A verse parody appeared just three weeks after Oscar Wilde arrived in America. It was one many such newspaper items in 1882 that poked fun at Wilde and the aesthetic movement.
It was notable for its affected and satirical overuse of alliteration. Although Wilde was known for his occasional penchant for this verbal prose style (something that Whistler later parodied), it was probably not recognized by the author of this verse when it was written in January 1882.
It is more likely that its use was prompted by expressions such as “too-too” and “utterly utter” that were connected to the also alliterative Apostle of the Aesthetes.
As such, the text is instructional in understanding allusions to Wilde and the aesthetic movement. Let us examine the terminology:
It shows Oscar in a quite demure pose as if he had something to hide. But fear not, he is exposed only below the knee.
Wilde’s long hair and knee-breeches excited many a soirée in 1882, prompting one commentator to note that Oscar “pants” after a certain celebrity, but that he should make it two because a pair of pants is something he obviously needs.
Advertisers, too, had Wilde’s trousers in mind. This example uses an image of a long-haired Oscar and the slogan Pants Down Again—presumably the price. What advertisers did not realise was that Oscar would soon take the slogan literally.
When he returned to America in 1883, he reversed the trend. Instead of long hair and short pants, Oscar confounded observers by wearing his hair short and his pants long. His Neronian coiffure was certainly a radical change; but while the hair was now up, it would seem the pants were down once again.