Endangered: Stretch Pants
Nostalgia for a tighter fit, and butts...
This story appeared in the January (42.5) issue of POWDER.
War weary, haggard, and torn, the conservative populace of the 1950s grew restless. Tantalized and agitated by a hip-swiveling Elvis Presley and a leggy Marilyn Monroe, sexual tension gripped the West. Like a plugged Old Faithful, men and women yearned to erupt from their oppressive all-natural fibers.
Skiing, that seductive force from the snowy North, provided the outlet of desire: cozy fires, bear skin rugs, hot toddies, tanned foreheads and rosy cheeks, form-fitting sweaters, and the pheromones released into the air as one maneuvers athletically across a wintry landscape. All that was needed was something to free the lower half, which happened to be the most critical region. Willy Bogner came to the rescue by introducing the world’s first pair of women’s stretch pants, in 1952. Sports Illustrated announced that skiers had gone from “baggy to Bogner.” Men rejoiced and moved to the mountains.
A few years later, a freckle-faced kid named Buddy Werner, from Steamboat Springs, showed up at an international ski race in Åre, Sweden. According to Dick Dorworth, he wore long johns in order to eliminate wind resistance, and all the Europeans laughed. They weren’t laughing after he beat their asses. Instead, they went looking for their own tight britches, making stretchy pants equally suitable for both genders. Hollywood got in on it when James Bond schussed past evil villains and scored babes while donning butt-huggers with neat-o stripes down each leg. With racing and fashion coinciding, stretch pants spread rapidly throughout the world.
Soon, the stretch from the lower half attached to the upper, creating the onesy. Sylvia, the buxom blonde from Hot Dog… The Movie, and Bryce, the dark-haired minx from Aspen Extreme, owe at least some of their notoriety to this cleavage- and derriere-exposing design, the other half being, of course, the delightful mix of skiing, sex, and hot tubs. Unintended side effects of such snug-fitting sex props included herpes, camel toe, and the dreaded moose knuckle, which reared its ugly head every time a skier bent over to buckle his boots or performed an aggressive daffy.
Then, a realization: It became clear that such ass-splitting pants wouldn’t be appropriate for school or work. Why would they make sense on the mountain? You’re not a racer, it’s cold on the chairlift, and everyone can see that your thighs are touching. So skiers ditched their stretch pants en masse. Out with the CB and Roffe, in with The North Face and, gulp, Burton.
To be stylish, a skier needed mountains of fabric in exceedingly bright colors. Pant sag equated to skill and/or a commitment to revolutionize a sport that’s been hell bent on revolutionizing itself every decade since Émile Allais won three golds at the 1937 World Championships. Some revolutionaries resorted to using shoelaces to tie the waist of low-hanging pants to a pair of undershorts, which helped prevent the exceptionally baggy pants from dropping all the way to one’s ankles. Side effects included tripping, snagging, fraying, and a dearth of bedroom shagging.
And so the populace again grows restless and agitated. War weary and haggard, its battles are fought out of sight, out of mind, and on the Internet. The sexual revolution has long since passed, but not even ski instructors can get laid. Maybe it’s got something to do with their pants.
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