Is there anything to make an old man look older than putting him in some tight satin pants? This is an example of a phenomenon I will call “making things worse by making them better.” It used to be called putting lipstick on a pig, but that’s sexist, and I’m talking about foolish old men here, not anyone else.

The desired effect is to look younger, so the subject appropriates a marker he associates with youth. This marker is pants. Maybe the subject wore pants like this when he was young, but more likely he never did, he has forgotten how a young person might actually choose his pants and, grasping for something new, makes a grievous error. His pants are not worn by any youths and never could be. They are old man pants.

The old man pants probably aren’t satin, they are more like sateen, constructed out of some artificial fiber patented by nike in 2008. The material is a compromise. It’s not what the genuine self — we will presuppose a genuine self here — prefers for a pant material, but neither is it a fabric that could form a genuinely embarrassing pant. The subject would like to split the difference, to appear the man who has made his way and learned a thing or two — learned so much that he is right on top of pant technology. But the compromise fails. The subject is visibly not comfortable in the pants he has chosen, and the pants are not fully hilarious.

While the pants were designed to hide age, they proclaim it. And maybe that’s the point our canny subject was trying to make: he is an old man, after all, and if he has chosen to accept that, perhaps we should all go a little easier on him.

mick

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