Embarrassing pants!
April 27, 2006 6:24 PM   Subscribe

Why do my pants always look like I'm "pitching a tent" when I sit down? Even though I'm not?

Does this happen to anyone else or am I just lucky?
posted by fearandloathing to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (43 answers total)
It happens with certain pairs of pants - a girl I know calls it the Jean Penis.
posted by sluggo at 6:28 PM on April 27, 2006

The good thing about it is that if you do happen to get a stiffy, it has somewhere to go, and people will just write it off like, "oh, that's just jean penis, he's not really pitching a tent". But if the teacher calls you up to the blackboard, you're out of luck. Just take a zero.
posted by kookoobirdz at 6:36 PM on April 27, 2006

I have a couple of pairs of shorts that do this pretty egregiously -- I think it has something to do with the thigh/fabric interface, and how much the material slides up-leg when you sit.

It does make you wonder -- do clothing designers ever wear this stuff before they sell it to us?

I guess though that different people have different tent-pitching pants, otherwise it would be easy for designers to identify the offending pant designs. The challenge is to determine the relationship between thigh diameter, leg length, pant geometry, etc. that is prone to this problem.

maybe a database...
posted by misterbrandt at 6:50 PM on April 27, 2006

Ah, the dreaded "jeanis"... who knows where and when it will strike next...

Chances are, it's just an excess of fabric. Loose-fitting pants are notorious for it.

There's even an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm devoted to just this phenomenon.
posted by kaseijin at 6:53 PM on April 27, 2006

Whenever I feel like I'm sporting a particularly conspicuous Jean Penis, I try to find some excuse to stand up briefly, thus demonstrating to all who are interested that I do not, in fact, have an erection.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 6:53 PM on April 27, 2006

The tension caused by multiple folds of sewn denimn cloth in the fly area, sometimes abetted by a brass zipper that when closed, tends to direct the cloth outward rather than sideways when compessed by the act of sitting, can lead to "Jean Penis". Should this be added to Wikipedia?
posted by longsleeves at 6:58 PM on April 27, 2006

I don't know the exact answer to this problem (though I suspect that you are buying pants that aren't cut properly for you). However, I can offer two suggestions.

1) Go see a taylor. He should have no trouble explaining what the problem is and providing a solution.

2) If you can't or won't do that, consider how much time you spend trying on pants. When I go pants shopping I usually try on 4-6 pairs at a time. I look at myself in the mirror, I walk around a bit, I even sit down. In short, I do everything I can expect to do while wearing the pants. If I don't find a pair that suits me I won't buy anything.

3) Not all pants made by the same brand fit equally well. Heck, in this day and age the exact same make and style of pants may be made differently from year to year. Don't just assume that a pair of pants will fit you well because they are the same size and style as a pair you already have. Try them on. (In fact don't buy anything more complex than a t-shirt without trying it on.)
posted by oddman at 7:00 PM on April 27, 2006

In my experience this is due to poorly-cut pants, pants that are too loose, and / or pants with pleats. I've been upgrading my wardrobe recently, and this has become less of a problem. Oddly I never have this problem with jeans.

On preview, what oddman just said.
posted by lekvar at 7:00 PM on April 27, 2006

posted by longsleeves at 7:00 PM on April 27, 2006

Go see a taylor.

No chance. He's 17.

The short answer is that you're wearing pants that don't fit you; the short advice is to suck it up and deal, like the multitudes who have gone before you.
posted by gleuschk at 7:06 PM on April 27, 2006

TV anchors and wheelchair users here: "clothes are made to stand in, not to sit in".
posted by tellurian at 7:06 PM on April 27, 2006

The Wong (part 2) (the jeanis/jean-penis/&c) and Anatomy of a Cameltoe (part 1) via MeCha.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 7:09 PM on April 27, 2006

If the front of your pants are pleated, that might be the cause. Switching to flat-front could fix it.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 7:17 PM on April 27, 2006

Pants with pleats don't seem to have this problem, in my experience.
posted by tiamat at 7:17 PM on April 27, 2006

Pants with pleats seem to have this problem, in my experience.
posted by johngumbo at 7:27 PM on April 27, 2006

Pleated pants are just wrong, and one of the main reasons is the dreaded jeanis.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:30 PM on April 27, 2006

Wait a second... does this happen to girls too? If not, is it because their pants are made differently? All I'm saying is, we've sort of ignored the possibility that jeans penis is caused by, or at least correlated with, actually having a penis.

Ladies, does this happen to you?
posted by number9dream at 7:32 PM on April 27, 2006

I'm a chick and this happens all the time. Only in jeans or other thick-material pants, though. My dress slacks (think polyester) are fine.

It seems to be caused by the zipper pooching out. Even on low-rise jeans, I'll get the occasional (rather embarassing) girl-jeanis.
posted by kalimac at 7:48 PM on April 27, 2006

I'm a girl. I'd have to say...um...maybe? I'm actually wearing jeans at the moment, and I guess it sort of does have the same effect. I think it just doesn't occur to people to notice it in girls, because they know it's nothing...interesting :)
(Unless it's a really scary ...weird .... girl)
posted by jacalata at 7:51 PM on April 27, 2006

This does happen to women, and I always dreaded it when I was younger, 'cause I worried that the other kids would see and make fun of me, thinking I was secretly a boy or something. I still kinda dread it, but it doesn't happen nearly as much anymore now that I buy my own clothes.

It always happened with cheap/poorly cut pants...
posted by limeonaire at 7:53 PM on April 27, 2006

Incidentally, this thread is why I love AskMefi—it brings people together to talk about things that all of us noticed, but probably never felt comfortable talking about in public or with friends.
posted by limeonaire at 7:55 PM on April 27, 2006

It happens on most pants I own - my solution has always been to try to adjust it discreetly as I sit down so that the fold forms closer to the belt region and doesn't look incriminating.
posted by Krrrlson at 8:05 PM on April 27, 2006

I think that the prevention of this may be the motivation behind making the fronts of old man pants really long. Also, I guess, so they can wear them really high, but whatever.

Just start dressing like an old man, and say you're taking a cue from Seth Cohen.
posted by penchant at 8:08 PM on April 27, 2006

In my experience wearing button fly jeans instead of zip fly can lessen the problem.
posted by nomis at 9:42 PM on April 27, 2006

Response by poster: well, as long as it's not just me
posted by fearandloathing at 10:37 PM on April 27, 2006

Why do my pants always look like I'm "pitching a tent" when I sit down?

Massive johnson?
posted by wsg at 10:45 PM on April 27, 2006

I don't think I have ever seen someone sitting down and thought "hey, what's going on....?" Maybe no one notices?
posted by salvia at 11:33 PM on April 27, 2006

I now have "Jean Genie" stuck in my head, but with "Penis."
posted by staggernation at 1:34 AM on April 28, 2006

The Curb Your Enthusiasm episode in question was actually the first episode of the first season, and is entitled "The Pants Tent."
posted by ludwig_van at 2:16 AM on April 28, 2006

Isn't it related to boxers vs briefs too?
posted by A189Nut at 3:14 AM on April 28, 2006

Ladies, does this happen to you?

Yes. Especially when there's extra fabric. I have a pair of thick, somewhat baggy corduroy pants that do this all the time.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:43 AM on April 28, 2006

There are two moves to try and flatten this out as you sit down. The first move works if you are sitting down on a bench or a couch. Put your hands in your pockets and pull the legs of your pants down and out as you sit down. The second can work if you are sitting in a desk or chair with armrests. Take one hand and pretend like you are tucking in your shirt in the front on the opposite side of your hand. So if you use your right hand, pretend to tuck in your shirt to the left of your belt buckle. Keep it there as you sit down and smooth over the front of your pants with your forearm as you do. With a little practice it can look totally natural. You can also try putting your hand on your opposite thigh as if you are easing yourself down.

These work much better with lighterweight fabrics, and don't work as well on denim.
posted by Tallguy at 5:55 AM on April 28, 2006

Isn't it related to boxers vs briefs too?

I have never noticed this difference, be I in boxers, boxer-briefs, or be I working with an unfurnished basement.

It may, however, be that my perception is off -- I shall have to test this hypothesis.

I *have* noticed that I can generally keep the jeanis up by the belt... and these days, it is quite small. I recently dropped about two inches or so in the wasital area, and the 30-31's don't seem to bunch as much as the 32-33's.

I own one unfortunate pair of 34's, and the jeanis on those pants actually intimidates other men and garners lascivious glances from the ladies, so I'm inclined to lean more in the direction of fit vs. choice of undergarment.
posted by kaseijin at 5:58 AM on April 28, 2006

Are you sure you didn't accidentally put on your dad's pants?

In my experience it happens with pants that don't fit quite right, or pants that are made for senior citizens. "High rise" = no good. Pleated = no good.

You want low rise, flat front pants. Check Banana Republic or Express for some more stylishly fitting pants.
posted by jeffxl at 6:35 AM on April 28, 2006

You could just stop caring about it. I realize that, at 17, this is practically impossible, but this advice stands for the rest of the worriers in this thread. A lot of my pants, running the gamut from cheap to very expensive, have this problem.
posted by mkultra at 7:00 AM on April 28, 2006

Tallguy - in the spirit of experimentation I just tried your two methods. The first one caused the crotch of my pants to extend to my knees. The second, I couldn't actually work out after several rehearsals (which forearm do I smooth out the front of my pants with, left or right?), it was fun though. This may be moot because I'm relaxing a home with a pair of trackie dacks.
posted by tellurian at 8:29 AM on April 28, 2006

can I just say: tailor vs. taylor
posted by blue_beetle at 8:32 AM on April 28, 2006

Dang. This happens with all my pants, even the ones that I consider a good fit. I thought it was just one of those things with no solution.
posted by skryche at 9:02 AM on April 28, 2006

OK, I AM a tailor, and here's the scoop:
This is simple physics at work. When you sit down you reduce the distance from your crotch to your waist in front. Since your pants can't automatically shrink here when this happens, they scrunch up. ALL pants do this. If the pants are stiff, made from heavy fabric with a heavy zipper, and especially if they can't move up or down out of the way because they fit tightly across the waist and/or tightly across the thighs, the scrunch confines itself to a single big fold at dead center and stays relatively unscrunched elsewhere, hence the tent, even if the rise (the garment's length from waist to inseam) is short, which would otherwise reduce the amount of fabric available to scrunch up. Pleats don't increase the pants length in front, they increase the width, but they do provide more fabric for the scrunching to play with, so there's more loose fabric all over in your lap when you sit. Also, un-pleated/tighter-across-the-hips pants tend to pull the crotch folds closer to the body. Softer, thinner fabrics, and thin plastic zippers, can handle scrunching more gracefully regardless because they fold in more places and the folds will naturally lie more flat against the body.

None of this accounts for the odd fact that the more attention you pay to your scrunch-fold, the bigger it grows. That's out of my area of expertise.
posted by dpcoffin at 10:05 AM on April 28, 2006

jeffxl nailed it.

WRT jeans, the recent trend toward low-rise cuts has solved the problem for me. I've yet to suss out a decent pair of low-rise shorts, however, and cargo shorts are the worst, most ill-fitting pieces of shit ever designed.

/not looking forward to another long central Texas summer
posted by gigawhat? at 10:27 AM on April 28, 2006

Actually, it looks more like dpcoffin nailed it, if you ask me.

Nevertheless, ever since I got my attractive, kilt-style skirt I have not had this problem once.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 1:20 PM on April 28, 2006

tellurian: For the first method, all I try for is a slight adjustment. I'm not looking to moon anyone on the way to my seat :)

As for the second, the trick is to just have some excuse for one of your arms to be across your lap as you sit down in order to smooth over of poke down any bunching that might occur. Checking a cell phone, tucking in your shirt, or holding your thigh as you ease down all are natural looking ways to basically smooth the crotch of your pants without looking like that is what you are actually doing.
posted by Tallguy at 1:22 PM on April 28, 2006

In bygone days (and currently amongst the more formal type of clothes-horse, I suspect) gentlemen who wanted to keep their pants looking sharp and themselves from feeling tugged upon, would commonly and automatically lift their pant legs slightly as they sat, catching them just at the top of the front creases and at the level of the crotch. The lifting kept their knees from catching on the pants legs, reducing bagging out there from the strain of sitting with the pants taut against the legs. While this would also increase the loose fabric in the lap, the same gesture could also include a slight crossways pull to flatten the crotch tent as it formed, if there was any likelihood of this even being seen beneath a buttoned suit jacket.
posted by dpcoffin at 5:23 PM on April 28, 2006

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