Because I’m a fancy little man, most of the ads I’m served on Instagram are for clothes. Sometimes the algorithm offers up something I know I could never pull off, like a structurally ambitious coat or a fanny pack, but most of the suggestions are within the realm of standard-issue #menswear.
That was, until the app suggested I buy a pair of jeans that looked like someone pissed in them.
I know many of us are still recovering from the janties incident from earlier this spring, and I don’t mean to re-open wounds that are just starting to heal. But I had many of the same questions about the pee jeans — bluntly branded as Wet Pants Denim — that everyone had about janties: Who are these for? Who designed them? And most crucially: Why does Instagram think I want them?
“Some folks have a fetish wherein they pee their pants because they like the way it looks,” explains Wet Pants Denim’s anonymous CEO, who I contacted over email. “There’s an obvious downside to this, though, in that you’re inevitably wet for hours. I wanted to provide a solution to those underserved consumers, so that they no longer had to be wet, and could have a sustained ‘wet pants’ look as long as they please.”
While I’m certain this niche market both exists and inhabits a raucous subreddit, I explain to the CEO that nothing in my search history would indicate I belong to this select group. (Unless my affiliation with internet radio station KPISS.FM is at fault for this whole misunderstanding.) “The beauty of Instagram’s advertising platform is that you can target any demographic you like,” he responds. “I’ve been going for young adults in major cities with interests in fashion, online shopping and other similar interests. It’s been a good experiment, from a branding perspective, to see which garner the most active engagement, and we’re always learning.”
“Young city-dwellers who buy clothes online” is a pretty broad category, and WPD’s mastermind targeting such a wide audience with paid ads didn’t help clarify what, exactly, the point of this whole enterprise is (beyond serving fetishists who like to look as though they’ve pissed their pants, of course). A joke? A scam? A way to kill time on the internet that might earn them a crisp $100 per pair of pee-pants? (In fairness, it’s $100 for a new pair of Wet Pants Denim, or $30 to “Bring Your Own Pants.” From the website: “In an effort to reach a wider customer base and do our part to reduce textile pollution, we’re happy to provide the imagery of authentic urinary incontinence, on a pair of jeans that you already own, at a fraction of the cost.”)
As I dug deeper into this Hot New Brand, however, I realized there wasn’t really a point to doing all this research if the whole thing was, in fact, bullshit. I had to confirm if Wet Pants Denim was the real deal myself. In other words, it was time to try on a pair of pee jeans, just like Instagram wanted. WPD’s CEO graciously sent me a pair of their flagship pants, which were delivered within a day of my requesting them, with an accompanying note to “Wear ‘em proud.”
My new pants were also featured on the company Instagram before they came into my possession. As you can see in the photo, “WPD” is written inside the waistband in what appears to be black Sharpie, with the number 003 beneath it. As in, the third pair of jeans they’ve distributed — some real hypebeast shit (or rather, piss).
They actually fit pretty nicely. But I still had to wear them in public. Even though it was night, even though my neighborhood was relatively quiet and even though I was just going around the block to a bodega, walking around in public while looking like I’d wet myself wasn’t a pleasant experience. I was so stressed about wearing the jeans out in the world that I forgot my cell phone in my apartment.
My original plan was to drop by a corner store that’s different from the bodega I frequent most often, because the folks there have recently granted me “regular” status and started charging me less for coffee. But all of the other stores in a two-block radius were closed, and I was unwilling to go on an extended adventure while rocking the Wet Pants Look. Returning to my regular bodega, I made contact with exactly no one. Not with the group of folks chatting outside, not with the guy stocking shelves I had to maneuver around to grab a Gatorade — why did I buy more liquids when, by all appearances, I was more than sufficiently hydrated? — and definitely not with the guy at the register, with whom I’m usually on at least a “Hi, how’s it going?” basis. I tried to act normal. I really did. But the jeans, man. I wasn’t up to perform the nonchalance the jeans demanded. I could not, in the end, “wear ‘em proud.”
Much of the copy on WPD’s site reads similarly tongue-in-cheek to that encouraging little note card, deploying the same self-consciously affable marketing language used to sell millennials everything from houseplants to erectile dysfunction medicine, stretched to the point of absurdity. My email exchanges with the brand’s CEO were similarly deadpan — though that’s partially on me for asking straight-faced questions about how one goes about branding as fashion what most people would consider the ultimate mark of a day gone horribly awry. To wit:
Who is the ideal Wet Pants Denim consumer?
We want people who are comfortable in their own skin and not afraid to make a bold statement. The Wet Pants Denim jean is style agnostic, and pairs just as well with a white T-shirt as it does a full tuxedo.
Have you expanded your marketing efforts outside your Instagram and website?
So far, we’re just using the advertising platform on Instagram and our website to get the word out. I’d love to get an influencer onboard, but none have caught the line yet. Kylie Jenner, for example, displayed the wet pants look on Snapchat in 2016, and it would be amazing for the brand if she did something like that again.
And so on.
But no examples of pastiche PR-speak illustrate the Wet Pants Denim CEO’s knowledge of the advertising ecosystem quite as well as PissCoin. Blockchain is, apparently, still an excellent source of SEO, leading Wet Pants Denim to announce the launch of its own cryptocurrency, PissCoin (“the world’s first cryptocurrency designed for the sole purpose of facilitating the purchase of jeans designed to simulate the look of authentic urinary incontinence”), five months after the initial launch of the brand. Almost immediately, WPD got a write-up in Bloomberg.
“With the world’s growing affinity and bewilderment for cryptocurrencies, I felt that launching our own was an obvious choice. Security in payments is paramount in today’s marketplace, and adding an extra layer of optional complexity to our transaction helps to increase this,” Wet Pants Denim’s CEO says. “The coin is also fixed to the USD to avoid the issues of rampant price fluctuation that we’ve seen the more prominent coins endure.”
In his Bloomberg piece, columnist Matt Levine admits that he assumes “it’s a joke,” asserting that cryptocurrencies themselves are “a form of collective storytelling. … It’s a parody if you think it’s a parody, but if you think it’s real then it’s real.” As with Blockchain, so with jeans with artificial pee stains — which I decided deserved a second chance.
A few days after the bodega incident, I tried again. Because I’m a philistine, I needed to enroll in the Brooklyn Public Library’s system. And so, I put on my pee pants and made the block-and-a-half walk to the local branch. Admittedly, it was rough. I spent the whole time staring at concrete, trying not to observe whether or not the construction crew or handful of preteens I passed noticed my pants situation. I found myself wishing I had been traveling with a whole group of people donning the Wet Pants Look. Then it would look like an intentional fashion statement, or at minimum, a sex cult. I could handle being mistaken for a sex cultist.
By the time I made it inside the library, I was able to maintain eye contact with the librarian at the front desk long enough to begin the process of signing up for a library card. That said, it wasn’t like I’d magically gained confidence on my short walk over. Actually, it felt more like a loss than any kind of growth — like I’d briefly misplaced the ability to care about what the jeans represented, and how the crotch stain might be (rightfully!) interpreted. I was here to gain access to literature, damn it, faux-wet pants or no faux-wet pants.
I did succeed in getting my card. While wrapping up the process, the front desk librarian delivered the same spiel she’d likely given hundreds of other members: check-out times, the audiobook loan system, building hours, etc. She paused. I figured the orientation was over. Then, offhand — as though she’d mistakenly skipped over it in her standard welcome speech — she told me where the bathrooms were located. You know, just in case.
Maybe everything else has been done. Appearing as though you’ve soiled yourself could be the final frontier of rebellion through fashion, and the person behind Wet Pants Denim could be a sartorial mastermind and not just a bored twentysomething. Or they could be both. At least we know the jeans are real, even though the demand probably isn’t.
But on the off chance the demand is legit, hit me up — I’m trying to resell a pair of very exclusive, designer piss-jeans, if you know anyone.