Marvelous Pants in the Marvelous City

‘Carioca’ is the word used to identify a person from Rio de Janeiro.

It’s also the pathetic joke that I shamelessly use and re-use when people take one look at me and ask where I’m from, knowing that I’m not Brazilian. “Eu? Cara, sou carioca!” Me? Dude, I’m from Rio!

Besides looking about as Brazilian as the Giant Panda, there are so many ways that I don’t fit it in with Cariocas at all.

(If you’re wondering whether I’m about to dive into egregious stereotypes about people from Rio, why yes – yes, I am. But I promise to stick to traits that Cariocas have told me themselves are characteristics of many people living here in the Marvelous City.)

Cariocas are always late. When planning any event here, it’s important to tell people the start time is about 90 minutes before you actually want people to arrive. This is as true for a one-on-one coffee date as it is for a big party. This kills me. In contrast, I get a nerdy thrill out of arriving somewhere exactly on time, because it means I scheduled my journey to the destination perfectly and deserve a pat on the back.

Cariocas wear their emotions on their sleeves. You can hear the pain, joy, or disbelief by eavesdropping on any distant conversation where you can’t hear the actual words but just the tone. I once listened to someone talk about cleaning their house as if they were accepting an Oscar. Tears included. As for me, I tend to say everything pretty matter-of-factly. Me asking what time it is sounds a bit like me talking about the importance of human rights.

Cariocas thrive on going out to drink. I love going out too, but must appear like a hermit to many people here. One of my English students told me that someone is considered weird if they don’t love to go out (at LEAST) every Friday and Saturday. And going out means going out from early evening until sunrise. Just sometimes, I actually like to get a good night’s sleep on the weekend, but that’s just me.

All that said, there is one way in which I feel a little bit like I have found my people among Rio’s residents. Something I never expected before coming here.

Cariocas, or at least Carioca women, wear the most outrageously bright and bold pants and leggings I have ever encountered. As a committed activist to the cause of making “International Loud Pants Day” a global phenomenon, I couldn’t be happier about this. There is not a single day when I don’t walk by at least five magnificent pairs of legwear. Patterns of radiant planets, pink flamingos, and jungle flora galore (or what I call ‘flora galora’) make pants with brightly coloured stripes, polka dots and leopard print look mundane.

A lot of the colour is found in workout pants, but also extends to everyday wear and party-wear. Loud pants seem to be pervasive across all kinds of environments, from rich to poor communities and from the city centre to the beaches. Where do these masterpiece pantaloons come from? Stores and stalls everywhere. Stores and stalls like these ones, pictured below, where a pair of shades is sometimes necessary to dim the collective brilliance of such power pants.

loudpants Brazil2 loudpants Brazil

These pants that are on sale for 9.99? That’s 9.99 Brazilian reais, so less than US$4. No wonder they’re popular.

Whatever norms restrain many North Americans and Europeans from busting out colourful attire for their legs in a world of blue jeans, dark suitpants, and black yoga pants do not seem to exist here. And Rio’s streets are brighter, more interesting spaces because of it.

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