CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Dozens of people, stripped down to their skivvies, gathered at the Scaleybark light rail station Sunday in the name of fun and charity.
What started as a prank in New York City some 12 years ago, when seven guys rode the subway without trousers, has grown into an international display of silliness.
Organizers of that effort, a group of improv actors based in the Big Apple, say the tradition was simple: board your local subway, light rail, etc. wearing your winter coat, scarf, mittens and beanie – but leave the pants at home and keep a straight face.
In 2011, nearly 4,000 people participated in New York City alone, with tens of thousands more participating worldwide.
Charlotte residents Richard Purcell and Trent Corbin, helped organize Charlotte’s inaugural version of No Pants Subway Ride on Sunday.
“Charlotte needs to get weird. I was looking for something to shake things up a bit and make people laugh,” Purcell said.
Corbin also used the highly-publicized event as an opportunity to collect clothing for his organization, Warm Charlotte.
“It makes perfect sense,” Purcell said. “We’re asking people to take off their pants but why not ask them to donate them?”
Around 3 p.m., residents started gathering at the light rail station dressed in everything from business suits to summer shorts and T-shirts.
But by 3:30 p.m., many had taken off their pants in preparation for riding the Lynx into downtown.
For some participants, who flashed bright green clover boxers, South Park cartoon boxers and lace underwear, the goal clearly was not to be subtle .
Erik Woodall, who visits the light rail area frequently to skateboard, said that when he noticed what everyone else was doing, he decided to join.
Practicing his tricks in black boxer briefs, the 31-year-old said skateboarding without pants is “a little different.”
“I’m just glad I have clean underwear on today,” he said.
Danielle McBryde, who was waiting for the light rail to take her to a hair appointment, said she noticed the throngs of pantless-people as soon as she pulled up to the station.
“I was wondering why everyone was taking off their clothes or at least their pants, but to each his own, I guess,” she said. “At least it’s for a good cause.”.
On board the Lynx, participants let their attire do the talking, with organizers emphasizing that everyone should act as nonchalant as possible.
And no excessive leering or creepiness, please, Corbin told them. And no photos for personal use, either.
Police reported no problems. "We're just going to let it run its course and if it starts to look like it’s getting out of hand, we'll respond then," said Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Lt. Shawn Crooks. "There's no red flags that I'm aware of about this."
After a short ride to the Common Market, participants gathered to donate money and articles of clothing to Warm Charlotte.
Corbin said he was pleased with Sunday’s turnout and credited, in part, the unseasonably warm January weather.
He said he expects to gather anywhere from 400 to 600 articles of clothing.
But even if there was not a charity component to Sunday’s event, participant and artist Martique Lorray said it would have been worth it just for the sake of being different.
“It’s a little bit wild. It pushes the edge,” she said. “This is bringing a little bit of the unknown to people and a lot of smiles too. It’s wonderful.”