Philadelphia hit record low temperatures this weekend.
Reached while he was scouting out the day's route, event organizer Ray Wall, who was remarkably cheery for being out in the bitter cold, said he didn't expect any dip in attendance this year, despite the weather.
Who'd he expect to be there?
"A bunch of other crazy folks like myself," he said, "who like to do something a little bit radical."
Such as India White, the apparent queen of the No Pants Subway Ride, in her 4-inch blue platform boots and high-waisted floral underwear. On the Market-Frankford El leaving West Philadelphia, she demanded the crew's DJ play Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and immediately challenged the quiet guy in check-print boxers to a dance battle in the aisle.
And Marc Riley, 27, who borrowed some cocoa butter oil from another pantsless rider as soon as he took his own off. "See what had happened was," he said, "we can't be out here ashy!" Later, he slid down the railing at 69th Street in his light-purple boxer briefs.
White and Riley were among the 20 crazy folks who braved the freezing temps – Sunday's high was 19 degrees – to go on the ride. No one in the crew indicating having to think twice about coming out because of the cold, but some had their own ways of dealing with it: Steve Ives, who's been coming for five years straight, wore thermals under his underwear, while another attendee packed a thermos of sangria that she poured out in plastic cups for everyone before they boarded the El.
Yes, it's totally a rowdy party, complete with ladies twerking in acid-wash briefs while hanging from the subway car's handlebars, but there's also a social mission behind the ride, which the region's recent extreme weather conditions helped highlight: to raise awareness about homelessness.
"We got the choice of being out here if we want or not," said Wall, 44, of Olney. "The homeless just don't have a choice."
Wall, who organizes the ride through his socially minded laundry service Got Laundry?, asked participants to bring socks, which his team planned to donate to the homeless. He did the No Pants ride with a big red sack full of socks slung over his shoulder. Last year, the team collected a little more than a hundred pairs of pants that it donated to local organizations such as Career Wardrobe and Share.
Riders met outside Citizens Bank at 15th and Market Streets and headed to the (heated!) Market-Frankford Line to take their pants off and ride to 69th Street, where they posed for photos on the bridge and then looped back to get on the Broad Street Line. DJ2eleven blasted Cardi B and Yo Gotti from a speaker he carried like a purse. El riders filmed the festivities and sometimes joined in, giddy with the energy from the car.
"I might just take this … for another loop," said Anthony Sadowski, as he marveled at the party and danced along. The 22-year-old had just finished his dishwashing shift when he got on the El. "That … woke me right up," he said.
The day finished at the Infusion Lounge in Old City, where mixologist Jung Park developed a slate of underwear- and laundry-themed cocktails for the occasion, such as Tighty Whities, made with Irish cream and white chocolate. ("It was so ridiculous I was hesitant to send it over," she said, laughing about the menu.)
The Philly No Pants Subway Ride is not affiliated with Sunday's international No Pants Subway Ride, organized by Improv Everywhere and held in Montreal – where the real-feel temperature was minus-23 degrees Celsius, or close to minus-10 degrees Fahrenheit.