By Bob Dorn
I have a pair of tan pants, made by … Dickies, an intriguingly long lasting brand name, perhaps because on one level it is a tad juvenile, but on another it’s very manly.
I’m no philologist but I think that’s one of the great attraction of words, their instability and ambivalence. Think about it: manly dickies? But of course.
It’s true these pants from Dickies are manly. They even have a slit pocket at the right thigh where a guy could put his money bag so that he’d notice if someone groped for it. Another manly thing is that they’ve lasted a very long time; I purchased them more than five years ago and they look today like they did when I first bought them down in National City.
Well, they’re still clean enough, except for a few pizza stains down around that lower thigh pocket. I can live with those stains because they have suffered so many washings that they long ago lost the brilliance of that blood-red tomato paste and have evolved into slightly darkened areas more the color of dirt, I’d say.
What causes me to bring all this up is, day after day the online version of The New York Times has displayed an ad urging me to buy (along with some other news sites) something called Pick Pocket-Proof Pants. They’re tan, like my Dickies, and sort of loose, like my Dickies.
My first thought was that there’s something I’m doing on the ‘net that tells the advertisers to try to sell me manly pants.
Maybe writing now and then for The San Diego Free Press has something to do with it. But, then, I don’t think the people who read or write for The Free Press could ever attract ads for Pick Pocket-Proof Pants. These people are more likely to be pickpockets. But that’s another story.
Maybe it’s just the fact that I read the news intensely. Can site designers know who I am from what I read? Do they know I’ve never had my pocket picked, and that makes me likely to fall victim to pickpockets soon? I don’t understand the connections (intersectionality?).
Also, I’m not the sort of guy any longer who hacks through doors. I don’t go on treks that require a knife here, a canteen there. I have no automatic weapon requiring deep pockets for bullet clips.
Now, the Pick Pocket-Proof Pants advertised day after day do sort of resemble my Dickies. But my Dickies are a bit more wrinkled now, and they certainly don’t have as many pockets as the Pick Pocket-Proof Pants. I warn you all not to think I have pocket envy. I don’t have enough stuff to put in those pockets.
The reason I’m going on (and on) about these manly pants ads is my insecurity about why the internet identifies me as one likely to buy these triple-pocketed manly pants. After all I already have my Dickies.
Is there some underlying Google algorithm that knows my long-lasting attachment to my Dickies, something that could excite the makers of the Pick Pocket Proof Pants into trying to alienate me from my Dickies so that I might leave them behind in favor of the deep and tripled pockets of the … oh, why not let’s call them from now on the 4P’s?
It’s not like 4P’s are so distinctively new that they seem virginal. I’ve seen pants like them before, many times. Every time the ad for 4P’s pops up I’m reminded of the preppies at one of the universities I attended. They wore what were then called chinos, for some reason. Those guys wore the tan chinos with shaggy dark wool sweaters — a look as universal as ants. No extra pockets, though.
But I do suspect the algorithm can explain it. I have no notion of what I may doing that makes the ad buyer for the 4Ps think I’m vulnerable to pickpockets. I don’t have a lot of money.
To my knowledge, I’ve never had my pocket picked. I’ve never been on a safari or traveled to the Great Wall of China, which is where the model in the 4P’s ad is standing, the picture of a sophisticated (and SAFE!) guy.
I would say that the algorithm that tells the ad buyers that I’m likely to buy 4P’s could be based on the fact that I’m white, because all the ads featuring this style of pants — cargo, chino, khaki pants, some with multiple pockets and loops for slipping the hammer in when it’s not in use — are modeled by white guys. But what a huge, ill-defined category that is.
You’re white, so you’ll buy a caseload of Gummi Bears, or anything wrapped in plastic that says organic? You’re white, so you’ll buy double manly pants? You’re white, filled with fear, so you wear pants you can hang a machine gun from? I don’t think so.
Anyway, I’m Sicilian Catholic and German Jewish. That makes me off-white, doesn’t it?
But who am I to defy the algorithm concept of advertising? No doubt the algorithm consultants know how to sell Donald Trump to people who call themselves Democrats. Or snow to the Inuits.
But if you’re interested in this style of pants, let me tell you about a pair I ran across recently in an ad. They’re called Ultimate Men’s, um… Fire Hose Pants. They actually have straps hanging from the belt line, hooks at the belt, deep pockets and pockets just below the thighs where you can slip in your knee pads.
Like a manly man’s pants. Do you want those in camouflage?