TikTokers make ‘elephant pants’… cool?

Typically related to overseas backpackers, the pachyderm pants are more and more being reclaimed up influencers and excessive society

  • AFP, CHIANG MAI, Thailand

A chic Thai socialite poses in sun shades, a designer purse discreetly seen within the Instagram picture, her fashionable outfit accomplished by a pair of… elephant print pants?

Notorious throughout Southeast Asia, so-called elephant pants product of skinny saggy cotton had been as soon as synonymous with grubby backpackers seeking themselves — and the closest Chang beer, a well-liked native lager.

The pachyderm pants had been adopted by foreigners throughout an early wave of finances Southeast Asia journey, as guests sought to acceptable “genuine” tradition, regardless of there being little actually Thai about them, researchers say.

Photograph: AFP

Whereas they’re nonetheless bought from stalls alongside Bangkok’s vacationer haven Khaosan Street for about 150 baht (US$4), younger Thai influencers and the dominion’s excessive society are more and more reclaiming them.

“The pants are dope,” stated influencer Dalintan “MoRich” Promphinit, after cavorting in a vivid yellow set for his two million TikTok followers in April.

“They’re not simply souvenirs overseas vacationers purchase,” he stated. “Thais are rocking them too.” “It’s like a style assertion,” with a “teen road style vibe,” stated the 19-year-old. His followers immediately liked his newest look.

Photograph: AFP

“They saved asking the place I received it,” he stated.


Posing at Chiang Mai’s historic wall, Toei, 27, who solely gave her first title, is clad head-to-toe within the “lovable” elephant print.

Photograph: AFP

“Initially, they had been a success amongst vacationers, however now they’re trending on TikTok, because of influencers,” her 28-year-old pal Ong, additionally sporting the print, added. “So, we embraced the pattern.”

A half-hour drive away is Kingkarn “Jack” Samon’s manufacturing facility, the place rolls and rolls of pachyderm-inspired prints are measured, sliced and stitched.

“The pants have develop into a sensation in Thailand,” she stated throughout a tour of the power, which has round 100 employees, producing 1,000-2,000 gadgets every day.

Orders — together with shirts, attire, even purses — are up 30 % because the finish of the Covid pandemic. The pants account for 85 % of gross sales.

Hers is only a small cog within the kingdom’s textile and garment business, which accounts for about three % of its GDP.

Kingkarn imports the material from China, transport it to Bangkok for printing, earlier than it returns to her manufacturing facility, 700km away.

The design’s reputation, nonetheless, has not been with out controversy.

A web-based debate introduced native reporters to her door after some Cambodians claimed Thailand had appropriated the elephant print, Kingkarn stated.

Refusing to be drawn on the newest iteration of the historic rivalry, she did admit with a smile: the talk has boosted gross sales.


Finally, little in regards to the pants are Thai, stated Kanjana Thepboriruk, an affiliate professor at Northern Illinois College’s Heart for Southeast Asian Research.

Their adoption by foreigners, making an attempt to stake a declare on “genuine experiences,” as an alternative meant Thais considered them as worldwide, she stated.

“I see the elephant pants as the newest method that younger wealthy Thais or aspiring middle-class Thais align their identification with Westerners,” she stated.

And high-end retailers have shortly cottoned on.

Inside a luxurious Bangkok mall, Bangkok Tales’s elephant pants promote for 1,090 baht (US$30). “When individuals take into consideration elephant pants, (they consider them as) actually low-cost, however I wish to make them appear like Versace,” defined founder and designer Rawiwan “Gigi” Worasinsiri.

Rawiwan initially focused vacationers, however the pandemic flipped her enterprise mannequin, with Thais filling the deficit.

“I used to be shocked,” she stated, crediting TikTok for her success.

On the different finish of the spectrum in Bangkok’s sprawling Chatuchak market, 32-year-old Onnitsa Kuren already owns three pairs.

“Elephant-patterned pants go together with something — simply pair them with a T-shirt,” she stated.

Musing as she browsed, she added, “I’m at present looking out for a crimson pair.”

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