Imagine sitting on the NYC subway on your way home, minding your own business. The train stops at the next station and a gaggle of people get on, dressed in winter wear -- nothing out of place, except that they have no pants.
Are you in the middle of some exhibitionist parade? Nope, it's the No Pants Subway Ride, an annual event that's been going since 2002 and organized by Improv Everywhere, a group dedicated to "[causing] scenes." Starting out as a small prank with seven guys, it's now grown to "an international celebration of silliness" with several thousand brave souls in cities around the world joining in on the pant-less glee:
The idea behind No Pants is simple: Random passengers board a subway car at separate stops in the middle of winter without pants. The participants do not behave as if they know each other, and they all wear winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. The only unusual thing is their lack of pants.
Usually, the event goes on without a hitch. But in 2006, law enforcement stepped in, a little prematurely it appears:
The fifth annual No Pants ride was abruptly halted by a cop. All passengers, including those not participating, were forced to exit the train as it was taken out of service. 8 people were handcuffed in their underwear and taken into custody. A month later a judge dismissed all of the charges. It is not illegal to wear your underwear in public in New York City. Just ask the Naked Cowboy.
You may ask, what's the point of all this pranking? Well, though No Pants Subway Ride doesn't currently have a political bent per se (at least not one that we can determine), one could imagine that it could be used as an effective sounding board for other issues. Just ask the Chinese climate activists who undertook a no pants subway protest last year despite the threat of arrest, or the participants of the annual World Naked Bike Ride, PETA-boosting celebs, or recycling flash mobs and Spencer Tunick's photographed masses lying naked on endangered glaciers. There can be great power in a prank, especially one that is as attention-grabbing and fun as this one.