assless chaps
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Photos by Emma Penrose

When This Is All Over, I’m Wearing Assless Chaps for Work, Play, and Day

In a masked world, an unmasked bottom might just be the most freeing thing.
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A week of sharing our ultimate fantasies for life after COVID-19.

Welcome to Fantasy Week, where we indulge all our grandest daydreams about what we wish to do when this is all over. After a year of pandemic life, we’re fantasizing about globetrotting, throwing ragers, and dressing like we truly give zero fucks, and imagining a world where we’re all vaxxed and the world is our big, briny oyster.


Pants are to butts what surgical masks are to mouths: a conscious germ shield. This has always been true, but hits harder as we continue to suit up against COVID-19 (literally, and behaviorally). So it felt not just counterintuitive but also confusing to get excited about the latest addition to my closet: assless chaps. 

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Assless Leather Chaps

Photo: Etsy

Genuine Leather Chaps, $127.09 at Etsy 

Now, I’ve owned a lot of what we’ll call personality-sub clothes over the years. I love the 1970s PBS employee aesthetic. I love John Denver button-ups. Sneakerhead looks. Rajneeshi-core home robes. Victorian nighties. Different as they are, all of these clothes were very much sought after by my own fried vision for myself, and bookmark certain points in my life. Assless chaps, however, flapped into my closet by serendipity.

“Cathy says she has some old leather chaps for you, if you want them,” my mother told me a few months ago. (Note: We love Good Neighbor Cathy. Her home is a time capsule of clothes that her own children won’t wear. We always say yes to a Cathy haul.)  

I was lucky to be quarantining with my immediate family pod in California during this time, and living quite happily in a single pair of track pants and concert tees for weeks on end. My parents also live in a quiet, one-road canyon with more deer and gophers than people, so the idea of styling chaps to an audience of non-discerning woodland creatures felt perfect for wherever our brains were during the short, dark, Scandinavian troll days of winter. Why not wear Berlin club-wear to babysit my nephew? YOLO. 

Turns out, those chaps were just as handy for babysitting as they would be for die Diskothek. These were the perfect pants for mucking about in the dirt with a toddler, making me feel like a human Swiss Army Knife capable of climbing every tree, and getting covered in every booger. Less Easy Rider, and more human tarmak. How quick was I to pigeonhole these chaps?

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Historically, chaps have wrapped a broad spectrum of thighs, starting with cattle herders in Mexico. They were known as chaperreras, “[a] name coming from the local chaparral–low-growing, bristly brush that would damage trouser legs,” explains Tom George in i-D's "queer and dirrty history of chaps," “[and] to protect their clothing while working, these cattle herders would have two pieces of leather attached to their horses’ saddles that draped over their legs.” Chaps are a functional, workwear accessory (Carharrt, WYA?); as time went on, they evolved in accordance with different regions and cultures (indigenous populations added fringe first), and eventually became a cheeky tool for subverting and owning hyper-machismo in queer and BDSM communities. These days, they’re on the bums of vintage lovers, bikers, ranchers, and Kardashians. When it’s the latter, George points out in his article, it’s often to intense media vitriol and adoration. Which is bound to happen, he says, when you introduce Tom of Finland to the above-ground populus.

Assless Leather Chaps with Flames

Photo: Etsy

1980s Leather Chaps, $80 at Etsy

Now, nothing is stopping me from wearing assless chaps in public. But nothing has been totally inspiring me either; there are no music festivals beckoning me to spliffy pastures, no awk networking mixers for schmoozing, boozing, and pocketing canapés. If a person wears assless chaps, and no one is there to see it, was their ass ever, truly, ever truly chapped? We dress for ourselves, first and foremost. Or, we should. But we also dress for each other out of respect, excitement, and as a gesture of human connection. These chaps, I thought, have the power to become a visual shorthand for saying, “I’m not into ketamine, but I do want to talk about WTF happened to Sigur Rós, and why male masturbators are due for a renaissance.” 

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I know it’s a privilege to be sitting here, back in Brooklyn, having a symposium between myself and my keyboard about clubbing pants while so many Americans are ill and unemployed. It feels frivolous (because it is), but in a small way, that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Levity matters. Fantasy matters. Studies have shown that while we may not be able to take the trips we wanted during the pandemic, for example, planning them still does wonders for our mental health, and I think the same can be said of dream post-COVID outfits. So, I decided to test the leather daddy waters of assless chaps by putting together three looks —one for day, one for night play, and one for work—in the hopes that I’ll be able to wear them someday soon(ish).


Lizard about town  

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The look: One of the most important things about these chaps is that they’re a little oversized—like Dad Cargo Pants, but hornier energy. The bagginess allowed me to layer them over pants and shorts I already love, like these Champion bike shorts. I went for a tight, knock-off Jean Paul Gaultier op-art turtleneck, and layered it with a bustier and Matrix coat to give the impression that I understand Bitcoin. (I do not. Help.) The final touch was a pair of Lady Miss Kier Fluevog heels, perfect for making me feel like a Daddy Longlegs from 1994. 

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The verdict: I felt so comfortable. This look helped me realize that the fantasy can be a reality if you give it a whirl with a bit of Mary Tyler Moore Hat energy. This is a solid transitional season outfit, and one that I’m going to be wearing to run errands with my buds as soon as our veins are all sauced up with a vaccine.

The dupes:

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DayLookChaps.jpg

Photo: Composite by VICE Staff

Areuben Vegan Leather Trench Coat, $209 $174 at W.Concept.

Champion Women's Authentic Bike Short, $19.99 at Amazon

Patchwork Mesh Ruffled Turtleneck, $25 at Etsy

1994 Fluevog Candy Court Platforms, $180 at Etsy

Genuine Leather Chaps, $127.09 at Etsy 

SFW

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The look: One day, we’ll be back in the office. That’s going to take a while, so I wanted to style a look that could easily take me from these WFH quar days, in which wearing work clothes does make me feel more productive, and into a look that would be appropriate for the brick-and-mortar VICE mothership. The result was a very cozy layering party; I slapped my chaps over some plaid pants, put on a chonky Big Bird sweater, a fluffy bucket hat, and my glasses.  

The verdict: I really liked this outfit, and it’s definitely one I’m excited to wear in-office some day. My brain didn’t have the bandwidth to wear shoes, because I’m too used to my WFH flesh slides, but I’d go for a sneaker or cowboy boot. 

The dupes:

WFH Chaps

Photo: Composite by VICE Staff

UO Cara High-Waisted Pattern Kick Flare Pant, $39.00 $19.99 at Urban Outfitters

ASOS DESIGN faux fur roll back bucket hat, $20 $14 at ASOS

Oversized Chunky Mohair Sweater, $33 at Etsy

Genuine Leather Chaps, $127.09 at Etsy 

In the clerb

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The look: I long for the days of packing into Max Fish like slutty sardines. Styling this lewk made them feel both closer and further from my grasp (especially because it’s about 40 degrees fahrenheit outside RN). I paired me chaps with an über-billowy, trippy thrift store blouse, some 80s-style green heels, and a Dior Saddle Bag from the blessed sidewalks of Canal Street.

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The verdict: I loved this look so much, it kind of took me on an emotional roller-coaster. With the lights dimmed, my armpits and forehead sweating (just another Tuesday, TBH), and a tiny clerb bag over my shoulder, it really did feel like Love in the Time of "Despacito" and lukewarm Miller High Lifes. Perhaps I will be able to wear this out safely in the summertime to an outdoor bar, all vacc’d up, without worrying too much about sponging up COVID with my butt on a bar stool. 

The dupes:

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Photo: Composite by VICE Staff

Printed Mesh Blouse, $165 at Ganni

1980s Kelly Green Pumps, $40.45 at Etsy

Dior Saddle Bag Dupe, $450 at Etsy

Genuine Leather Chaps, $127.09 at Etsy 

In conclusion: I thought that styling these chaps would feel like playing air guitar in front of a mirror. Awkward. Fruitless. Maybe a little depressing. But dressing up felt so damn good, and I weirdly relished the time my chaps and I had to get to know one another in private. It felt a bit like wrapping a present you know you’ll open when the time is right—an exercise in optimism, with a little emotional-sartorial edging. I can’t wait to turn the other cheek on this pantydemic.  

Photography by Emma Penrose


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