Fashion Masochist: Hammer Pants

When MC Hammer went bankrupt in 1996, many felt sure the rapper’s signature pants—which billow out from a high waist, then cinch in the calf-ankle region—were history. Wrong. Legit designers like Giorgio Armani, Phillip Lim, and Marc Jacobs have turned out similar “harem” styles for fall, leaving fashion types confused. The going theory suggests that designers have overdosed on dresses in the past few years; the natural antidote is a return to slim-lined pants. Of course, change is good (and in fashion, de rigueur), but I’ve never had the urge to hop into my DeLorean and speed back to the “U Can’t Touch This” era—at least not for the clothes.

THE EXPERIENCE At H&M, I scoop up a pair of the parachutelike pants in forgiving cotton, and am teleported back to my adolescence even before I’ve zipped up the 11-inch fly. It’s a struggle to get my size 10 feet through the leg openings, which recall the tapered jeans of my seventh-grade year. The waist lands an inch or two below my bust. There’s a lot going on here; since these suckers risk reaching I Dream of Jeannie levels if paired with a jazzy top, I finish things off with a simple black tank.

A poll of coworkers confirms I should opt for flats over heels. A gold pair provides a welcome, if minor, distraction from the monstrous trousers, which do nothing for my physique. I’ve never been well endowed on the rear side, but these pants create a downright pancake effect; my hips, meanwhile, are like double-wides. Unsolicited, friends pipe up, “Wow, those are unflattering.” No amount of makeup or tasteful accessorizing can undo the deep feelings of homeliness growing inside me. I sit down whenever possible to deflate the ballooning.

Heading out for a self-pitying ice cream cone, I toss my cell into my pocket and suddenly realize how much space—from waist to midthigh—there is to spare. Who needs a purse when you have this sort of onboard storage capacity? And that’s when I learn, at least, to embrace the pants’ practicality and enjoy the comfort that hot shorts, short skirts, and skinny jeans simply don’t provide.

THE VERDICT I end up liking the Hammer pants, though not for the high-fashion reasons that Armani, Lim, and Jacobs—who showed theirs with equally voluminous, and equally unflattering, tops—might have hoped. They’re comfortable and, despite my propensity for tight jeans and high heels, I appreciate that. Still, as far as I’m concerned, comfortable fashion crosses the line when no one wants to look at you.