NEW YORK—As trouser downsizing continues throughout the troubled economy and budget cuts threaten employees' pants security, many workers in legwear-based fields have come to fear the worst.
But though trouser downsizing affects virtually all Americans, the hardest hit are those in the country's $2.1 billion domestic raving industry, who depend on trouser size for their very survival. Trouser downsizing for them is no mere media buzzword, but a serious threat to their way of life.
"Without dope-ass phat gear, I will not be able to rave nearly as effectively as I have done in the past," said Minneapolis-area raver Mark the Phonky Alien, whose overall trouser volume has decreased more than 40 percent in the last six months due to fabric cutbacks. "I cannot drop crazy, low-end bass, I cannot freak the turntables, and I cannot put food on the table for my family. It's that simple."
All across America, an increasing number of raving-industry workers are afraid of losing their pants, watching helplessly as their trousers continue to decrease in size. Many have been forced to endure cuffs that stop short of the foot, leaving the entire top of the shoe exposed.
In some of the worst-hit areas, such as New York's SoHo and Greenwich Village, massive denim shortages have caused the price of oversized pants to nearly triple. Many of these New York ravers, unable to afford the high prices, have actually been forced to abandon their dope, oversized Fuct and Alien Workshop-brand gear altogether, trading them in for humiliatingly narrow $30 Levi's "slim fits."
"Phat-ass gear is going the way of the dinosaur, and no one in the society at large seems to be doing anything about it," said out-of-work Chicago raver DJ Free MDMA, 20, whose straight-leg jeans barely even sag at the crotch. "Just look at me. I look ridiculous. It hurts to admit it, but I've even started wearing khakis on weekdays, just to make ends meet."
"They're Dockers," he added tearfully. "They're even pleated."
Raving-industry insiders say the situation is only going to get worse.
"Unchecked, unregulated trouser growth throughout the early '90s resulted in a rate of denim use that simply could not sustain itself," said Anson Farber of Princeton's Institute For Trouser Studies. "Trouser mergers throughout the decade, in which as many as three or four pants worth of fabric were combined into a single pair of trousers, created an unstable leg-width situation that continues to this day. A collapse of the nation's drastically overinflated pants was inevitable."
According to Farber, by as early as 1998 we may begin seeing ravers in shorts.
DJ Freek Malik, who spins Friday nights at Miami's famed Club 808, has mounted an effort to fight back. Collecting fabric donations from every available source, Malik's organization, PhatNow!, is attempting to provide trouser relief for Miami-area ravers, adding desperately needed volume to their pants.
But even Malik admits it is an uphill climb. "A lot of ravers use their pants to provide a place to crash for friends who've been kicked out of their parents' houses," he said. "What are they supposed to say? 'I'm sorry, but my pants just aren't big enough for the both of us anymore, I'm kicking you out on the street'?"
"It's sad," Malik added, sighing. "Many of these kids have had no choice but to give up raving altogether and try to find work elsewhere, often as goths."
Yet despite the hardship, many ravers remain optimistic about the future. "I hear there's gonna be a big rave in Phoenix this weekend," said Brianna Dunham, 18, a Tempe, AZ, raver. "This one guy Dean's got a car. We're all going. I can't wait."
Sadly, that's all the nation's ravers can do—wait. And hope that trouser downsizing won't ultimately leave them high and dry.