I like tight pants. “The tighter the better!” I bark in the local trouser store. I’m not happy until every contour of my lower half is cosseted by fabric, my britches foisted on to my legs with a combination of Vaseline, washing-up liquid, and the strength of two assistants.
Yes, it’s the tight pant life for me, and no mistake. This may have been the reason why my bosses ordered me to try out Lululemon’s “anti-ball crushing pants” – pants which provoked much intrigue this week when the company claimed they were responsible for a remarkable turnabout in fortunes.
The anti-ball crushing pants, or ABC pants, for short, have been all the rage since they were introduced at the end of last year, Lululemon says. The pants have been influential in a 16% increase in Lululemon’s sales during the last quarter, and in finally garnering some positive publicity for a company that infamously had to pull yoga pants from the shelves over 2013’s see-through fabric scandal.
“We designed these pants with all-day comfort and performance in mind – seriously, you’re going to want to live in them,” states the blurb on the Lululemon website. “A wide paneled gusset and four-way stretch Warpstreme™ fabric make these pants commute, travel and sweat ready. We get it, you’re going places.”
The pants boast “anti-ball crushing engineering”, Lululemon says, which “gives you and the family jewels room to breathe”, and it’s the anti-crushing aspect of the pants that has been the focus of most of the attention.
I’ve been wearing these the pants for two days – I’ve got them on now – and am happy to report that no testes have been crushed. The anti-ball crushing technology has worked. My balls are still intact. The world must know about this fantastic new contraption! This could preserve the future of the human race!
But that’s just the thing. Lululemon is claiming to have solved a problem that doesn’t exist. Balls don’t get crushed by pants. Men have been wearing trousers for 3,000 years, successfully avoiding ball-crushings all the while.
It appears, then, that Lululemon is using “anti-ball crushing” as a PR tactic, attempting to tap into an apparently fertile market of men who feel regular trousers are just too tight in the crotch.
Really, the purpose of these trousers – as Lululemon’s promise of “all-day comfort and perfomance” suggests – is versatility. They’re pants, the company says, that you can wear while cycling, hiking, but also to the office, just like in this promotional video.
In these pants you can go anywhere, do anything, and still look stylish, is the message.
But that’s the other problem with these pants. You can’t still look stylish. Hybrid, functional, comfortable things have never been cool.
Imagine the Ramones in not-that-skinny, but ooh-so-much-more-comfortable-jeans. A 50s-era Marlon Brando wearing a less tight, but hey-it’s-moisture-wicking T-shirt. An ageing rocker substituting his winklepickers for running shoes.
That’s right. It’s impossible to imagine.
In terms of the trousers being this hybrid, functional pant, they do it well. Their stretchy material made them fantastic for cycling. They also have a little reflective strip designed to give you increased visibility.
Off the bike, I could thrust my knees up high like the leader of a marching band. I could theoretically do the splits. And they fit well. I’m not blessed with the hulking muscularity of Hollywood’s Jason Statham, but these pants still felt pleasing across the thighs. Compared to my normal skinny jeans, however, they were billowy around the ankles, and I felt a little self-conscious about the tracksuit-style fabric.
In summary, then: I’m sure some men would be delighted with these pants. The customer reviews on Lululemon’s website prove as much. But I’m not ready to sacrifice style for function just yet.