The event started 17 years ago as a prank among friends and has since spread to include hundreds of New Yorkers – and thousands of people in events across the globe.
Melissa Roman, a New York native, told The Independent this was her third time participating.
“It’s my little New Year’s routine,” she said, smiling through the 19-degree (-7C) cold. “...It’s just fun to watch the people’s faces on the train when we take our pants off.”
The premise of the No Pants subway ride is simple: Passengers meet up in locations around the city, board the train, and – one by one – start taking off their pants. Participants are encouraged to act naturally, and to respond to the inevitable questions with something like: “Oh, I just forgot to put on pants today.”
Eventually, they all converge at Union Square for a photo-op and after party.
This year’s event was complicated slightly by the “arctic surge” that threatened to bring record-breaking low temperatures to the East Coast. Snow still covered the ground as participants poured out of Union Square station in their tighty-whities, dancing and jumping around to stay warm.
Inside the station, slightly less-adventurous riders posed for pantless photos with tourists and danced to the sound of panhandler's music. One subway musician even freestyled a song about the event, the only lyrics of appeared to be: “Don’t need no pants, no, I don’t need no pants.”
The event drew people from their teens to their sixties, and from as far away as Israel. Nina Lesiga, a 61-year-old participant, said this was her second pantless ride. Her first experience was sp positive, she drove down from Connecticut this year just to do it again.
“What I realised is, it was really nothing about taking my pants off,” she said of that first experience. “It was about taking a great adventure to go outside the comfort zone, and it proved to me that I could do a lot more.”
While the participants frolicked and tourists snapped photos, the majority of their fellow travellers continued as normal, seemingly unimpressed. On a train in from Brooklyn, commuters sat silently next to the pantless travellers, absorbed in their books or cellphones. At Union Square, travellers elbowed them out of the way without a passing glance.
Bex, a woman who had participated for the last four years, said this reaction was typical.
“There are people who look at you with a sense of wonderment,” she said, “and then there are those jaded New Yorkers who are like, ‘Oh I’ve seen this before’.”
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