The ever-expanding importance of elastic pants during the holiday season

Joe Pisani bemoans the endless cycle of shoveling snow.

Joe Pisani bemoans the endless cycle of shoveling snow.

Joe Pisani /

Against my better judgment, or maybe because of my better judgment, I recently bought a pair of khakis that were made from a space-age fabric called “Smart360Flex,” which gives you four-way stretchability. Just in time for the holidays.

This means that when I pull on my pants leg, it stretches so much that it snaps back when I let go, sort of like a slingshot. They aren’t made of rubber — at least I don’t think they are — but some synthetic material with the same molecular composition as Gumby, which means to say they stretch where and when you needed stretching. If I bend over to tie my shoes, my pants expand and, equally important, they expand around my stomach after I eat too much or drink too much.

This is just what we need in America, the land of plenty, the land of supersizing and the land of super sizes, where it’s common to see clothes ranging from XL to 4XL instead of small and medium. With so many senior Baby Boomers putting on pounds, this is just what the dietician ordered.

Equally impressive, these pants don’t wrinkle. (Have you ever seen rubber wrinkle?) Plus, it’s nice not to have to iron my pants before an important event. Besides, I’m afraid if I iron them, they might melt. What is life about if not comfort and convenience?

I have to confess, though, that they give me a creepy sensation, and when I wear them, I feel like I’m morphing into one of those X-Men, who can stretch around buildings and reach second-floor windows.

When it comes to fashion innovations, women are way ahead of men, and sooner or later Anna Wintour will be promoting stretchable clothes made of Spanx, Lycra and elastine. All these figure-hugging fabrics come from “polyether-polyurethaning copolymers,” which were invented in 1958 by a DuPont chemist, who probably couldn’t fit into his Speedo bathing suit and wanted a little wiggle room.

These petroleum-based products can expand up to six times their size, and the name Spandex is actually an anagram for “expands.” But we’re going to be in big trouble the next time there’s an oil shortage, and we have to go back to natural fibers like cotton and wool.

While it’s socially acceptable for women to wear form-fitting clothing, as soon as guys do, the snickering starts. The good news is that Spanx has created underwear for men that can make us look like we just left Fitness Edge after 46 days of uninterrupted workouts and saunas. As much as I would like to try those shorts, I hate anything confining my waist, which is probably why I’ve always worn baggy, loose-fitting clothes that resemble the wardrobe of an early role model — Mr. Green Jeans on the Captain Kangaroo show.

Nevertheless, there’s no denying that stretchable fabrics are great this time of year when everyone is merry-making, imbibing and consuming large quantities of pasta, antipasto, turkey, roast beef, and a variety of high-starch side dishes like mashed potatoes, yams, corn, carrots and sweet potatoes, followed by tiramisu, two or three cannolis and an abundant quantity of alcoholic beverages.

After all that food, my family members have been known to sit around the table unbuttoning their pants, slacks, skirts and overalls. I can still remember how my mother and my aunts would conclude Christmas dinner with the collective complaint, “I’m bloated!” Unfortunately, they didn’t have the benefit of Spanx or four-way stretchable clothing.

Of course, all this overindulgence may only be an Italian custom because I find it hard to believe that Japanese families sit around the table, stuffed to the gills after a few pieces of sushi, miso soup and saki.

Furthermore, I’ve always believed that unbuttoning your clothes at the table is so declasse, especially if you’re out to dinner at the Four Seasons or Olive Garden. Anyway, this holiday season let’s resolve to keep our pants buttoned and our clothes stretchable.

Joe Pisani can be reached at