17

Long story short, we were a group of people on a short visit to London, one of us (a male) wore white jeans, then an European woman from the group told him that it is a sign of being gay to wear white trousers in England. We thought she was joking but she insisted, later she asked us to look around and see if there was any male wearing white trousers. We looked around for the rest of day everywhere we went to and found no one and it was summer!

Was she saying the truth or was she joking? Is it a sign of being gay to wear white trousers in London?

*Note: This is not against gays or anything, just curiosity.

  • 13
    Just because no-one is wearing white trousers does not mean only gay people wear them. And yes, I would consider this a homophobic comment since it implies no-one would want to be considered gay. You may wish to re-phrase your question. – Josh B Dec 26 '14 at 9:37
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    @JoshB I am sorry if it offended you, I said this is not against gays, I was just curious. – Nean Der Thal Dec 26 '14 at 9:45
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    The girl who told you that... Did she have a kind of deep, husky voice? With a flouncy wig and 7 inch heels? Perhaps sporting a pink boa? – Gayot Fow Dec 26 '14 at 10:23
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    @JoshB It is perfectly normal and non-homophobic for someone to not want to be considered gay if they are not in fact gay. Assuming you are male, would you want to be considered female? – March Ho Dec 26 '14 at 10:51
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    I think it's a sign of being a morris dancer... – Micah Dec 26 '14 at 14:09
16

This a plausible stereotype with obvious origins, but one that has absolutely zero documented evidence as being employed as semiotic sign by homosexual community (now, absence of proof != proof of absence. So don't read this answer as a definitive "no").

  1. This is a somewhat lost-in-translation urban slang thing.

    The term "White pants" has a well known meaning (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=white+pants), when applied to women.

    (while the site is user-content-supplied, the first definition has pretty overwhelming votes meaning it's not something someone ranomly made up).

    Due to the meaning - which I'd rather not copy/paste here to keep the site somewhat age appropriate - it's quite possible that at some point this got morphed into an association with being gay.

  2. In general, in popular culture - both gay and straight, unusually looking pants - the more flamboyant the better - are "more gay" (See http://www.thewire.com/national/2013/08/how-gay-are-your-pants/68172/). Now, whether white trousers scream "flamboyant" to you or not, is a different question, but they definitely aren't exactly an "everyday normal wear style". (Especially if one doesn't hang out around golf/cricket players)

  3. The concept of a gay community employing semiotics is a well documented and old one.

    Now, the signs are typically less "big" than whole clothing, and also typically signal things a person is into rather than the sexual orientation per se. But the fact is that semiotics is not a myth or a random straight stereotype with no actual manifestation.

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    This is a good answer and explains the origins of this legend and really makes sense and it answers the question directly without side comments or judgments, hence I am accepting it. – Nean Der Thal Dec 27 '14 at 17:33
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    Not that it really matters, but note that anything talking about any kind of "pants" is not from a British perspective. Unless it means underwear. – Steve Jessop Dec 27 '14 at 19:15
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    Your first sentence is good but the rest reads like an attempting to find documentation for a non-existent stereotype. You've linked to USAian slang and a USAian website in an attempt to explain away summer fashion in London at some random point in the past for a specific group of people? Even if this was true (it's almost certainly not) then the chances of a few hundred thousand to a million people across all socio-demographic groups, ages and varying degrees of wealth deciding to follow a trend without a single one of the surrounding 11m+ people doing the same can't be much higher than 0. – Ben Dec 27 '14 at 23:25
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    I'm not; the actual wearing of white trousers would be a trend. The expectation that they should be worn is a stereotype. You've attempted to find justification for the stereotype and I've stated that the evidence you've gathered isn't evidence. If the stereotype was true then there would have to have been a trend in order to get there in the first place. I contend that this is effectively impossible (though nothing is actually impossible). As a Londoner myself I think it's not true (no evidence) but anecdotally I'd expect only rich people to wear white trousers. That's my stereotype. – Ben Dec 27 '14 at 23:31
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    @SteveJessop pants meaning underwear is not a universal British meaning. Pants are trousers in certain parts of the UK too – Berwyn Jun 14 '16 at 5:46
28

Whilst Google has a few references on the topic (most of which date back a couple years ago), some of which do mention some sort of implicit association between white trousers and being gay, I think this belief is no more than an urban legend. I lived in London for a long time, I have several gay friends, and I have never heard them mention this, as well as I have never seen them wear white trousers, or any other item of clothing or accessory, to demonstrate their sexual orientation.

Setting aside the meaninglessness of a statistical sample based on "look around you, how many people are doing so-and-so?", and considering the white trousers hypothesis, the fact that you spent a whole day in London without meeting anyone wearing white trousers either suggests that all the people you came across are heterosexual, or that there might be no such thing as a specific piece of clothing functioning as a marker for sexual orientation. Considering the size and presence of the London gay community, I would put my money on the latter.

Finally, there are several reasons you might have seen nobody wearing white trousers. The first that comes to mind is that because people who own such garments tend to use them in hot seasons. Moreover white trousers often go in and out of fashion cyclically, and you might have had this experience on the wrong year for white trousers fashion-wise. Last but not least there's the good old "being in the wrong place, at the wrong time". Coincidentally you did not meet a single person wearing white trousers, and that's it.

  • It was summer then, I updated the question. – Nean Der Thal Dec 26 '14 at 12:28
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    You may think your visit coincided with London's hot season, but what are the chances of those two days coinciding? – MSalters Dec 26 '14 at 20:57
  • This is a good answer but I had to choose the answer by DVK for being more direct answer. – Nean Der Thal Dec 27 '14 at 17:35
  • No worries, @DVK found all the references I was looking for but did not manage to dig out. Without which my answer is noting more than anecdotal. – JoErNanO Dec 27 '14 at 22:31
13

There are no standard signifiers of 'being gay' in London. There are many subtle cues that people may or may not provide you with if they want you to realise they are gay. London is a very modern metropolis and even making the assumption that a man wearing eye shadow (for example) is gay might be completely wrong.

The reason you looked around and found no-one wearing white trousers (even though it was summer) is because white trousers are simply unfashionable in London. Beige or white slacks are a very USAian piece of attire. They can also present a class signifier, white trousers are quite posh.

Posh boater

This is stereotypical posh English summer wear. Notice the white trousers. Also notice the age of the photo...

Your female friend was simply teasing your group. This is a very common thing for people to do.

8

May be one of those random urban legends that goes around. For the easiest evidence, James Bond - the quintessential British heterosexual hero - wears white trousers on multiple occasions, including in Quantum of Solace.

Telling someone to look around for something and then based on not seeing it, is an example of a logical fallacy.

For example, Ben is a fish, fish can swim, therefore anyone named Ben is a fish.

They're more of a summer clothing item, were fairly common when I worked there, and unless many, many people that I knew were hiding something, the claim is incorrect.

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    In James Bond straight? In Quantum of Solace I distinctly remember a scene that implied he was bi. – raptortech97 Dec 26 '14 at 13:25
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    @raptortech97 - I think you may be confusing "Quantum of Solace" and "Skyfall". Obligatory Honest Trailers link: youtube.com/watch?v=5FWfg__wKSY – DVK Dec 26 '14 at 14:23
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    Also, I'm tempted to -1, for one thing, Bond didn't wear the white trousers in London, in 2000s, even leaving aside his ambiguous orientation in Daniel Craig movies. It is generally a good idea not to commit at least 2 logical fallacies in a post that refutes something as a logical fallacy. – DVK Dec 26 '14 at 14:26
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    No, you guys have it all wrong. James Bond's white trousers were a product placement advert placed by the Gay Tailor's Union. – Gayot Fow Dec 26 '14 at 16:11
  • @DVK I'd suspect an Englishman growing up - if he believed that was what white trousers meant, he still wouldn't wear them outside of London, which he clearly does. Of course, this is still a fictional character which has suit and clothing sponsorship, so it's a bit moot ;) – Mark Mayo Supports Monica Dec 27 '14 at 3:33
2

Wearing certain colours of clothing is mostly more a fashion thing than a 'gay' thing.
Some years some colours are just not in fashion and unless in fashion, white trousers are hardly worn due to the impractial nature of the colour for trousers.

And more about white trousers: Those are standard uniform for UK rowing umpires, along with a black or dark blue blazer and white shirt, often covered or replaced by rain gear.

My boyfriend was a London resident and did umpire many a Thames based regatta in the London area back in 2014, as well as in the 20 years before and the time since, and always wore his white trousers.

That did include going to and from the event by bicycle when the weather was good enough.

I have been to some of the events and all umpires wore white trousers when the weather was nice enough.
While I can not be sure about the sexual orientation of all, most I met were married, (in a one man, one woman situation) or were having less formal partners of the other gender.

-1

Wearing white trousers is not the sign of having a "gay" sexual orientation.

What may be true is that wearing white trousers may be seen as a sign of "weakness" or "lack of manliness."

Even if that accurately reflect's someone's personality (and often it does not), a man's physical or psychological "weakness" does not translate into "preferring to sleep with other men." It's just that people wrongly believe this to be the case.

True homosexuality is determined by behavior (known within the community), not by dress. Absent behavioral indicators, "clothes do not make the man" in this case.

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