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Trousers 1633


Trousers 1633

Trousers (or "pants" in North American English, sometimes "slacks" in more formal or older-fashioned usage) are an item of clothing 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 West, trousers were the standard lower-body clothing item for males since the 16th century; by the late 20th 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 belt, or suspenders (braces). Leggings are form-fitting trousers of a clingy material, often knitted cotton and lycra.


In North American English, pants is the general category term, and trousers refers, often more formally, specifically to tailored 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.

In British English, trousers is the general category term, and pants refers to 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 shorts, stop anywhere from the upper thigh to the knee. Capris are trousers that end mid-calf or just below the calf. 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 half-staff), or simply wearing "half-masts".
    • Some trousers have detachable legs, usually with zippers
  • Pockets: There may be front pockets (usually inset) and back pockets (usually patch). Men's trousers almost always have back pockets. Some trousers, especially jeans, have a smaller fifth pocket inside the right front pocket. This is variously called a "fob" (for a pocket 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 be present
  • Pleats: vertical folds in the front for a looser fit
  • Waist band: may be elasticized
  • Fly: This allows easier dressing and, for men, urination without undressing. The fly may further be distinguished by the closure mechanism: zipper or buttons. There 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 suspenders.
  • 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 horse riding) are either loose-fitting and then gathered together just below the knees, or 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 suspenders (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 16th century.

Nomadic Eurasian horsemen/women such as the Iranian Scythians, along with Achaemenid 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 cavalry. 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 with kilts.

Men's trousers

Trousers also trace their ancestry to the individual hose worn by men in the 15th 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 codpiece.

By the end of the 16th century, the codpiece had been incorporated into the hose, now usually called breeches, which were roughly knee-length and featured a fly or fall front opening.


During the French Revolution, the male citizens of France adopted a working-class costume including ankle-length trousers or pantaloons in place of the aristocratic knee-breeches. This style was introduced to England in the early 19th century, possibly by Beau Brummell, and supplanted breeches as fashionable street wear by mid-century. Breeches survived into the 1930s as the plus-fours or knickers 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 17th and 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 19th century in the American West, because of their ruggedness and durability.

Women's trousers

Although trousers for women did not become fashion items until the later 20th century, women began wearing men's trousers (suitably altered) for outdoor work a hundred years earlier.

The Wigan pit brow girls scandalized Victorian society by wearing trousers for their dangerous work in the coal mines. They wore skirts over their trousers, rolled up to the waist to keep them out of the way.

Women working the ranches of the 19th century American West also wore trousers for riding, and in the early 20th century aviatrixes 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 World 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 leisure pursuits.

In the 1960s, André Courrèges introduced long trousers for women as a fashion item, leading to the era of the pantsuit and 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 Greek foustanella, worn on ceremonial occasions, as well as robes or robe-like clothing such as the cassocks, etc. of clergy and academic robes (both rarely worn in daily use today).

Based on Deuteronomy 22:5 in the Bible, some Christian adherents believe that women should not wear trousers, but only skirts and dresses.

Among certain groups, saggy, baggy trousers exposing underwear are in fashion, e.g. among 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 Louisiana, Congressman Dick Shepard proposed a bill that would make it a crime to appear in public 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, Virginia 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 law.

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