this phenomenon. What we cannot debate is that this is a situation that can be stopped with a combination of education, training, and awareness. So when you drive through Cleveland’s Sweat Pant District at 7 mph in a snowstorm, do not ask “Why is this guy in sweat pants when it’s 11 degrees and snowing like a motherfucker?” Ask, “What can I do to help?”


At February 4, 2009 at 12:36:00 AM EST , Blogger Brandonio! said...

Damn that was funny as fuck.Those sweat pants wearings fucks are everywhere here in Indiana too.Actually one of my guitarist[friend]has also taken up the wearing sweats to practice,and from what I hear even at work.He is in need of a serious intervention,that's all there is to it.Thanks Greg for your motivational speech.
I think we can have him back in some Levi's by Sunday.


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