Trousers (or "pants"
North American English, sometimes "slacks" in more formal or older-fashioned
usage) are an item of
worn on the lower part of the body and covering both legs separately (rather
than with cloth stretching across both as in
skirts and dresses). Historically, as for the
trousers were the standard lower-body clothing item for males since the
century; by the late
century they had become extremely prevalent for females as well. Trousers
are worn at the hips
or waist, and may
be held up by their own fastenings, a
Leggings are form-fitting trousers of a clingy material, often
knitted cotton and
North American English, pants is the general category term, and
trousers refers, often more formally, specifically to
garments with a waistband and (typically)
belt-loops and a fly-front.
For instance, informal elastic-waist knitted garments would never be called
trousers in America.
British English, trousers is the general category term, and pants
underwear (in America, called underwear, underpants or
panties to distinguish them from other pants that are worn on the outside).
- Length: Trousers can cover the body from the waist all the way down to the
top of the foot, or stop almost anywhere from the upper thigh to the ankle.
Short trousers, or just
anywhere from the upper thigh to the knee.
are trousers that end mid-calf or just below the
Children who have grown such that the trouser legs are not long enough, are
derisively said to be wearing "floods" or "highwaters" (a reference to hiked
trousers to keep them dry in flood times); in the UK they are said to be
'wearing their trousers at half-mast' (just as you might fly a flag at
or simply wearing "half-masts".
- Some trousers have detachable legs, usually with
- Pockets: There may be front pockets (usually inset) and back pockets
(usually patch). Men's trousers almost always have back pockets. Some trousers,
have a smaller fifth pocket inside the right front pocket. This is variously
called a "fob" (for a
watch) or "coin pocket" but it may be used for other small items.
- Turn-ups or cuffs (the bottom of the trouser leg folded up) may or may not
- Pleats: vertical folds in the front for a looser fit
- Waist band: may be elasticized
- Fly: This allows easier dressing and, for men,
without undressing. The fly may further be distinguished by the closure
mechanism: zipper or
may not be a fly. Trousers wide enough to put on and taking off without having a
fly or opening at the side, have either an elastic or drawstring waist or are
kept in place with a belt or
- Leg shape: The trouser legs may be straight, or tapered to be snug around
the ankles. The bottom may be flared, in which case the trousers can be called "bell-bottoms"
(or "flares" in the UK). Breeches (commonly worn for
riding) are either loose-fitting and then gathered together just below the
jodhpurs, formed and then gathered just below the knees (similar to
pantaloons), below which they are snug and form fitting down to the ankles.
- Beltloops: These may or may not be present to support a
belt which may be used to adjust the tightness in the waist, and for
decoration. Men can use
(called braces in
British English) to support trousers that are loose in the waist.
Trousers were introduced into Western
European culture at several points in history, but gained their current
predominance only in the
Nomadic Eurasian horsemen/women such as the
Persians were the first to wear trousers, later introduced to modern Europe
via either the Hungarians or Ottoman Turks. However, the
Celts also seem
to have worn them in Ancient Europe.
In ancient China
trousers were only worn by
According to tradition, they were first introduced by King Wu of Zhao in
375 BC, who
copied the custom from non-Chinese horsemen on his northern border.
The word itself is, ironically of
Scottish Gaelic origin, a culture more associated in the popular imagination
Trousers also trace their ancestry to the individual
hose worn by men in the
century (which is why trousers are plural and not singular). The hose were
easy to make and fastened to a
doublet at the top with ties called "points", but as time went by, the two
hose were joined, first in the back then across the front, but still leaving a
large opening for sanitary functions. Originally, doublets came almost to the
knees, effectively covering the genitalia, but as fashions changed and doublets
became shorter, it became necessary (and required by the church) for men to
cover their genitals with a
By the end of the
century, the codpiece had been incorporated into the hose, now usually
which were roughly knee-length and featured a fly or fall front
French Revolution, the male citizens of France adopted a working-class
costume including ankle-length trousers or
in place of the aristocratic knee-breeches. This style was introduced to
century, possibly by
Brummell, and supplanted breeches as fashionable street wear by mid-century.
Breeches survived into the
1930s as the
worn for active sports and by young school-boys.
Sailors may have played a role in the dissemination of trousers as a fashion
around the world. In the
18th centuries, sailors wore a baggy trouser known as a galligaskin.
Sailors were also the first to wear
jeans -- trousers
made of denim.
These became more popular in the late
century in the
American West, because of their ruggedness and durability.
Although trousers for women did not become fashion items until the later
century, women began wearing men's trousers (suitably altered) for outdoor
work a hundred years earlier.
pit brow girls scandalized
Victorian society by wearing trousers for their dangerous work in the
They wore skirts over their trousers, rolled up to the waist to keep them out of
Women working the ranches of the 19th century American West also wore
trousers for riding, and in the early 20th century
and other working women often wore trousers. Actresses
Marlene Dietrich and
Katharine Hepburn were often photographed in trousers from the
1930s and helped
make trousers acceptable for women. During
War II, women working in factories and doing other forms of "men's work" on
war service wore trousers when the work demanded it, and in the post-war era
trousers became acceptable casual wear for gardening, the beach, and other
In the 1960s,
André Courrèges introduced long trousers for women as a fashion item,
leading to the era of the
designer jeans and the gradual eroding of the prohibitions against girls and
women wearing trousers in schools, the workplace, and fine restaurants.
It is customary in the Western world for men to wear trousers and not skirts
or dresses. However, there are exceptions, such as the
Scottish kilt and the
foustanella, worn on ceremonial occasions, as well as robes or robe-like
clothing such as the
etc. of clergy and academic robes (both rarely worn in daily use today).
Deuteronomy 22:5 in the
adherents believe that women should not wear trousers, but only
skirts and dresses.
Among certain groups, saggy, baggy trousers exposing
are in fashion,
skaters, for whom it also provides more freedom of movement.
Cut-offs are homemade
shorts made by
cutting the legs off trousers, usually after holes have been worn in fabric
around the knees. This extends the useful life of the trousers. The remaining
leg fabric may or may not be hemmed after being cut.
In May 2004 in
Congressman Dick Shepard proposed a bill that would make it a crime to appear
wearing trousers below the waist and thereby exposing one's skin or "intimate
clothing". The Louisiana bill was retracted after negative public reaction.
In February 2005,
legislators tried to pass a similar law that would have made punishable by a $50
fine: "any person who, while in a public place, intentionally wears and displays
his below-waist undergarments, intended to cover a person's intimate parts, in a
lewd or indecent manner".
It is not clear whether, with the same coverage by the trousers, exposing
underwear was considered worse than exposing bare skin, or that the latter was
already covered by another law.
It passed in the Virginia House of Delegates. However, various criticisms to
it arose. For example, newspaper columnists and radio talk show hosts
consistently said that since most people that would be penalized under the law
would be young African-American men, the law would thus be a form of
discrimination against them. Virginia's state senators voted against passing the