June 15, 2007

Why the judge cried about the pants.

You may have been wondering why I haven't written about the judge who's suing his dry cleaners for $54 million for losing a pair of pants. It seems to have all the elements of an Althouse post, doesn't it? Too much litigation, a wacky judge, a lot of money, fashion, sympathetic defendants. I don't know. I've been avoiding that story. Maybe because it seems to demand blogging. I don't like being pushed around. But add one element, and I am compelled. Robin Givhan is writing about it:
Of all the sartorial reasons for a man to get riled up -- go sue the fellow who gave the thumbs-up on Crocs, why don't you? -- suit pants are among the most inconsequential of them all...

A suit, of course, can have panache. The quality of the fabric and the fit can signify wealth and authority. But when the eye scrutinizes a suit, it's really looking at the jacket....

Dress pants have never been fetishized the way other parts of the wardrobe have. Bluejeans, for instance, have been elevated to a kind of fashion haiku -- deceptively simple, yet filled with emotion, attitude, sex appeal and profound cultural meaning. For proof of how banal men's pants have become, look no further than the nearest male derriere to read the Dockers label. Introduced in 1986, they launched a khakis revolution and made virtually every man who wore them -- which is essentially every man -- look like he was somnambulating toward a life of soccer games, little blue pills and quiet desperation.

There have been attempts to transform pants into talking points. Designer Thom Browne cropped them at the ankle. Former Christian Dior menswear designer Hedi Slimane cut them so narrow they were practically shrink-wrapped onto his models. And too many designers to name have championed diaper pants with the crotch dropped to the knees in the misguided belief that men will want to relive their suckling years.

But in the closets of men who buy clothes, not fashion, pants are merely functional.... But the loss of even the best-made pair of pants, the ones that accentuate a trim waist and give the illusion of a sprinter's bottom, isn't worth crying over.
It must be cool to be a fashion writer. I've never even noticed there was such a thing as "diaper pants," yet for Givhan it's a weird recurrent phenomenon.

But here's the reason to cry over pants. It's not that they're distinctive, it's that they are so closely tied to what you know or want to deny about your body. This is why so many ads for diets picture a thin person standing inside a giant pair of pants and gleefully holding the waistband out. Your pants are gauges of weight and muscle tone loss and gain. When you bring in your old pants -- as Judge Roy Pearson did -- to be let out to accommodate you weight gain, you are exposing yourself in an intimate and deeply emotional way. When the Chungs accepted his pants, they weren't only accepting his pants, they were accepting the man's shame, his humiliation, his failure. They were saying, in effect, we understand this misfortune and we will take care of you. To just lose the pants was to say this relationship meant nothing to us. It broke his heart. He cried. Not just for the pants. For everything.

It's like when Daisy cried over the shirts in "The Great Gatsby."
"They're such beautiful shirts," she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. "It makes me sad because I've never seen such--such beautiful shirts before."

IN THE COMMENTS: Jane says:
The Great Pearson: At the end of his Dockers, a flashing green light signaled to him to go ahead with his suit for his beloved pair of legs, beckoning like springtime and the fresh smell of money.
Drew says:
Pearson was upset that his Prufrockian destiny was derailed by the Chungs' loss of his garment, thus preventing him from declaring that I grow old . . . I grow old . . . I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Oh, this is a great clue to poor Mr. Pearson. Look at this, from the WaPo write-up of the case:
A pair of pants from a blue and maroon suit was missing when he requested it two days later. The Chungs say they found the pants soon after and tried to give them to Pearson, but Pearson insists those are not his. The charcoal-gray, cuffed pants are now evidence.

"I haven't worn pants with cuffs since the 1970s," Pearson said. He also submitted into evidence a photograph of every pair of pants in his home to show that he does not like pants with cuffs.
He never wears the bottoms of his pants turned up, yet they gave him pants with cuffs. It's as if he had handed them his youth, and what they gave back to him was old age. He grows old! These horrible cuffed pants! The pants of death!

Drew also supplies the perfect quip: "Pearson should drop his suit . . . but not his trousers."

39 comments:

MadisonMan said...

I have to say that I have never ever worn a pair of Dockers. I find them to be an abomination for all the reasons Givhan states.

Seven Machos said...

It is my belief that this case is about race and immigration. The owners of the drycleaners are Asian (Korean, I believe). It is my understanding that the plaintiff is a black man.

Yeah, the guy is a kook, and, yeah, it's crazy that this case ever got this far, but I think those are the underlying themes that make the case resonate.

Saul said...

I don't typically advocate violence, but the defendants should have invested in a hit person on the plaintiff, rather than a defense attorney. It would have been cheaper and more effective. I can't believe the judge let this case procced to trial. It exemplifies everything wrong with legal system, and has left the poor defendants broke.

stoqboy said...

Shame, humiliation over a pair of pants? You must be auditioning for Dave Barry's column writing job.

MadisonMan said...

has left the poor defendants broke.

That's not in the article. But lots of articles describe the whacky litigant. Not a judge I'd want to see behind the bench deciding my fate.

Zeb Quinn said...

Two things bother me about this story.

First and foremost, this whole thing was always just about Pearson using his status and knowledge as a lawyer to misuse the court to harass the Chungs in the most terrorizing way he possibly could.

Second, I keep hearing this guy open-endedly referred to in the media as "judge." Even by you Althouse. He's a freaking Administrative Law Judge, an ALJ, a hearings officer. A medium level bureaucrat. He's not a judge like a state court or federal court trial judge, and he doesn't deserve the title outside of the little hearings he oversees. I've never before heard an ALJ be given the open-ended honorific "judge."

peter hoh said...

The character Eldin, Murphy Brown's fastidious house painter, had a great line about pants and mortality. Wish I could find it, but I can't give more than 5 minutes to an internet search for it.

Methadras said...

Ann,

This case is missing one essential element that even you've failed to notice. There is nothing in there about flowers. *Fake indignation* You should be ashamed!!! */Fake indignation*

Bissage said...

I cried because I had no pants until I cried because I had no shoes.

blake said...

So, it wasn't just slacks the judge was entrusting the cleaners with BUT HIS VERY SOUL!

I hope Jonathan Coulton is cashing in on this. He has a song called "Mr. Fancy Pants" (free for download!):

Chances are your pants are not as fancy as the pair,
Of very fancy pants that Mr. Fancy Pants will wear,
When everyone is marching in the Fancy Pants Parade,
He's gonna pass the test,
He's gonna be the best,
The best in terms of pants.

Say a little prayer for Mr. Fancy Pants,
The whole world knows,
It's only clothes,
And deep inside he's sad.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I find Dockers to be an abomination, too. But because I work around people who don't, I wear them to conceal my actual personality.

jane said...

The Great Pearson: At the end of his Dockers, a flashing green light signaled to him to go ahead with his suit for his beloved pair of legs, beckoning like springtime and the fresh smell of money.

Joe said...

Upon reading the summaries of the stories and a recount of the case in court, especially some of his answers in court, I have concluded that either this guy is just plain bonkers. He really has a tenuous grip on reality. (And has no business being a judge, administrative or otherwise.)

Simon said...

I'm couldn't even say with certainty what Dockers are, let alone comprehend their apparent cultural significance. I have no idea if I own any or not - I just buy pants! What are they, and why are they so horrendous?

TMink said...

Seven wrote: "Yeah, the guy is a kook," and also the word bonkers was thrown around.

Well, he certainly may be. Or he may have one really kooky area of his life and be mostly sane.

It happens, people with one little area of weirdness, but they are otherwise just fine. I don't know if that applies to the judge in question, but it could.

Trey

Cabbage said...

Clearly, the judge's cries were not yellow cocktail music.


/I love that book

Peter Palladas said...

I struggle with the whole thing here of course, as our pants are worn under our trousers.

So much talk then of male underpants and I must pass by, except to say that every study since Copernicus has concluded that women major on a good, tight male bottom; so the fit or otherwise of the man's trousers can hardly be a small matter to consider.

Drew W said...

There seems to me to be two ways to look at this Roy Pearson pants lawsuit -- high or low.

High: Pearson was upset that his Prufrockian destiny was derailed by the Chungs' loss of his garment, thus preventing him from declaring that I grow old . . . I grow old . . . I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Low: Pearson embodies the sentiment of former Bonzo Dog Band member Roger Ruskin Spear, who sang the song "Trouser Freak" with his band, the Giant Kinetic Wardrobe: See him walking down the street/ He's the guy you'd like to meet/See him walking down the street/He's a kind of trouser freak! (Roger Ruskin Spear was the point man for much of the Bonzos' trouser-based surrealism. Many may remember Trouser Press as a great rock magazine, but it took its name from a Bonzos song.)

Personally, I think Pearson should drop his suit . . . but not his trousers.

(Just be glad I gave up trying to see if there was a joke to be made out of pleat-bargaining.)

LoafingOaf said...

Simon:
I'm couldn't even say with certainty what Dockers are, let alone comprehend their apparent cultural significance. I have no idea if I own any or not - I just buy pants! What are they, and why are they so horrendous?


They're not really horrendous. They're just the most most popular of the most bland, boring, and sexless type khaki pants. They're inexpensive and you don't have to get them tailored, so when a guy who hates shopping for clothes needs a pair of pants that he knows will be "okay" and "safe" for most "grown up" purposes he knows he can just grab some Dockers and be done with it, in and out in 10 minutes. I don't find that so horrendous, though I only actually have one pair myself.

Simon said...

LoafingOaf - I may well be wearing a pair now as it turns out. ;) I drive a minivan, too, so I suppose the little blue pills and quiet desperation are just around the corner. ;)

AJ Lynch said...

Most Americans have a quiet disdain for lawyers and our legal system. Kinda ironic that a judge is making a mockery of it.

On the other hand, maybe they were the poor guy's lucky pants. And he can't get laid without them.

Stephen said...

It's like when Daisy cried over the shirts in "The Great Gatsby."

"They're such beautiful shirts," she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. "It makes me sad because I've never seen such--such beautiful shirts before."

IN THE COMMENTS: Jane says:

The Great Pearson: At the end of his Dockers, a flashing green light signaled to him to go ahead with his suit for his beloved pair of legs, beckoning like springtime and the fresh smell of money.


Hey, Ann, isn't this Bulwer-Lytton-worthy? Time for another contest.

Synova said...

Seven Machos, that was my first thought, but not one I felt comfortable saying. I've been shocked at how racist some Asian immigrants I've met have been. And an alarming percentage of black people I've dealt with seem determined to interpret anything and everything as a deliberate insult.

Maybe it was a small percentage, over all, but both things really stood out to me because I find them so shocking.

Pogo said...

1. Reading the blogs following the trial, one gets the distinct impression that the entire trial is being held for purposes of amusement, during what is an otherwise dull court.

2. Pants are inherently funny. A lawsuit about pants is comedy gold. I am quite surprised the judge was able to keep it together when the plaintiff broke down in tears. I would have been incontinent.

3. Short pants are inherently ugly. Dockers are bland, and perfect for men who don't give a rip. Givhan is strange. She sees their use as an awful capitulation to aging ("little blue pill"). But she is mistaken if she thinks there is some other alternative.

4. Had this not been so financially devastating to the defendants, this would have made a great television series.

ricpic said...

At the high end of the pants scale: worsted wool trousers that drape beautifully add an air of understated elegance to even the most casual sportcoat and open collar shirt.

Light weight cotton twill in a jeans cut makes the best looking and most comfortable knockaround pant.

Peter Palladas said...

He never wears the bottoms of his pants turned up, yet they gave him pants with cuffs. It's as if he had handed them his youth, and what they gave back to him was old age. He grows old! These horrible cuffed pants! The pants of death!

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

Barry Kearns said...

My two favorite anagrams for Roy L Pearson Junior:

Only our prior jeans

Insanely Poor Juror

That pretty much sums up the case for me.

Tim said...

The "judge," of course, is nuts.

And so too is Givhan (and not that I need it yet, but I'm thinking the little blue pill is all about avoiding "quiet desperation").

Khakis rule, although I’ve never owned a pair of “Dockers.” I generally get mine at Nordys.

Anyway, Levis are too tight, especially across the thighs (and I'm not fat, and the 550's have a saggy, baggy butt – my wife highly disproves those, but likes the 505s – and I’m too old for the 501s), and generally frowned upon in the office, save for Fridays.

Shorts are for running, hiking, swimming, and lounging around post-work and weekends.

Wool trousers outside of days with formal meetings are a pain. And even then, I wear a suit instead of trousers w/sport coat/blazer.

I move around a lot, so khakis work best - they let me toss on a tie and blazer when I have to, so they're serviceable for impromptu meetings, yet comfortable around the shop.

Also, Givhan is slagging her colleagues. The only folks who wear khakis more than male academics are print reporters. Khakis are ubiquitous amongst that set. Most of her colleagues don’t read her though, so her insult will probably pass unnoticed.

Mortimer Brezny said...

And an alarming percentage of black people I've dealt with seem determined to interpret anything and everything as a deliberate insult.

That probably wouldn't happen so often if black people weren't insulted as often. They aren't born that way. But they come to expect it.

David53 said...

Mortimer--I find Dockers to be an abomination, too. But because I work around people who don't, I wear them to conceal my actual personality.

That's how I feel about ties.

Mortimer Brezny said...

They're not really horrendous. They're just the most most popular of the most bland, boring, and sexless type khaki pants.

This is a major inconsistency.

Synova said...

You know, Mortimer, that may well be true. But whatever the reason, if something wasn't meant as a racist dig, then it wasn't.

I *know* racism exists and that there are racist people out there who express their racism. On the other hand, in my real life, when a black person has been upset about a slight to them, in *my* experience, which is admittedly incredibly limited, it's been normal human rudeness, misunderstanding, or sloth and required no additional motivation or explanation whatsoever.

This is my first hand experience, not some preconception. I accept that my experience is limited.

I mean... my parents once got the evil eye from some black people for saying "get rid of the cats to clean up the place" talking about *my* house and real honest to goodness felines, of which I had too many.

And no doubt, to this day, someone remembers those awful racist white people who want to get rid of cats.

It's stupid.

amba said...

Cuffed pants. Like hitting a dog.

Mortimer Brezny said...

You know, Mortimer, that may well be true.

It may well be true that blacks aren't born expecting to be slighted by whites at every turn? May well be? How about "I concede that it is true"?

Mortimer Brezny said...

But whatever the reason, if something wasn't meant as a racist dig, then it wasn't.

This is like saying, "If you don't think of yourself as a racist, then you cannot commit a racist act." A self-deluded KKK member who burns black people at the stake is still a racist, whether he thinks of himself as one or not.

Balfegor said...

A self-deluded KKK member who burns black people at the stake is still a racist, whether he thinks of himself as one or not.

Fair enough. And the Blacks who attacked Koreans and Korean businesses in 1992, during the LA riots, were racists whether they felt themselves to be so or not. Since 1992, there's been a history of tension between Blacks and Koreans. I expect that particularly with older Koreans living far from LA -- people who watched TV or heard reports, down the grapevine, of Black mobs attacking the Korean community and getting driven off with machine guns -- there's mistrust. Even though there was none of that in my suburb (the assault was confined to LA proper), I know my relations in Korea called us to see whether we had been attacked, because the story that was coming out of LA, and running straight to Seoul, was really awful.

Oligonicella said...

"A self-deluded KKK member who burns black people at the stake is still a racist, whether he thinks of himself as one or not."

Get a grip. You can't jump from losing a pair of pants to murder and draw an equivalence. He's talking about day-to-day stuff.

Peter Palladas said...

Cuffed pants. Like hitting a dog.

Fair point and an alarming development. Watch PETA go for Korean launderers.

TMink said...

Mortimer, I took the comment as part of a conversation, not a racist rant.

Trey