In defence of elephant pants

I, Elephant Pants, am comfortable and pretty and there’s a reason backpackers love me. Stop the hate.


Hi! It’s me, Elephant Pants, those lightweight trousers with the exotic-looking elephant pattern that backpackers wear. I know I get a bad rap sometimes, but it’s ok. I understand. There’s nothing more obnoxious than a backpacker wearing elephant pants, am I right? 

Wrong! Seriously, what’s with all the elephant pant hate? Don’t deny it. Don’t pretend I couldn’t hear you the other day while I was minding my own business on the legs of some young Brit on their gap year; when you said, “Oh, those oblivious backpackers and their elephant pants. How ignorant! How tacky!” 

Well guess what: I’m a f***ing garment. I cost K10,000 at Bogyoke Market. You know why backpackers love me? Because I’m lightweight, I breathe, I pack small and I’m easy to clean. I’m one-size-fits most, and I’ll flatter any figure. You don’t have to fuss over me. You don’t have to accessorise me. You can throw me on when you’re running late for the bus and not have to worry about sweat soaking into your denim jeans all the way to Inle Lake. 

And that monochromatic faux-batik dye pattern – it’s pretty. What, I’m not authentic, you say? I got my start in Thailand, but my design isn’t even Thai, you say? Well you know what, who gives a leathery, big-eared toss? If the Thais had a problem with tourists wearing things with elephants, they wouldn’t have plastered them over literally every piece of their branding.

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And since when have you been the traditional dress police? I don’t see you in a longyi. I don’t see you carefully selecting the best eingyi for your Tinder date. I don’t see you going into a business meeting in your finest taikpone. You probably had to Google some of those to know what they are. 

You know the real reason you hate me? Because I remind you of everything you used to be. I remind you of when you were full of curiosity and naive wonder, when you could fit everything you owned into a backpack and bought clothes because they were comfortable and pretty and didn’t worry about what “serious” people thought.

If they threw a party for everyone who cares about elephant pants, it would be you, and, I don’t know, Charlie Sheen? Anyway, real-world Elaphus maximi have enough problems without you trying to shame their image off a pair of cotton trousers, so relax and have another Aperol Spritz. I’m off to put the moves on a cute mandarin collar shirt three market stalls over. 

(Actually written by Jared Downing) 

By Jared Downing

By Jared Downing

Jared Downing is an American journalist from Colorado and Alabama. He likes podcasts, radio theatre and hitchhiking and collects cans of sardines from around the world.
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