Apprentice plumber Brianna Chidders of Dexter Plumbing & Heating in Des Moines has outgrown her well-worn work jeans and is now in the market for a new pair. "I've been wearing the same pair for more than a year and It's getting to where I just can't get into them any more," says the 24-year-old resident of Newton, just outside of Des Moines. "I've been dreading this day, because replacing a pair of jeans that shows just the right amount of butt crack when you're bending down to look under the kitchen sink or to drive a snake down the bathtub drain is one of the harder things to do in this job."
Fred Standon, Chidders' supervisor, says it will be a test of her standing in the plumbing profession to see how she does. "I had an apprentice a few years ago who showed a lot of promise, but he completely choked in the butt crack department," says Standon. "I told him he was jeopardizing his advancement to full plumber status if he didn't shape up and get a pair of pants that let his belly hang out-which is essential to having your pants slip down far enough to expose your butt crack. I guess he really didn't want be a plumber, because he just wouldn't do what he had to do."
Standon says he hasn't had that problem with Chidders. "She shows her butt crack right nicely-and she's got a good one, too. And she doesn't even have a belly-well, not much of one, anyway."
Exposing your butt crack has a proud tradition within the plumbing vocation. Sam Craigsman, who recently retired from Sanders Plumbing in Gilbert after a career that spanned almost 45 years and is known in the area as something of a historian of the plumbing profession, says the origins of the butt-crack requirement are obscure but he thinks it has to do with plumbers historically having a hard time keeping their shirt tucked in when they bend over. "Plus, plumbers as a rule aren't fashion conscious," he says. "I've never really studied the matter, but I think plumbers typically don't spend a lot of time buying the best-fitting clothes. I think if the clothes are comfortable, they'll buy them. So, it's probably a fact that plumbers tend to wear clothes that are loose, because a loose fit equates to comfort."
Chidders says she was attracted to the profession because she likes to work with tools, particularly hard ones, and got a lot of experience handling them when a boyfriend she had several years ago exposed her to his set. "We didn't really date that long, but I really got off on handling his tools, and I knew I wanted to have them in my hands all the time."
Other area plumbers have nothing but praise for Chidders, saying she's gone out of her way to fit in to this male-dominated trade. "She's always gonna be challenged, because some nuts are hard to screw, particularly if they're of sizable diameter, says Ed Krafkow, a plumber with Fast-Response Plumbing in Des Moines. "But the one area where she has us all beat is her butt crack. She knows just how much to expose when she bends over. None of us guys can bend over like that. And she's not hairy back there, ether."
Her clients are impressed too. "When I called Dexter about a clogged toilet I was a little taken aback when this young woman showed up at my door with her tools," says Des Moines resident Harry Glower. "I mean, if I'd known they were gonna send a woman, I would have tried to unclog it myself. But once she bent down and whipped out her beaver ballcock, I liked what I saw. And I saw a lot, too, because she was really slipping out of her pants."
It's her ability to keep "slipping out of her pants" like that that's her top concern as she looks at new jeans, says Chidders. She knows the eyes of her colleagues and clients are on her-or on her back at least-as she decides what to buy. So she's not taking this purchase lightly. "I just want to put this decision behind me," she says.