The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ethnography of the Assless Chaps

This is another one that I wrote for back when it was an on-line magazine. Again, I have asked them multiple times if they’d mind me putting it up on my own blog, and received no response (to be fair, they’re pretty damn busy over there, so I don’t take it personally). So, on the off-chance that the good folks over there read this and object to me re-posting it, I’ll talk with them about it later. But I wrote it, I’m proud of it, and I’d like to display it. So, there ya’ go.

Some time back, a friend of mine, who shall be known here as “Lunsy,” told me about the home of the Assless Chaps.

Many of us are familiar with the leather pants that have had the posterior removed thanks to the wonderful consciousness-raising work done by such social activists as the Village People and Prince (AKA weird symbol-guy). What few people know, however, is the remarkable story of the people who make this garment.

Lunsy, in her tireless work as a procurer of leather products for the good people of Kansas, discovered that these leggings were produced primarily in a small village in the Florida everglades. Lunsy knew little of the place except that few people traveled there and that all companies producing knock-off chaps were put out of business through a little-known, but tough patent law from the early days of the American republic. She went onto explain that the execution of said law often resulted in public floggings and defenestration of the CEO’s and head garment designers of the companies that attempted to make fake chaps. Other than their potentially litigious nature, however, little was known of these people.

Upholding my duty as an anthropologist, I mounted my Schwinn, put it into 10th gear, and headed east.

A few weeks later I found myself in the Everglades. I knew I was near the village as the leather trees all around me were bearing fruit, and each sheet of leather had a strange hole grown into the middle of it. Finding that my trusted Schwinn was of little use in the swamp, I dismounted and continued on foot, pausing occasionally to empty the mud and leeches from by boots.

After several hours of trudging through fetid water and attempting to surf on top of alligators (they were not cooperative), I began to hear human voices. I followed the sound of the voices, and found myself peering through a patch of tall grass at the village of the Assless Chaps.

It became immediately apparent why they were known as the Assless Chaps and not simply the “Assless People.” The women of the village appeared perfectly normal, and indeed many would not have appeared out of place in a painting by the master artist Rueben or in the “Baby Got Back” video. The men, however, all had such astoundingly under-developed gleuteals that while they had their belts tight, they still routinely had to reach behind themselves to pull their pants up. Indeed, it was only the chaps who lacked asses.

I was soon spotted, and given the well-developed and sexily sculpted backside that my keyboard exercises and steady diet of apple fritters has given me, I could not blend in and hide as Malanowski so successfully did in the Pacific islands.

At first the villagers gathered around, as if uncertain whether to send me packing or place me in their primitive crock-pots (indeed, they clearly had been buying the Ronco telephone-order versions, so primitive were they that they lacked a local K-Mart). Eventually, a man dressed in a loose-waisted Armani suit came forward and introduced himself to me as “Bob.” Bob served this village in a capacity known as “the mayor.” Bob took me to his home, and as his wife proceeded to stew up lemonade in their crock pot, we sat on amazingly well-cushioned chairs while he told me of the history of his people.

The ancestors of the assless chaps were once scattered throughout Europe and had mingled with the general population. So long as the common items of clothing were tunics, kilts, togas and the like, these people did not stick out in any significant way.

However, with the fall of the Roman Empire and the coming of the panted hordes of northern Europe, the fortune of those who lacked backside development began to change. Those who were unable to keep their pants up without considerable effort found themselves ostracized, often running afoul of the decency and sumptuary laws of the new European order. Although the women rarely showed the lack of backside that the men did, it was known that it ran in families, and so women who had kinsfolk without proper cushioning would find themselves unable to find husbands.

The people who had this genetic anomaly found themselves segregated into communities that were usually downstream of leper colonies and technology salesmen conventions. It was a miserable existence, with fear and superstition forcing further ostracism. Indeed, every year on All Hallows Eve, it was common for storytellers and village elders to warn children that if they misbehaved, the “flat-backers” would come to “steal your bum, and wear it about, and eventually wear it out!”

It was at this point that Bob had to wipe tears from his eyes as he spoke of this tumultuous part of his people’s history. A few moments later, Bob’s wife brought us mugs of warm freshly-brewed lemonade, and he continued his story.

The Assless Chaps had tried settling in Scotland, where the local custom of wearing kilts could hide their physical differences. However, their unwillingness to eat rocks and violate sheep led to their eventually expulsion from the islands.

Eventually, a group of the Assless Chaps found themselves on a Spanish boat sailing to New World. They settled far away from the Spanish mission, and learned that the local population did not mind having them around as their constant drooping-drawer appearance provided the natives with much amusement. Even when the Spanish colonies failed, the Assless Peoples found their community thriving as the primary purveyors of slapstick comedy to all neighboring peoples.

Over the year, occasionally an errant son or daughter would leave the Assless colony to seek their fortune in the broader world. The two best known of whom are Twiggy and Fiona Apple, two of the rare women to show the outward signs of belonging to the Assless community.

However, the real change in fortune for these people came with the development of the motorcycle. For decades, the men of this community had been wearing leather workpants that had the backside cut-out in order to reduce the weight and make it easier to keep the pants up. After all, why waste material and add weight to provide protection to a non-existent body part? With the invention of the motorcycle, outsiders began to see some use in the traditional Assless work-pant as a piece of safety equipment and fashion accessory.

A second market appeared in the mid-60’s as musicians began to adopt the distinctive pants in an effort to appeal to such markets as bikers and interior decorators. Ever since, the fortunes of the Assless Chaps have been increasing.

Today, the community is vibrant and alive with a culture free of fart jokes and filled with a rustic joy. While the bacteria counts on their sofas and kitchen chairs may be higher than one might be comfortable with, these people are nonetheless a beautiful and exciting community.

As I walked back through the swamps, I had a new appreciation for these people. So what if they lack butts and a K-Mart. They made up for it in a rich culture and leather sales.

Now if I can just keep the leeches out of my boots.

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