Fashion is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to elephant pants, they are rarely worn by local Thais. These light and breezy trousers can be found in abundance in tourist areas, once made famous by the film The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
There, they’re a phenomenon worn by a near majority of tourists during the day, when they are sold on the sides of the street for as little as 150 baht each.
Elephant Pants very popular
Shopkeeper Sawat Daengurai said he has been selling clothes on Khaosan road for about a decade, however. Sales only started picking up when he began to sell the elephant pants around three years ago.
“I used to sell tank tops here but the elephant pants and hippy pants are more popular,” he said. “I started selling them later than everyone else.”
Never fail to buy a pair
Marissa Arranz, 50, from Spain said she has been to Thailand three times and has never failed to buy a pair of elephant pants on each visit. “They’re really comfortable to wear. They feel so fresh,” she said.
The wild patterns on the trousers resemble the designs of stitches that can be found in apparel made by hill tribe villagers. But the elephants that intersect the patterns mark the trousers with a distinguished Thai identity.
Elephants are the official national animal for Thailand and are deeply rooted in its culture and literature.
Backpackers casual wear in Thailand
“Foreigners like the elephant pants because when they see the elephants they think of Thailand,” says Mantana Kernkangpu. She sells elephant pants at MBK shopping centre in Bangkok. Also another major tourist destination for its cheap products.
Although the trousers may look Thai, Mantana said “I wouldn’t wear them myself. I’m too old. They’re not my style.”
Resemblance to harem pants
Cultural scientist Adam Geczy from the University of Sydney said the elephant pants have a clear resemblance to harem pants. Bohemian Harem Pants hand crafted in Northern Thailand
“However, there is a hippie edge to them which we would now call hipster,” Geczy said.
“These are not pants for the gentleman’s club,” said men’s grooming expert Bernhard Roetzel, author of the “Gentleman’s guide to grooming and style.” “Whoever wears them doesn’t want to go there at all.”