On Sunday, January 12 at 3pm, a curious group of Parisians gathered together in front of the Arc de Triomphe to coordinate their collective metro ride to Bastille.
While moving across the city en mass is a common occurrence in Paris, (the city streets are regularly paraded on in protest), it is rare that such large groups move together by metro. It is even rarer that they do so sans pantalon.
I might need more than two hands to count the number of times I have seen a pantless person riding the NYC subway. This is why I never really more than giggled at the thought of the No Pants Subway Ride (started by Improv Everywhere in 2002). It takes a lot more than taking off one’s pants in NYC to raise eyebrows. But codes of public conduct in Paris are very different from those in NYC.
I generally find Parisian metro riders to be extremely quiet, reserved, and normally well behaved when in transit. This is in stark contrast to their loud and often unruly NYC counterparts, and it is an example I often start with when listing the most obvious cultural differences between the two cities.
Imagine my excitement as I marched through the sprawling CDG Etoile metro station with this massive group of predominantly young, male Parisians, as they gleefully chatted away and periodically cheered and shouted “Sans pantalon!”
We all squeezed onto a packed Line 1 train, direction Bastille. At each stop, a few members of the group stepped off the train and discretely started to remove their shoes and pants, stuffing them into backpacks and oversized handbags, and then casually stepping onto the next train that arrived.
I stepped off at Tuileries with my new friends, Dimitri and Alex, who learned about the event online and thought it might be funny to participate. They stood nervously on the platform, suddenly questioning the purpose of the assignment that they had so enthusiastically accepted. Further down the platform was another small group that had no inklings of hesitation. Their pants were off in a flash. By the time the next train arrived, Alex, Dimitri, and friends had taken their pants off, too.
Passers-by took double, triple takes. Some took photos. One man who saw me taking photos said to me “They’re even more beautiful in real life than they are as statues in a museum – n’est ce pas?”
While the line 1 in Paris that afternoon was mostly filled with laughter and good humor, not everyone was pleased with the spectacle. One woman said to Alex and Dimitri that what they were doing was disgusting. She also warned that the pantless people were likely to catch cold and complained that France would have to pay for it.
The police stationed at Place de la Bastille showed a more appreciative reaction upon the group’s arrival. Some applauded the pantless women and posed for photos with them.
After a celebratory group photo on the steps of l’Opera Bastille, most people hurriedly put their pants back on seeking warmth. Others still pantless gallantly paraded off towards the bars and cafés of la Bastille, encouraging all to follow them for une soirée sans culottes.
- Visit Improv Everywhere’s website to learn more about this very special event
- Watch a video from this year’s “No Pants Subway Ride” that took place in New York right here
- The Huffington post shares more photos from this pantless day from all around the world
Written by Elise Marafioti for the HiP Paris Blog. All photos by Elise Marafioti unless otherwise noted. Video by Didier Gauducheau. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.