The Leopard Skin Pants

Textile Hive Tiger Print

Whenever people visit the Hive I get a lot of questions and invariably I’m always asked what my favorite textile in the collection is. With over 40,000 choices it is impossible for me to single out just one but there definitely is one textile that stands out to me personally more than any other…

I’m not sure when the leopard skin pants first arrived on the scene. I had a nontraditional upbringing that included living in Peru, London, China and Japan before returning back to New York at the ripe age of 10 in 1987. The first place I distinctly remember the Leopard Pants was in Japan. This was Japan at its technological height of the boom boom bubble economy of the mid-80’s. My brother and I attended the American School in Japan (ASIJ), where almost all of the kids were better off financially, usually with parents in the foreign service or corporate higher- ups.

It was conservative environment, to say the least, during the Reagan era. As you can imagine, most of my schoolmates’ parents wore somewhat conservative clothes. My mom, Andrea, on the other hand, was unconcerned with conventional dress protocols and wore what she liked which gave me fits.

No item in her wardrobe instilled as much fear and loathing as the Leopard Pants. I’m not sure if it was the bold ostentatious pattern/color combination or the fact they they were unisex wrap/sarong pants which my mom’s boyfriend would also sometimes wear. Boy, did I hate those Leopard Pants! So much so that the Leopard Pants could be used to keep me in check with the simple threat to wear the pants to the next parent-teacher conference.

Looking back on it now I can see how those same pants might fit in well with today’s young fashion set and I can recognize the fact that having a mom who was just too cool caused me some angst. Now that I’m the proud papa of a five year old boy I wonder which crazy dad shirt will cause him to temporarily disavow me. Luckily so far we seem to be on the same page, especially when it comes to sporty attire, but perhaps the hip fashion gene skips a generation and he may soon be blazing his own trail peacocking about.

Circling back to the the start of this post, the Leopard Print to me is the most memorable if not most beautiful print because of that personal connection and context. My mom’s collection and Textile Hive is deeply personal by nature, unlike the countless anonymous institutional collections that exist.

Beyond all of the information about the what an object is, how it was made, where it was made and how it looks, is the story of what an object means to us and how we and others relate to it. 

Author: Caleb Sayan

Caleb Sayan is the co-founder of the Textile Hive and Visual Archiving Solutions. Caleb’s work reflects his passion for preserving, augmenting and contextualizing cultural material through innovative digital projects.