On the 2nd day of Black History Month, we give thanks to Eldridge Cleaver, a political activist, writer, and an early prominent leader of the Black Panthers party who also contributed to the rock-hard sexual revolution.
Cleaver is the inventor of the “penis pants.” Yes, you read that right.
The former presidential candidate’s phallus fashion ensemble was created to “put sex back where it should be,” according to Cleaver. The jarring piece of attire, which sported fabric for a daggling penis smack dab in the middle, certainly made a statement but not in the way you might think.
Cleaver believed that male masculinity and expression were somehow suppressed through the conservative male clothing of the 1970s. According to the designer, his modern-day interpretation of the codpiece, which was a covering flap that men used to wear to protect their crotch in the 15th century, would deconstruct narrow-minded ideas of male sexual liberation and serve as a significant symbol for “social, temporal and territorial power rather than just sexual prowess,” according to Vestoj. Cleaver later dubbed the theory the “Fig-Leaf Mentality.”
“We’ve been castrated in clothing,” the fashion icon told Jet magazine in 1978 about his revolution down below. “My pants open up new vistas.”
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Cleaver conceptualized the idea in 1975 while he was living in Paris as an exile following a shoot-out incident in 1968 with Oakland police. The cocky designer published an ad in the International Herald Tribune, looking for potential investors and manufacturers to help develop the penis pants. The ad simply read, “Millions in profits envisioned,” according to the New York Times.
”My design has a tremendous future, both artistically and commercially because not just the intellect — the head and face — is honored,” he said with confidence in a previous interview. “The other half of man’s identity, the sex organs, is, too.”
Unfortunately, Cleaver’s phallic creation was never erected. It wasn’t a big hit with business folks and never gained commercial success, in fact, the sex activist later became a Mormon, but despite the sensational appearance of the penis pants, Cleaver’s bold statement piece was an indicator of how rich, far, and wide Black art and innovation spans. To that, we give a standing ovation to the former Black Panther leader as we celebrate Blackness across the diaspora this month.