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History of Pants in Fashion

Pants, also known as trousers, have become known as one of the most commonly worn articles of clothing by people of both genders, all ages and all social backgrounds.

Few realize the extensive history the clothing presents or why it caught on so well throughout the world. More than just a way to cover the body, trousers have gone on to change history and affect society in remarkable ways.


Art evidence exists to show that pants may have existed before formally recorded history, but they became popular first with Persians and others in the Middle East before expanding to East Asia and Europe. In Japan, they came to replace the standard kimono as a means of combat attire. Roman soldiers adopted the trend in the first century after facing a disadvantage when fighting on horseback against pant-wearing invaders from the East.


Pants were created to assist soldiers with combat maneuvering while on horseback. Those cavalrymen who remained covered with tunics and robes faced a more complicated task. During the height of the Byzantine Empire, trousers became more common among all classes as a method of representing the modesty expected by Christianity at that time. Men wore the pieces as a means to keep their bodies better concealed, thus they wore them underneath their robes.


Beginning in the 16th century, sailors helped spread the concept for the attire worldwide by wearing loose fitting galligaskins. In the 18th century, men wore what were known as breeches. These stopped at the knees and were worn with stockings, a style that originated in France. Knee-length trousers were also worn when hunting or playing sports during the 19th century. Slacks became popular around this time as well. Made from flannel, they only came in one size and were held up with belts or braces.


Trousers did not catch on with women until the beginning of the 20th century. As World War I began, many women wore their spouses\' pants while undertaking men\'s jobs as they went away. Between the 20s and 70s, the style became more and more popular as fashion and leisure options.

Many cultures and religions frown upon the use of trousers by females, these include many Amish, Mennonite and Orthodox Jewish groups as well as some Mormon, Baptist and Church of Christ members. Traditional Muslims consider them to be a more modest option than shorter dresses and skirts.

Influence in Society

In some parts of the world it is illegal for women to wear pants, with some countries, such as Sudan, going so far as to arrest, fine and flog those that do so. Others prohibit women in public office from wearing trousers during legislative meetings.

A popular trend among young males is to sag the pants so that either the band or fabric of the underwear shows. While it is common for many crowds, it is highly frowned upon by others of all ages and backgrounds. The issue grew to be so problematic many legislators in the United States considered passing laws to ban sagging or those who engage in the practice in public.


The modern blue jean began during the American Gold Rush when immigrant Levi Strauss attempted to sell canvas tents to gold miners. Not finding success in that venture, he went on the produce slacks made of denim. The jeans of that day were associated with heavy labor, as they were strong enough to withstand harsh outdoor environments.

Eventually the fabric used to create jeans was crafted into alternate forms of clothing including jackets, vests, dresses and skirts. The clothing also became much more popular among every type of crowd, even designer labels. Denim itself originally comes from France, a country notorious for its innovation in worldwide fashion.

Other Types

- Shorts: Worn by males and females, shorts offer the same two-legged division yet they leave a great portion of the legs exposed. Longer shorts extend slightly past the knee while the shortest styles may expose nearly all of the leg from the pelvis down. They are usually worn as a comfier cooler alternative to long pants.

- Overalls: Overalls are usually used as protective wear during hazardous work but may also be used as a standard form of fashion. They are commonly worn by small children and often come with shortened legs.

- Cargo: Cargo pants were originally used for military activity and were designed for rugged activity. Their name comes from the fact that they feature a number of pockets for storing items, or cargo.

- Khakis: While worn as a casual method of dressing well, khakis also originated as military attire. In an effort to get troops in the British Indian Army to dress in native attire, their standard white slacks were dyed in mulberry tea. The word khaki itself comes from the Hindi word for \"dust.\"

- Sweatpants: As casual wear, \"sweats\" are a soft variety worn during leisure or athletic activity. They are most often worn as protection from cold weather. They are usually made of thick absorbent cotton and feature a loose fit for comfort and activity.

- Capri: Capri pants are mid-length trousers that stop between the knee and ankle. Usually worn by women, they can also be seen on men in some cultures. Their name derives from the island of Capri, where Grace Kelly helped make them popular.

- Leggings: Often worn under long tops and dresses, leggings offer skintight coverage in a lightweight material. They are almost exclusively worn by women but may be seen in some military styles on men.


A number of accessories can be paired with the style. This is sometimes done to enhance their fashionable aspect while other times it is done primarily for added function. As the earliest Western pants were very loose, belts were one of the first accessories used to keep them secure around the waist. Suspenders also have the same purpose by holding trousers up with the stability of leverage over the shoulders. Some people attach chains to keep wallets and keys close.

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