No. 14: Red & yellow pants

Believe it or not, this seemingly innocent fashion blunder can be credited for the birth of this blog. Having lived in the lowlands only a short amount of time, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the sight of red-pant-wearing-folk marching around. They were everywhere: riding bikes, sitting on terraces eating lunch and parading down the streets. It seemed to me I was observing a true cultural oddity; Dutch people were making a powerful statement and expressing their unadulterated love and support for… red/yellow pants colour-blindness??

dutch fahsion

Ronald McDonald, the fashion icon!

Sure there is nothing technically wrong with red pants, its just…well, odd ( and a truly unique Dutch offense)! The first time I saw a well-groomed older gent proudly sporting a bright yellow sweater and crimson red trousers (à la Ronald McDonald variety), I couldn’t help but marvel at his boldness – “Wow, he certainly wants to make a statement”! But my naivety was to be forever lost; I looked around and noticed the ubiquity of this serious fashion faux-pas; red-pants-wearing-men were everywhere! (and no, we’re not talking about the “hipster-red-pant” kind).

Not too long after my epiphany my father came to visit me in Amsterdam. One afternoon, after his various city-strolling exploits he casually remarked “Seems like red jeans are in fashion over here, maybe I should get a pair”. Say it wasn’t so!! The illness appeared to be contagious! He certainly was in the right target demographic (45 +, white, and male) but seemed to have caught the bug with only a meager few days of exposure! I hadn’t realized the virus was so strong!! How irresponsible of me to let him out unsupervised and so exposed!

It is important to note, that this phenomena is not strictly limited to the sanguine variety. Dutchies have been know to like love all citrus flavoured pants; you will catch long-legged men taking their orange, yellow, peach (or even pink!) counterparts for a stroll in the lowlands.

The Dutch love red pants

Get them while supplies last!!

Truth be told folks, I have to love the red pants. In fact, I have to down-right revere them. For without them and their bold colour-blind owners, this humble little blog would not exist. They were indeed the inspiration behind all things SDPL. They were the first Dutch curiosity that made me scratch my head (and scratch it some more) and wonder “what the heck, is going on in this country?!”

Dutchies: do you have a pair of citrus-coloured pants hanging proudly in your closet?  Don’t take these judgments to heart: if you love your red pants, wear your red pants proud! After all, how else will we foreigners be able to tell you apart from the Germans? ;)

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  1. Hahaha a post like this is why I love this blog. As a so called Dutchy, I’ve never noticed these absurd clothing choices. I’ll be on the lookout now though…

    • I have been looking around, trying to spot red trousers, but apart from the occasional color blind person, it did not occur to me as a typical Dutch phenomenon. But then again, I do not encounter so called ‘kakkers’ (as Martijn pointed out) on a regular basis, nor visit Bloemendaal, ‘t Gooi or Amsterdam very often.
      But I’ve watched the people on Saturdays in the city centre of Eindhoven a few times, yet the only clothes I’ve seen on a very regular basis are jeans, skirts with leggings underneath them and those hideous Uggs.

      • Ah – but you did not grow up in Hilversum my friend! I invite you to have a look there some day, they’re ALL OVER THE PLACE. As well as our own special, unique Gooische variety – the GREEN pants.

        Thank you SDPL blog! It was high time someone pointed this out :D

      • Never really noticed (or payed attention) to the phenomenon myself either. Can’t say there are many ‘McGregor and Ralph Lauren people’ in Groningen so that might explain the lack of local red pants ;) Must be a Gooi thing?

      • Am I the only one here who knows exactly what type of people he is talking about?
        I see the red pants everywhere, from Maastricht to Groningen and Amsterdam to Nijmegen. They’re mostly middle aged reasonable wealthy men. Red pants, boat-shoes, round glasses. Most of them probably own a (small) sailing yacht, and probably a Saab.

  2. Geesh i lived 46 years there and i don’t know were you been but were i used to live that wasn’t the dress code ,what you are describing reminds me of people from England,Guess it was the time of the Carnaval when you saw that.

  3. Maybe it’s an Amsterdam or big city fashion trend, because I haven’t ever seen those things. Well okay, once, but he was about my age…

  4. De “red trousers man” is so much a typically Dutch phenomenon that it has become already a topic of cabaretiers, columnists and bloggers! There was even an item about it the other day on a tv special about Dutch humour.
    But it’s typical of middle-aged, wealthy men, of the boring, non-hip type. If you lived outside ‘t Gooi, Bloemendaal, Oud-Zuid… it makes sense you didn’t see many of them ;)

    Just some quick googling and you’ll find examples:
    “Ken je het soort broek? Soms zijn ze ook wel oranje. Het model is soms bandplooi of rechttoe rechtaan. Het soort mannen dat ze graag draagt, is meestal wat ouder (minstens 30+ en anders zien ze er wel zo uit), vaak al een beetje kalend, draagt regelmatig ook van die bootschoenen, heeft nogal eens een cabrio of oldtimer, en hangt meestal rond in de buurt van golfbanen, zeilboten, veilinghuizen of ’t Gooi. Rooie-broekenmannen, noemen mijn vriend en ik ze. De rode broek is het uniform van hun geslaagde leven. Evert uit Gooise Vrouwen was een rooie-broekenman. Mart Smeets is ook een rooie-broekenman.” http://petradrenth.blogspot.com/2010/07/rode-broekenmannen.html http://pamvanvliet.nl/2007/02/11/rode-broek/

  5. My parents got married in matching red corduroy pants back in 1982. My mother had a good collection of brightly coloured pants. We called them happy pants since the general colours of pants are very drab.

  6. I posted a photo of my mom’s pair on the fb page. They are bright red so the photo doesn’t do it justice.

  7. I’ve studied this pretty carefully, and can supply some insights. The red trousers should be accompanied by either a pink or otherwise pastel button-collar or polo shirt, and the look is correctly completed leather boating shoes worn without socks, or possibly driving shoes. Often paired with a bright yellow sweater worn tied around the shoulders, or else a casual blazer with patch pockets.

    It’s certainly a sub-cultural phenomenon, but not as strange or inexplicable as you think. It’s essentially the Dutch version of the American Preppy phenomenon, and has the same original source: WASP-y elite universities and prep-schools. It then trickled down to the masses—those aspiring to look like they came from that background, or who had attained the minimum of financial success required to pass. The fact that it is considered strange and “bekaakt” in the Netherlands, and strange at all by other Europeans is proof that the trickle-down effect is not nearly as total here as it is in the United States.

    The mixture of influences and resources include golf, tennis and yacht-wear, and the demand is fed by the holy trinity of Ralph Loren, Brooks Brothers, Lacoste. Copy-cat brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and home-grown Dutch brand McGregor are considered low-rent versions, fit only for aspiring middle-managers.

    I’m really surprised that this is considered a Dutch look, as the same phenomenon exists in an only slightly less-brash expression in both the French and the Italian bourgeoise. The strangest part is really that the English public-school middle class—upon whom the American preppies modeled themselves—don’t take it nearly as far, tending instead towards drab tones of the tweed and Wellies “country” set.

  8. I invite you to come live in Stockholm for a while… If you think Holland is crazy about them, you will be surprised of what you will find here!

    • Exactly. Norwegians seem to be crazy about them too, just look around in Bergen or Oslo. Although it’s in fact usually younger people wearing them, teens or young adults.

  9. Cant say I see many gents wearing red pants to be honest but as someone said in an earlier post; probably the rich dutch people like it. Im as dutch as one can be but you will not ever see me wearing one lest they pay me for it!

    Still, I like this blog again :)

  10. I have to agree with other posters that brightly coloured pants seems to be part of the uniform for the certain subset of the over 40 (well, more like over 50) crowd. In Paris you’ll see lots of grey-haired men in pink or yellow pants with cable knit sweaters tied in a neat knot over the shoulders.

    Unlike “bobos” who have tons of money but like to look like they don’t, these guys are more old school (and probably old money).

  11. LOL HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHHAHAAHAH no they don’t..
    You must’ve gotten it wrong.. They are slightly behind in top 40 music and so on fashion, latest gadgets and the whole lot but definitely not all of ‘em are into red or yellow pants I honestly don’t know where you got this bullshit from.. And I kind of know it, i’m dutch lived there for 19 years no arguing about it..

    • You haven’t been paying attention then. I’ve lived in Amsterdam for 10 years and definitely noticed this. My friends and I laugh about it all the time.

      • Well isn’t this a blog about the netherlands and the dutch? not a blog about amsterdam, bussum or hilversum is it?…..
        I’ve lived in the netherlands for about 27 years and it’s definitely not a dutch thing! maybe something from the cities mentioned above but hey, they do lack a bit of style (;

  12. This phenomenon also exists in Norway!! Bright red pants are work by men of all ages. It is bizarre!!

  13. Actually these started as red sailing pants, hence, the association with the posh areas in ‘t Gooi, Oud Zuid in Amsterdam, etc. These are supposed to be worn only by those who have sailed across the Atlantic. Sailors from both sides of the Atlantic wear them. In the US, they are called Nantucket reds and they are meant to fade gradually to a shade of salmon pink.

  14. I work with a guy here in Den Haag who has a complete wardrobe of brightly colored pants. I have nicknamed him Citron. I have never seen such fashion until I loved here. Love your blog!

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  16. The things that you notice, make me wonder if you are interacting with dutch people of all makes and kinds. This red pant wearing thing is typical for men mostly, often in their 40′s – 60′s, most likely to be called a ‘kakker’ by other dutch people, therefore propbably playing tennis, golf or fieldhockey and working either in a medical profession, law firm or consultancy business. The red pants are his leasure attire… They are stuck in the 80′s somehow. It’s your typical “hockeyvader” a dad who is away all the time, but during weekends all of a sudden compensates by showing great support for his fiedhockeyplaying daughters… ( he will aso have the family Golden Retriever with him and will be wearing a raincoat that would make the original Sherlock Holmes jealous!)

  17. Whoa thats really offencive i mean how could you even say such things.
    now you might think im over reacting. im not, ok im pissed off how dare you to offend us like this? i mean wth… o and dont think im talking about the pant thing, no im talking about you comparing us with germans!

  18. Dutch comedian Youp van ‘t Hek has made a great show about this red pants phenomenon among senior male ‘kakkers’ a couple of years ago..

  19. Reading the title of this blog page I wondered how on earth you could even know about (let alone use it as a subject for a blog) the colour of one’s underwear – or suggest that yellow and red are common underwear colours in the Netherlands. Reading along I realised that I’m just not USA-minded/orientated enough to appreciate that this is actually about the colour of trousers. Thank god. But still – I’ve got no idea what you are talking about. I’ve been living in The Hague now for over 10 years and I can’t recall any time that I’ve seen someone wearing red or yellow trousers, er, pants.

  20. Funny how I couldn’t relate to the article at first, thinking this must have been some kind of wrongfully interpreted celebration time or so. Only after reading the comments I realized that my father owns one of those very pants for leisure time at his clubs. It brought me right back to the painful memories of my childhood hockeyclub in Bloemendaal (mind you, I was there involuntarily: until a ball threw out my teeth, I had to go there “to build up my network for later” while I hated those people). Seeing again all those corporate fathers along the sideline, their hands loosely put in the pockets of their red ralph lauren trousers (some dark blue, some baby blue or baby pink), boasting with each other about their flourishing investments along the side lines, now and then shouting something to the overheated heads of their children fighting for their weekly chance of approval. Oh oh, the traumas… ;)

  21. Didn’t you know it is the uniform of the nouveau riche who want to show how important they are or how much money they have.

  22. My Opa had a pair of bright green pants that he often wore with a yellow shirt. I would alway giggle when he had those pants on and they weren’t restricted to home clothing but also going out. I just thought he was unfashionable, not that he was part of the citrus craze. Oh how I miss him.

  23. Do I detect a slight jealousy in this severe dress code reprimanding blog post? Especially in Amsterdam you can pretty much wear whatever you want. Singling out the red and yellow pants as particularly ‘dat mag niet’ stuff says more about the publisher than about the dutch.

    • That blog made my day. I don’t know why it’s so amusing to look at oodles of pics of people in their ridiculous red trousers, but it really is.

  24. Hi, I’m a Dutch girl and I can confirm that ‘kakkers’ in the Netherlands wear red pants (or yellow or green). But it’s not really a Dutch thing! I’ve lived in England for 1 year and spotted the 40+ male in red pants as well!

  25. I don’t know a single person that owns a pair of red pants (are any other “awkward” colour, that is.)

  26. Haha you should go to the northern provinces. I live in Groningen and we’re a bit more down to earth. Brightly Coloured pants are looked upon as weird too over here :p

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  29. funny, because I have NEVER met any guy in redpants :S
    And i was born and raised here in amsterdam, so were all my ancestors….
    so this is one habit you mention in your blogs, that i really have never heard of.

  30. Hallo,Mijn naam is Anita, 46 jaar oud.
    Aangezien je hier al een poosje zit, zal je dit ook wel kunnen lezen.Ik van het gewone klootjesvolk vinden die rode en gele broeken ook niet om aan te zien, en dan dragen de oudere heren er ook nog een roze trui boven, het liefst over de schouders gedrapeerd!
    Dit wordt over het algemeen door de hogere “klasse”gedragen, mensen die goed geleerd hebben en centen hebben! Helaas is het net zoals met de Uggs..iedereen kan dit zich aanmeten!
    Ik woon in Leiden, een studentenstad, en daar zie je het onder studenten ook veel gedragen worden, vermoed dat de vijftig plussers, zich graag willen afspiegelen als een “leraar/golf”typje.
    Een tip voor deze mannen: niet doen!!!…

  31. this is the fashion for 50+ ‘kakkers’= wannabe riche people, as seen around hockey fields. They are called ‘kakkers’. Because their shit (kak) is cold. What they lack in empathy they make up for by great taste in fashion. Some of them think the courageous act of wearing red trousers covers the fact they have no balls whatsoever.

  32. I love red pants! My daddy often wears them (and he wears other bright pants as well, like orange, green, bright blue..) and always convince my little brother to wear them too. I think a red pants is sexy on a man!

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  34. I’m sorry to say this, but this observation of yours is just a load of crap. All of the others so far I agree with, but it looks like you just made this one up.

    • Wendy, just because you’ve never seen these men, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. It might be a good idea for you to first read at least some of the comments, so you can see that they seem to be bound to particular regions of the country.

  35. Hahaha very recognisable, I live in Spain and a Belgian colleague of mine, told me how she saw some Dutch person in red trousers and asked me if this was normal. Completely normal I replied. So it does help to identify the Dutch, never heard of Scandinavians wering this though!

  36. I didn’t notice red trousers yet. But what really hit my eye was the red/brown shoes. I could see people dressed in grey business suit or deep blue or even total black outfit (or little black dress) with brown close to reddish shoes? Is it trendy?

  37. I’ve never seen those in the netherlands before. Seriously. But maybe that is because I live in a small place with almost no kakkers. :P

  38. another oddity to make one scratch their heads… men should not wear capri pants. EVER. for ANY REASON. especially not lime green capri’s with a salmon colored polo. just. no.

  39. Red pants are a sailing thing. They supposedly signal that you’ve sailed across the atlantic. Obviously that message got lost and any wonk who needs to identify with the demographic that affords yachts wears them.

  40. love this hahah. i lived in amsterdam for 3 years and my experience wasn’t of the red-pant phenomenon, it was more a white-pant one. As soon as the sun comes out they quickly bust out their spring/summer wardrobe which is full of white pants and floral shirts :)

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  42. I was told that the red pants came from Golfing. It had been a fashionable item on the golfcourse for some time, when people started wearing them off-course in the late nineties.

  43. As per my email nearly a year ago, these originated as red sailing pants – it used to be that only those who had sailed across the Atlantic wore them. Over here, they seem to be for the posh set or those who like to think or preten they are part of this set.

  44. I think this post is a little outdated because young people tend to wear them as well nowadays… My 11 year old sister owns bright red and bright green trousers… I think it looks fun! I like it when people express themselfs.. Much better than all those blue-jeans-grey-sweater-youngsters… so boring

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  46. I came to this blog thinking, “If there’s no comment about red pants, I’m outta there.” Fun, thanks.

  47. Foreigners don’t need the Dutch to wear red pants in order to tell them apart from Germans. If you’re not sure wether a person is Dutch or German you should definitely try to minimize your distance to him/her, if you’re 3 meters away and they haven’t dug a complete hole yet then they’re not German

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  49. As a born and raised Dutch girl this made me smile! Or actually, it made me laugh out loud really hard:) One thing, shouldn’t it be “wear your red pants proudLY”?
    Anyway, thank you for all the laughs!

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  53. I’ve always seen this as a sign that dutch men are more expressive and confident in their fashion choices. One has to give respect for that. :)

  54. Nowdays young people tend to wear red pants, I think the diversity of colors is wide in this days I frequently see boys wearing red, green o even yellow pants. Red Chinos are really cool, and they could be used by young, and young adults.