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Are Tight Pants On Men 'Gross'? The Guys Weigh In


I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Now it's time for our weekly visit to the barbershop where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shape up this week, our writer, Jimi Izrael, with us from Cleveland. Neil Minkoff is a health care consultant and a contributor to National Review Online. He's with us from Boston. From NPR West, which is in Culver City, Los Angeles, film writer, actor and producer, Rick Najera - and in Washington, D.C., Paul Butler - he's a law professor at Georgetown University. Take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Hey, the gangs all here.


NEIL MINKOFF: Hey, hey, hey.

IZRAEL: Welcome to the shop. What's up?

PAUL BUTLER: What's up?

NAJERA: I'm going to get my mani-pedi on.

IZRAEL: (Laughing) I got mine yesterday, bro. So it's on like Donkey Kong. Yeah, picking up where Michel's - from Michel's last conversation, we can just be serious for just a second. You know - you guys know the death of my wife really had me kind of doing a little bit of stress eating which I've recovered from. But I'm certainly happy that Kaleb Hill put that topic out in the ether. So bless that brother, man, for real.


IZRAEL: Paul Butler, you doing any stress eating, bro?

BUTLER: You know, I have to say, I never heard of a black man with an eating disorder until this brother wrote this piece. But I get it. Being an African-American man in the United States is very stressful. You know?

I think about it in the context of being a criminal lawyer 'cause I think people expect that black men take it out with aggression or we self-medicate with drugs. But, you know, some brothers do turn it in in ways that aren't healthy. So I think it's important to put it out there that there's no shame in getting help.

IZRAEL: Absolutely. Dr. Neil, you're a primary - a former primary care doctor. Jump in this conversation, man.

MINKOFF: Yeah, I mean, I've seen this across all races and, actually, across both genders, you know? I think that to me one of the things that's really key here is that men just avoid medical care - and especially behavioral healthcare.

I mean, there was a running joke in a practice that if a young man came into the office, we'd ask, you know, did your wife, girlfriend or mother make the appointment 'cause we knew that the young man wouldn't. And as soon as we started doing things like depression screening or alcohol screening, they would get even more uncomfortable. And sometimes I was afraid it was driving them away. I mean, I've seen this - I think that this is actually pervasive, especially with men. But stress eating happens to all races, genders, creeds.

MARTIN: Do you think - Neil, can I ask you this? Do you think that - Kaleb Hill was very clear about why he wanted to write this piece because he felt very strongly that it's the kind of thing that if you don't think this is possible, you're not even going to consider this as a possibility in your life. Do you think it makes a difference if somebody like him talks about something like this - if you think that this is the kind of thing that matters in helping people feel more OK about seeking the kind of care that they need?

MINKOFF: So I do. I do think it matters. I think that there is a structural, cultural issue, though, where - I agree. And I like the fact that he brought it up, especially, you know - the guy at the table that orders salad gets picked on. And that happens everywhere.

I've seen it happen, again, all - you know, through all different walks of life. And I think that it needs to be more of a discussion about the redefinition of masculinity and that taking care of yourself can be a positive thing to do as a male, even if it means that you're eating salad with dressing on the side.

BUTLER: Can I just chip in? Just to say...

IZRAEL: Wait, doc - yeah, hold - OK, go ahead, man. Jump in, please.

BUTLER: Just real quick - 'cause I do think there's a black part of this, too, 'cause in the piece in The Root, he said that black men need to admit that we are vulnerable. And I just feel like that's something I could never do. I feel like if I said I was vulnerable, the world would just swoop down on me.

MARTIN: Really?


MINKOFF: I feel that way too, though.

IZRAEL: Wait a second, Dr. Neil, I wanted to push back a little bit. I wonder if this is - just isn't - and maybe Rick Najera, you can maybe get to this. I wonder if this isn't just among men of a certain age 'cause in my crew, I mean, you get talked about if you don't eat a salad. It's like, bro, what are you doing with that po'boy, b? You know, you better get down with that caesar. You know? So I mean - so maybe it's just men of a certain age.

NAJERA: Well, you know, I think it's just everyone's confusion about nutrition and all the rest. One is - people of color, especially men, aren't - never want to admit they're weak or have a problem or are vulnerable. And that's true because, you know, Mexico's got, right now, one of the highest obesity rates and - along with America. And I think it's because the stress creates it all.

I mean, Mexico went through, of course, a continuing drug war. And I think that there's all those things of processed food, stress, a thousand things that make it happen. And it's a more subtle thing to watch weight than to say, hey, I've got a drug problem or I've got this other big problem. But weight will kill you. You know, my brother died of a weight disease.

So you see epidemics of diabetes in the Latino culture. So I don't - I think it's not even age because if a younger brother said eat a caesar salad - first of all, caesar salad's got a lot of calories in it. You know? People aren't realizing that.

IZRAEL: Well, true that. But it matters - OK.

MARTIN: Well, can I just ask, though? Neil, can I go back and ask you about something about that - what Paul said? When he said, look, I don't feel like - I still don't feel like I can admit to being vulnerable. And, Neil, you said you feel the same way?

MINKOFF: Well, I think that a lot of men feel that way which is that we've been raised to be the rock, to be the foundation of the family, to be the stable one. And to admit - and to, you know, especially in a business environment - to admit vulnerability is to admit weakness and be perceived as less capable.

And so I certainly have seen and heard that from people of many different colors. So I respect what Paul said. Just saying that I think there might be a more common denominator than that.

MARTIN: No, I'm hearing you on that because one of things I think is interesting is how we often talk about how, you know, women regulate other women. I mean, people say, oh, well, women are dressing for men, and they're doing this for men. And so I said, actually, women are regulating other women.

And I wonder if the same thing is true of men. If a man - 'cause I certainly don't feel that way about the men in my life. You know, I appreciate the fact that they're, you know, complete people. And I would hope that they had all the same emotions that, you know, women had. But I just wonder if - is this a thing where men do this to other men? Men are the ones who are saying to other men, this is what you're not allowed to be.

NAJERA: Men don't do that when it comes to weight. I mean, I don't see a lot of guys really talking to other guys about weight. It's a weird thing to look at a brother and say, you know, I noticed your pants are a little tighter. You know? They're not going to do that. They're - that's the least of it.

IZRAEL: It's so - well, yeah, and it's weird you should talk about that because, according to a lot of fashion writers, baggy is out. And the tight pants look on gentleman is in, I'm told. Hip huggers for men? Yeah, whatever, but anyway...

MARTIN: I think that's true. I'm sorry. I think that's true. I mean, if you can look at what's they're throwing down at, you know, Banana Republic or whatever. I think that is true.

IZRAEL: Yeah, right - you mean places brothers don't shop. But, you know, comedian Jimmy Fallon rocks the look. And he even made a few skits out of it. Let's drop that clip.


JIMMY FALLON: (Singing) I'm the only one in town with tight pants. I got my tight pants. I got my tight pants on. No one else around is wearing tight pants. I got my tight pants. I got my tight pants on.

JENNIFER LOPEZ: (Singing) Everybody's talking about my tight pants. I got my tight pants. I got my tight pants on. People wouldn't...

MARTIN: What people are reacting to is the surprise - sort of kind of surprise - appearance by JLo, who was also, definitely, wearing some tight pants.

IZRAEL: Well...

NAJERA: I wear tight pants just because I'm an emotional eater. So all my pants are tight.

IZRAEL: (Laughing) Come on. Yeah, yeah - this...

MARTIN: Do you rock that look, though? No seriously, Rick, are you going to rock that look?

NAJERA: I will rock the look. Unfortunately, I wear tight pants because it's, you know, it's also a youth thing. It's - if you're a guy, and you're in Hollywood - if you're wearing the older baggy pants, they kind of think of you as older. But it's almost - you have to wear tight fitting clothing. And, unfortunately, if you don't have a great body for it, you're big trouble.

MARTIN: So it's to keep...

NAJERA: You know, we don't have the rapper look.

MARTIN: Yeah, to keep viable - Paul, what about you?

BUTLER: I think tight pants on men are kind of gross. The only things is I do have some tight jeans that make me feel kind of cool. When I wear them, I feel like a rock star. I think the real issue, though, is tailoring.

My boy, Joe, used to be a model, and he hooked me up with the whole concept of getting clothes tailored. And that's how they fit. I think a lot of men, you know, when you buy a suit, you've got to take it to a tailor. It doesn't fit otherwise. So we think it looks tight, but it really just fits.

IZRAEL: Preach, preach.

BUTLER: No you're - I mean, that's the whole look - a good-fitted clothing should look good. I'm watching the World Cup, and it seems like every single European coach looks good - like out of GQ. So they do...

NAJERA: And the same is...

BUTLER: They fashion themselves.

IZRAEL: Yeah, I think there's a difference - this is Jimi - I think there's a difference between, you know, the tight fit, and what's supposed to fit. You know, I can't wear no, like, tight fit jeans. I mean, my boys need room to move. But I certainly get my stuff - my stuff gets tailored. I mean, I have to go to the tailor. I mean, preach that talk, Paul. I mean, a lot of grown men are walking around with stuff right off the rack, and that is not the look. Dr. Neil?

MARTIN: Do you get - I just need to ask if Jimi gets his sarongs tailored, too? OK, Jimi - I think I - sorry, I just...

IZRAEL: I get my sarongs at Moshood in Brooklyn for green, and they are not tailored.

MARTIN: OK, I just, you know, had to ask because...

BUTLER: They're off the rack

IZRAEL: Shout out to Moshood.

MARTIN: I've been known to see you in a - I've seen you in a sarong. I'm just - I'm saying...

IZRAEL: I'm wearing one now. I'm wearing one now.

MINKOFF: I'm actually wearing jeans so tight that I have to stand up to do this program.

MARTIN: Is that because you so fly or because...

MINKOFF: No, I wear jeans every day, and slim fit is what is the appropriate thing these days. You know, you got to change with the times. And I agree with Paul completely. Your clothes need to be fitted to you, not the the other way around.

NAJERA: Yeah, slim fit's cool, but, you know - but it's hard to wear.

MARTIN: What is up with those Pitbull pants during the World Cup opening ceremony? Like, what is up with that? I'm sorry. I just need to understand what was happening here, Rick.

NAJERA: Can I answer that as a Latino? Let me tell you.

MARTIN: Please, yeah. What?

IZRAEL: For the whole race, go for it.

NAJERA: Pitbull, first of all - yeah - Pitbull's from Miami. I know the man. He's a great guy. And Miami is dealing, of course, with global warming, and the water is rising. I think it's a future look. And Miami's got pirates, OK? So it's indigenous to their area to wear pants that look like a pirate.

MARTIN: Oh is that what was happening there?

NAJERA: That's what was happening there. He was celebrating pirate culture and also talking about global warming all in that one moment. Brilliant.

MARTIN: So we're being insensitive by even highlighting the fact that it was a little rough.

NAJERA: Yeah. We're being ignorant. That's all. We're being ignorant. Pitbull was doing the right thing.

MINKOFF: That explains a lot about the Miami Heat post game conference dress code as well, then.

MARTIN: Oh, really? Why? How's that?

MINKOFF: The capri pants and the shirts and stuff - everybody's just making sure that when the flood rises, they'll be fine.


MARTIN: OK. See, I'm still a fan of the Pharrell Williams shorts - evening shorts. I'm sorry. I know I'm alone in this, but I don't care. I'm standing up for the evening shorts. I think that was completely fly - if you have good looking calves, of course.

NAJERA: Are you standing up for his hat, too?

MARTIN: I'm a fan of the hat. I'm a fan of the hat. I'm a fan.

IZRAEL: Yeah, that hat was dope. That hat was dope.

MARTIN: I think the hat was dope - the Canadian Mountie hat. That's how I saw it.

NAJERA: Yeah, I though it was cool, too.

IZRAEL: The Vivienne Westwood hat.

MARTIN: I thought it was kind of a transnational situation. I really do. I really do.

NAJERA: He looked like he was with the forest service, and I appreciate that.

IZRAEL: Shout out to Vivienne Westwood.

MARTIN: If you're just - that's right. If you're having our weekly - we're having our weekly barbershop roundtable. We're joined by writer Jimi Izrael, writer and actor, Rick Najera, law professor, Paul Butler, and health care consultant, Neil Minkoff. Back to you, Jimi.

IZRAEL: All right. Thank you, Michel. All you dapper dudes, let's stop from the talk about sarongs and tight pants and this, that and the third, you know, to knee socks. All right, all right, I'm just kidding, actually. You know, kind of sort of - because what I'm actually talking is - I'm talking World Cup.

The U.S. lost to Germany yesterday, but they are still in it to win it, maybe. They take on Belgium next Tuesday. Dr. Neil, last week, you said the U.S. team is quote "decent-ish." Are you surprised they're still in it?

MINKOFF: I'm surprised that we have a sport - you know, coming from American sport culture where it's a best-of-five, best-of-seven or a one-odd win-and-go-home - a fact that a team can be one win, one loss and one tie and be considered successful is amazing to me.

MARTIN: You're not hating are you? You're not, like, subtlety hating, are you?

MINKOFF: I'm not. I'm just surprised. I'm shocked.

MARTIN: I think it's - so you might have to, like, do some math. I don't know, Paul, are you watching it? Are you liking it?

BUTLER: No, I'm enjoying the hype around it, but the game itself puts me to sleep. You know, I don't get it. I mean, everyone was so into the game yesterday. We lost, but we still advanced. I just don't get the math. I do have one moment, though, like, when the U.S. is playing an African country - like we played Ghana. I don't know who to root for. I don't know how to feel about that. Does that make me unpatriotic?

NAJERA: Well, there's a black guy on the American team. So you can root for him.

BUTLER: I know, but it's just, like, you know, Africa - we don't get to see that many sports teams from Africa or any, like, really competitive enterprises from Africa. So it's just, you know, I feel kind of proud, actually.

NAJERA: Yeah, you know, I think the...

IZRAEL: When in doubt, root for the team that's rooting for you.

NAJERA: Yeah, the World Cup does that 'cause they got Mexico in the World Cup. So of course, I'm for Mexico and America at the same time. So - and the South Americans, I'm not as much for.

MARTIN: What about you, Jimi?

IZRAEL: I'm not conflicted. I'm always cheering for Cleveland's soccer team.


NAJERA: I think American's don't get the World Cup 'cause they also don't get the metric system, either. So I think there's cultural differences.


MARTIN: Look - you know what? - I'm sorry. I hate to burst you all's bubble, but the ratings for that game - for the U.S., Portugal game were higher than for the NBA finals. And they were also higher than last year's World Series. Yo, hello. Boom, that. Boom, that. OK? So someone's watching it.

MINKOFF: But would they watch it if it was every year? I mean it's - is it the fact that it's a - every four years it's this giant spectacle that brings out the curious to watch it rather than the actual genuine passion for what's happening?

NAJERA: I think that's true. I mean, would you watch figure skating every week if it wasn't during the Olympics?

MARTIN: No. No, but, I mean, I think that - I don't know, though - 'cause I think that soccer is the biggest youth sport in America. It's one of the biggest youth sports in America. I think more kids probably play soccer than play youth football. Just because - for no other reason than because girls can play soccer.

And girls can - and the American girls team have been, you know, competitive internationally for some time now. I just think it's changing. I think that more people understand the sport, more people grew up playing the sport and I just think that it's having - I don't think it's just a moment. I don't know, that's just my...

NAJERA: You know what's kind of interesting?

MARTIN: Go ahead.

NAJERA: My son's really into soccer. He plays it all the time, and he's about 10. They'll have him play against 12-year-old and 13-year-old girls to practice. So the boys play with the girls. So it is kind of a co-ed sport in a strange way as it's growing up.

So both sides love it. My wife's a huge soccer fan. So I think that's what's driving it. It's male-female and young.

MARTIN: And the haircuts are awesome. I just want to mention that for anybody who cares. They are. I'm just saying. These are, like, hair leaders. These are hair gurus. They are like - yes.

OK. We have just a couple of minutes left, so let's talk about this - a handwritten manuscript for Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" sold at auction this week for a record-breaking $2 million. And I just wanted to ask if there's a song that you would pay $2 million for - like, assuming had that kind of scratch. I don't know. Paul, would you?

BUTLER: I think anyone who has $2 million who spends it on a song lyric needs to be beaten with sticks.


BUTLER: But I will throw out - there's this obscure song by Prince called "Starfish And Coffee."

NAJERA: It's not that obscure.

BUTLER: And it's about this weird little kid who marched to her own drummer. And we get these random facts about her. She - her favorite number was 20. And in her lunchbox, that's what she had, starfish and coffee. I - God, I love that song. At the end of it, Prince says, you go, girl. You do you. You do your starfish and coffee.

MARTIN: I love it. Rick, you got one?

NAJERA: Yeah, music is business. I would buy "Born In The U.S.A." 'cause some rich white guy is going to buy that song and put it on a commercial. So it's an investment.

MARTIN: All right, Neil, what about you? You got a song you'd pay $2 million for if you had it like that - and could escape from prince Paul beating you with a stick?

MINKOFF: So the - I don't know. That just seems like a crazy amount. I mean, to spend something like that - unless it's an investment, like was just referenced. I mean, it'd have to be something historically, like, major, like "The Grapes Of Wrath" or something. You know? I mean, it would have to be something that you'd get and then donate to the Smithsonian or something.

MARTIN: Yeah, that I could happen. Jimi, you got one?

IZRAEL: Yeah, the 23 psalm, but nothing else. That's it.

MARTIN: OK. All right. Jimi Izrael is a writer. You can find his blog at jimiizrael.com. Neil Minkoff is a health care consultant and contributor to National Review Online. Paul Butler is a law professor at Georgetown University. Rick Najera is a film and television writer. Thank you all so much.

NAJERA: Thank you.

BUTLER: Woof, woof.



MARTIN: And if you can't get enough barbershop buzz on the radio, look for our barbershop podcast. That's in the itunes store or at npr.org. That's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Let's talk more on Monday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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