If you’re new around here, I’m happy to introduce you to one of my favorite annual traditions: the No Pants Subway Ride! It started way back in 2002 in New York, when Improv Everywhere was just beginning. Now that group is a straight up movement, and the event has taken the world be storm! It’s replicated in 60+ cities around the globe, and the New York City event has anywhere from 4,000 or more people participating every January. If you want to read more about the wonderful origin of this idea and event, check out Improv Everywhere’s history page!
photo by: Molly Ward
Usually, Capital Improv puts on the DC chapter, but this year my friend, George and Ashley stepped up and hosted! I’m not sure what happened with Capital Improv, and would love to work with them in the future, but the event page just disappeared and I’m so happy someone was willing to take over. I met George so many years ago at the No Pants Subway Ride, and he’s an amazing guy who has even driven all the way to Baltimore to attend my annual Bubble Parade!
He, Ashley, and many other participants of the DC Chapter are passionate about a mile-ish fun run called Cupid’s Undie Run where you run in your underwear, and you can see them sporting their fun red underwear every year!
photo by: John Canery
Every year, we meet at Hancock Park near the L’Enfant Metro Station. We get hyped up, go over general guidelines, take a picture (still looking for that big group one from outside if anyone has that!), and many of us disrobe before we make our big scene of crossing the street to go to the escalators that lead to the metro.
Most years, since it’s in the beginning of January, it’s very cold. Last year it was actively snowing! This year, it was unseasonably warm which encouraged more people to take their clothes off outside.
This year, I decided to wear sparkly pink fishnets, comfy socks, neon yellow Reeboks, a rainbow bodysuit, and a vintage hat that reminds me of what I would wear if I was on an old school train. I also put underwear on underneath and a top over the bodysuit since it’s pretty revealing. Usually I’m in a coat and completely bare-legged, and this was a real fun change of pace!
Last year, I threw my back out the night before and there was a snow storm and I still went. I’m pretty sure I have no excuse to not go to this event ever again after that… including when I woke up and realized I left my wallet in my friend’s car from a road trip the day before and didn’t have time to retrieve it before we got to DC!
Luckily, I had enough cash on me to purchase metro cards, but I had to do it from scratch and doing it with cash is confusing and you can only get a maximum of $10 change (in dollar coins), so I had to pay more than we needed and by the time we figured out the machine, everyone had already gone through the turnstiles and we lost them!
I was freaking out. I was so upset that we weren’t going to be with the group at least for a little bit. Luckily, Joe didn’t give up and we found them!
photo by: Molly Ward
Every year, I continue to get the same questions. Why is this in the winter? Why do this at all? What’s the point?
The point is to cause a scene. To be weird on purpose. To give people a story. And a bonus of this particular event is you get to take your pants off in public, exposing more of your body than you typically do — a great out-of-your-comfort-zone act of body positivity and self-love! (And it’s in the winter probably because Charlie Todd realized it would look stranger to be pantsless in New York in the middle of the freezing cold than the hot summer. Weird stuff happens on public transportation all the time as it is. We have to step up our game!) For more on this beautiful concept, check out Improv Everywhere.
PS – That’s George in the picture above on the far left.
I tend to attract reporters and photographers every year because of how brightly I dress and how confident I am. This year, I got to talk to a few different people from the media, including a very nice lady named Rachel from the Washington Post (see below for article link). We actually talked for a long time and she furiously hand wrote my responses down with a real 1940’s “Extra Extra Read All About It!” vibe. I was genuinely surprised she didn’t have a pencil behind her ear. She was so enthusiastic and professional at the same time. I learned that she actually did this event once herself! What a perfect choice of journalist to send to this event.
photo by: John Canery
One of the questions Rachel asked me, which is something I’ve been asked more frequently as the years go by and this event becomes more popular is what I think about the difference between the original concept where Charlie and his friends kept to themselves and pretended to have forgotten their pants, not give any answers about who they were involved with, and keep the illusion alive versus how people tend to travel in groups, dance around, and it’s become pretty obvious that this is an event/movement of some kind to strangers. I mean, we probably had fifty people in DC, but in New York there are thousands. It’s pretty obvious now.
My answer used to be that I preferred the original concept because I love confusing people and staying true to the original vision. Now, however, my answer has morphed the same way this event has. I think there are benefits to both ways of going about this event. For example, when we travel together there is a heightened level of energy, it’s easier to take pictures, and you can get to know like-minded people throughout the day.
photo by: Molly Ward
Also, when I’m alone or in a pair of people I am way more likely to be teased, heckled, stared at, etc. When you’re alone you’re more of a target for people who aren’t happy and feel like spewing mean words, looks, etc. Does that still happen in a large group? Absolutely. This year we had a woman tell us that we were living in debauchery and sin and going to hell for our lifestyle.
There was another moment where the train conductor didn’t look in the mirrors as a large group was entering and the door closed on my arm. It really hurt and was genuinely scary. I honestly didn’t realize the strength of those doors and am very grateful for the person who helped me pry the door open so I didn’t get crushed! As I got on the train, a seated woman, who was clearly unhappy at life in general and annoyed that her train was being taken over by many people who also weren’t wearing pants, said very nastily, “Well then get on quicker” and proceeded to stare daggers at me until our next stop where she instructed me on how to exit the train car because she “Didn’t want me to fall onto the tracks” which isn’t even how the doors work, she was just trying to get under my skin. And I let her for a second! I told her I was fine and she could mind her business as I walked off. Another participant grabbed my arm and said, “We are not engaging!” and I was grateful for her bringing me back to positivity. I can usually be that for other people but I think my nerves from the car closing in on me and how much my arm hurt had me feeling more vulnerable.
The point is, people can be nasty about what we’re doing whether we’re wearing pants or not. But this event makes me very happy and I don’t care if people think we’re nuts, sinners, or don’t have the body to be pantsless. I’m still doing it.
There’s usually one moment that stands out from every year, and this year it was Reggie the stranger, hands down. He was walking through our crowd as we were waiting for the next train, and saying, “Why aren’t you all wearing pants?” I walked up to him and said, “Why are you wearing pants?” He was wearing his pants baggy style and they were pretty low on his waist. I joked, “You’re already halfway there, join us!” We asked his name and in seconds we stood around him and started chanting, “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie!”
photo by: Molly Ward
The energy was palpable. Some years we get people to join in with us, but this felt really special. I mean, it’s pretty awesome to have a group of strangers meet you and immediately start chanting your name! He quickly started to disrobe and surprised all of us by revealing another pair of pants! Well, they were long john underwear, but it was such a fun tease! Like he was prepared for us. We’re all waiting to see what kind of underwear he has on and he basically took off a mask to reveal another mask, then disappeared on the next train never to be seen again besides these wonderful few photos we have of the moment.
You really never know what to expect from this event. Afterwards, most people go to a happy hour, but I usually dip out right before. It’s really nice to have Joe with me now. I’ve gone by myself plenty of times, and I’ve been with all types of different friends. Some were into it, some might classify it as one of the weirdest things they’ve ever done, some didn’t care for it or even participate. Having a partner who not only goes with me but is just as into taking his pants off as I am in public is so great.
I mean, on his dating profile he had a bunch of pictures with his butt out. That’s not necessarily the main thing that won me over, but it sure as hell was up there. Also, he’s the one who just randomly came into my office the other week and said, “You know what you should do more of this year? Wear your fancy yellow hats!” The support to be my full self is so great. And that’s also what this event is all about!
It’s so fun to experiment with outfits, ways to interact with people, documentation, reporters, and more. One of these days I will fully understand the Metro. But for now I’m pretty good taking it for events and riding it aimlessly for a few hours with no pants on every January.
photo by: Molly Ward
If you’re interested in participating, there might just be an event in a city near you! Set a reminder to look this December! And if you have any questions or want to know more specifics, please feel free to ask! You can also check out Improv Everywhere’s coverage of their New York event for 2020 here.
Here’s a little footage I managed to grab while we were there. Thanks to Joe for editing it together for me.
All unmarked photos by Joe Dissolvo. Thanks to Molly and John for documenting as well!