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An Ode to Plaid Pants: I Miss The Days of Magic Clothing

In high school, I got bit by the acting bug.

It took a while – I always thought that theatre and music was for the nerds, but slowly I wound up getting sucked in.

My first “big” role was during my junior year, as I played the character of Joe Scales in Cheaper By The Dozen.

(I was Joe Scales before Ashton Kutcher. Let that be known.)

The character of Joe Scales in the play has maybe 5 minutes of stage time. But that 5 minutes is a ball of energy.

He’s a wild male cheerleader coming to pick up one of the daughters for a date. In the highly-disciplined Gilbreth family, Joe Scales is an annoying nightmare: he greets the stoic father with a stiff slap on the back, he yells, he jumps around the living room and gets the kids all riled up until he’s eventually kicked out of the house.

As I rehearsed for this part, I kept wondering what I was going to wear. This was set decades ago, and I had no idea what a male cheerleader looked like.

When wardrobe arrived, I was handed a pair of very snug plaid pants. This concerned me, as I was still very self-conscious in high school. Also, I was accustomed to very baggy jeans. I didn’t wear them because I thought they looked cool, but because I was comfortable in them.

When I squeezed into the plaid pants for the first time, I was stunned by two things: 1) They looked painted on, they were so tight. And 2) they were awesome.

The second I started walking around in those pants, I felt energy move through me.

Years later, I’d hear in a DVD commentary that Michael Richards didn’t want to wear cargo pants for an episode of Seinfeld because the character of Kramer wouldn’t wear those pants.

But the pockets needed to be filled with change for the gag they were doing. Once he begrudgingly put on the pants filled with change, he immediately understood and felt the comedic energy move through him (start at 0:22):

This was the same thing: those plaid pants were right, and the second I put them on, I got it.

A pair of pants changed me into a different person

Backstage, my friends would chuckle at the energy that would be bottled up in me whenever I had those pants on: I’d dance wildly, run around, and jump with abandon.

This was great for the character, too. In the middle of my scene, I led the family in a cheer, which I topped off with a toe-touch.

Out of respect for any cheerleader readers there, it was a pretend toe-touch: it looked good, but was nowhere near as athletic as it came off. The audience loved it, though.

I did, too – because of those pants.

Pictured: Me somehow not splitting my pants. Not pictured: An actual toe touch.

Pictured: Me somehow not splitting my pants. Not pictured: An actual toe touch.

I don’t know, when I wore those freaking pants, I felt invincible. I was sad the day I had to take them off for the last time.

Don’t you wish you had pants like that now?

I don’t necessarily mean plaid pants, but pants that really made you feel a certain way?

In my youth, I had clothes that made me feel all kinds of emotions. I was like Calvin with his lucky rocket ship underpants.

I wish I could approach a day that I know will be tough simply by grabbing the right pair of pants out of my closet.

I wouldn’t worry about struggling to stay awake, or focusing on work, or bringing energy to my family after a long, hard day.

I could just put on those plaid pants and knock it out of the park.

Maybe, as adults, we need to start doing that again. We should start getting emotional about our clothes.

When you put on a flannel shirt, you should be gearing yourself up mentally for some physical work. Or when you throw on a suit, you should be feeling confident and focused.

We should have “fun jeans” like Michael Scott.

This could all be nonsense, but it worked when we were kids, didn’t it? Maybe it could work again as boring old adults. This could be a piece of our childhoods that we would benefit from hanging onto.

What do you think?