Folk are always asking how it happened. How did a city with the worst
record for everything in the world, turn itsel round in such a short
time? How did Glasgow become the hottest tour destination ever?
Let’s start at the beginning. Ten year ago, when Edinburgh looked set
tae take over the world and Glasgow was appearing bottom of every
league table under the sun (except for membership of Gamblers
Anonymous) there we were, clocked in the middle of wanny they endless
meetings, throwing ideas around. Might as well chuck a ball about for
all the good they done.
Ah hated it. After a lifetime in the Parks Department, when they’d
finally built over hauf the parks and computerised everything, ah’d
been shunted intae some Micky Mouse organisation whose mission
statement was improving quality of life for the socially challenged
(i.e. neds). Funny, ah thought growing plants and trees was improving
the quality of life, but naw, ah was surplus tae requirements, and had
tae put up and shut up tae get my enhanced pension. Which meant
sitting in a windowless room wi Archie, who’d been sumpn tae dae wi a
Heiland Dancing Roadshow, and Shug, a retired plumber who’d run his ain
business for years and couldnae staund being idle so he’d got hissel on
the Regenerate Glasgow Committee.
We were supposed tae be finding some way tae put Glasgow back on the
map, some new slogan or theme that would have everybody and his auntie
flocking here. But everything we came up with was a no-no.
Glasgow - Green City?
No since they built hooses on hauf the parks and ran a motorway
through what was left.
Glasgow - Clean City?
Graffiti City mibbe.
Or Chuggie City.
Aye you cannae walk doon a street wioot gettin it stuck tae yer shoes.
How come folk don’t just chuck it in a bin or stick it on their mobile
Let’s face it, said Archie, Glasgow’s pants.
That’s it. Shug’s eyes were shining.
Aye but you can hardly attract tourists by telling them Glasgow’s
Naw, but you can get them tae buy Glasgow’s pants. Shug leaned his
elbows on the table, looked round us.
Look, it’s a waste of time trying tae get folk tae come here by
kidding on we’re like Edinburgh. Everybody knows it’s got a castle, a
festival, all that stuff.
Archie bristled. We’ve got festivals too. Hunners of them - Jazz,
Celtic Connections, the River Festival ...
Aye but Edinburgh’s got it sorted; three weeks during the English
school holidays, when all the Scottish scruffbag weans are back at
school so they won’t annoy anybody
Archie still looked pissed aff but said nothing.
All the media types fly up fae London in a wanner - for three weeks
they review everything in the Telegraph and BBC2 and you cannae get a
cubbyhole tae stay in for love nor money. Edinburgh folk make a
fortune then sit back on their arses for the resty the year while the
tourists dauner round the castle and buy Scottie dug brooches and
Ah thought ah’d better move things on a bit so ah dug out sumpn I’d
been taught in the ‘Reflective Skills for Committee Personnel’ course
So you don’t like Edinburgh, Shug. But perhaps there’s something we
can learn from them.
It’s no a question of liking or no liking. Ah’m just saying it’s a
waste of time for us tae compete wi them on culture.
We’ve got culture too.
Look, Archie, it’s got nothing tae dae wi culture. Of course we’ve
got just as much culture as them - mair, in fact. Rennie Macintosh,
Greek Thomson, no tae mention all the young cutting edge artists -
they’re all fae Glasgow - d’ye ever hear of anybody famous ever gaun
tae Edinburgh Art School? They’d be too busy having afternoon tea and
painting geraniums tae dae any real art. And as for thon city of
literature crap - maisty the great writers are fae Glasgow.
Who reads him nooadays?
Aye, ah’ll gie you yer Ian Rankin right enough but name wan mair?
Alexander McCall Smith, Muriel Spark, Robert Louis Stevenson ...
He was really fae Glasgow.
Naw he wasnae.
He was - he was a Jeckyll and Hyde character.
Ah pitched in wi my quiet chairperson voice. Look folks, ah hate tae
be a wet blanket but this is getting us naewhere. Look at the
publicity - the headlines are getting worse no better. We’ve got tae
dae something aboot Glasgow’s image.
Shug shook his heid. Stuff the image, we’re looking at it all wrang.
He poured hissel mair coffee. Edinburgh’s all image, right? All
show, nae substance.
Archie nodded. Fur coat and nae knickers.
That’s it exactly - while Glasgow’s pants.
Ah cannae see that as a selling point.
Can you no? Big posters with ‘Glasgow’s Pants’ on them. And a huge
photie of a pair of drawers.
Who’s gonnae go tae a city that advertises itsel as being pants?
No being pants, making them. Shug nibbled a bourbon cream. The only
reason we want tae get tourists tae come here is tae make money out
them. Why no just make money by selling something?
Everybody needs them.
Unless they come fae Edinburgh.
Glasgow has a solid industrial and manufacturing past.
There’s no that much difference between engineering and lingerie
manufacture right enough.
Yous are getting bogged doon - let’s start simple. A factory
churning out novelty pants. Wan basic shape for men, wan for women.
Coupla patterns - say ‘Let Glasgow Flourish’ with the bell, the tree
and the fish. And Rennie Macintosh pants, wi the wee rose on it.
Archie smiled. Why not dae Paddy’s market pants - get them second
You’ve got nae vision.
Ah’ve got nae vision. And you think Glasgow can be regenerated by
making novelty pants?
But somehow, Shug had his way. It started small, no the big splash
he’d wanted. A grant fae some development corporation or another,
free council premises in the east end cause the three machinists
working for us would increase the employment rate in the scheme by a
hundred and fifty percent. Then a website and some cheap ads during
the waterbingo games on TV in the middle of the night.
And it just took aff. Unbelievable. At first it was the Rennie Mac
wans that sold then gradually the Glasgow coat of arms went too.
And at another meeting, three months intae the enterprise, we fell on
the real goldmine. It was Archie’s idea tae dae something about
football but as usual it took Shug tae see the way forward.
Celtic and Rangers pants - in a city of footie fans it’s a pure
banker, says Archie.
Naa, we don’t want tae be associated wi Celtic or Rangers.
Why no Partick Thistle?
Shug gied me wanny his looks. Why no Maryhill Juniors? He scratched
his ear. We don’t want tae dae the conventional footie fan stuff - we
want something anti-sectarian, that’ll take in baith Rangers and
Aye it’s good tae dae something wi a vision.
Vision? said Shug. We want something that’ll get us another grant,
and backing fae baith the big teams. He thumped the table. Got it!
Glasgow City of Harmony boxers had Celtic stripes on the left hauf and
Rangers ones on the right. The slogan was ‘Lean left, lean right, be
in Harmony tonight’.
The first run sold out in a week. Mair and mair folk had tae be
employed producing them and the incredible thing was that they started
tae go down big time in Japan - don’t ask me why but they couldnae get
enough of them.
By then things had grown that much that ah’d been seconded tae the
Glasgow’s Pants Enterprise full time. Me, Shug and Archie done the
business plans, well Shug done them and me and Archie rubberstamped all
his ideas. Shug had taken on an assistant, George, Georghe as was,
who’d come fae Romania the year afore and set up his ain chain of
sandwich shops, Little Pieces of Heaven. And there was Shazia and
Arfan, who ran the design and manufacturing side of it. But though we
were daeing fine we still only had one factory space with a cubbyhole
for Shazia’s designs and a wee office for us. Arfan done all his
business fae his mobile and was always either jumping about the
factory, or on a plane somewhere. He liked tae describe hissel as a
‘hands on, bum off manager’.
Then one day, we got a phone call fae some guy in Kyoto saying he had
a group of tourist wanted tae come and see the factory. I put the
phone on mute and turned tae Shug.
Will I just say we don’t dae tours?
Are you aff yer heid? He switched the sound on. Of course we can do
a tour of the factory for your clients. Now, do you have the rest of
the holiday organised yet? Dramatic pause. Edinburgh? Oh dearie me.
No ... no, well, I suppose they still could go there, assuming they
have had all their vaccinations.
You hadn’t heard about the funnel web spider infestation? Edinburgh
City Council Tourist Board have been very irresponsible, in my opinion,
but of course they don’t want any panic. No, it’s totally confined to
Edinburgh city centre - you see they have all these old drains and
pipes under the castle and surrounding area. Glasgow’s plumbing is
very modern and we can certainly put up your party in a luxury hotel,
arrange your sightseeing as well as a tour of the factory. All at a
You had tae hand it tae Shuggie, he was never one tae let truth get in
the way of a good business opportunity. So the first ever Glasgow’s
Pants minibreak was arranged.
And did those folk have a ball! Shug negotiated a good deal at a top
hotel on the grounds that this was only the beginning of a huge
enterprise, which of course it turned out tae be. In every room, alang
with the Campsie mineral water, Caramel Log and Clydeherbs shampoo were
complimentary his and hers themed pants, each with a Glasgow landmark
on it. At first we had a random selection of buildings printed on
them but as we got customer feedback forms and slicked up wur act, the
ladies got a Rennie Mac rose and the guys got thongs with the uni tower
on them. Very popular. There were sightseeing trips of all the usual
places in and around Glasgow and curry nights out, as well as the big
highlight, the trip round the factory.
That first time, I couldnae see how we were gonnae make it interesting.
After all, it’s just a load of folk working away at sewing machines
and the design room’s that wee you couldnae have a busload of tourists
piled intae it.
You don’t think ah’m gonnae let them in the design room, dae ye?
Ah looked blank.
This might be a cover - industrial espionage.
Oh right, never thought of that.
Shug tapped his heid. That’s why you’re no the managing director. You
don’t think ahead, anticipate. You just react tae things.
Anyway, that doesnae answer ma question. How are you gonnae keep
them amused for two hours?
Well, there’s the dauner round the manufacturing area. Then there’s
the display of all the designs, cuppa tea and time for them tae make a
And what are they gonnae dae for the other hour and a hauf?
But as usual ah’d underestimated Shug. When he talked about the
display ah thought he meant looking at the pants in the display case in
the foyer, but he organised a fashion show wi slinky lassies and guys
wi six packs modelling the gear. Well that certainly kept the tourists
amused - a lot of steamed-up specs in the room by the time they’d
finished. We shifted a ton of merchandise afterwards. No as much as
nooadays when we have the market sorted tae a tee, even know which
pants tae punt tae different nationalities. Americans love ones wi
tartan on them while the Belgians go a bomb on the retro Tennents lager
can scanties. Took some negotiating tae get the rights tae the design
but it was worth it.
We even have wur ain song. Held a competition for the best wan - all
the big bands were lining up tae write and record it for us, but Shug
goat fed up wi them.
Too bloody artyfarty by hauf. We need something simple.
So he got a local primary school class tae write the lyrics and
persuaded a team of councillors tae record it.
Whatever yer job,
Whatever you wear,
Whatever you do, wherever you go, you need underwear.
And we’ve got the best,
We’ve got whit yes want,
Sauve and elegant,
Wear Glasgow’s pants.
We end the tours with everybody singing it just afore they go in tae
the shop tae get their souvenirs. The karaoke download goes doon
really well too.
Ah guess the rest is history. The tourists kept coming, sales went aff
the scales. Internet trade accounted for seventy percent of underwear
purchases in Britain alone and Glasgow became the export capital of the
UK, gaun fae an unemployment blackspot tae full employment. No just
manufacturing but designing, marketing and all that. And the folk who
were noo working wanted tae spend their dough, so that meant other
businesses grew too. The other day, me and Archie and Shug were
staunding in the foyer, waiting tae welcome wur ten thousandth tour, wi
photographers and journalists clocked round the entrance.
Look at that, said Shug (Sir Shug noo of course) pointing at the
display case. The first perra pants we made, wi the Glasgow coat of
arms on it. Let Glasgow Flourish. And it has.
Goes tae show, how something that big can grow fae something that wee.
A throwaway phrase.
Tell you what but. It’s just as well that first day, Archie didnae
turn round and say Glasgow’s mince. That could of been a completely