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Trousers (pants in North America and Australia) are an item of clothing worn from the waist to the ankles, covering both legs separately (rather than with cloth extending across both legs as in robes, skirts, and dresses). In the UK the word "pants" generally means underwear and not trousers. Shorts are similar to trousers, but with legs that come down only to around the area of the knee, higher or lower depending on the style of the garment. To distinguish them from shorts, trousers may be called "long trousers" in certain contexts such as school uniform, where tailored shorts may be called "short trousers", especially in the UK.
In most of the Western world, trousers have been worn since ancient times and throughout the Medieval period, becoming the most common form of lower-body clothing for adult males in the modern world, although shorts are also widely worn, and kilts and other garments may be worn in various regions and cultures. Since the mid-20th century, trousers have increasingly been worn by females as well. Jeans, made of denim, are a form of trousers for casual wear, now widely worn all over the world by both sexes. Shorts are often preferred in hot weather or for some sports, and also often by children and teenagers. Trousers are worn on 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 spandex (elastane).
In the United Kingdom and Ireland the words "trousers", or "slacks", were historically used for women's trousers. In Scotland, trousers are occasionally known as trews, which is the historic root of the word 'trousers'. Trousers are also known as breeks in Scots, a word related to breeches. The item of clothing worn under trousers is underpants. The standard form 'trousers' is also used, but it is sometimes pronounced in a manner approximately represented by "tru:zɨrz", which is possibly a throwback to the Gaelic word truis which the English word originates from.
In North America and Australia pants is the general category term, whereas trousers (sometimes slacks in Australia and the United States) often refer more specifically to tailored garments with a waistband, belt-loops, and a fly-front. So informal elastic-waist knitted garments would be called pants, but not trousers (or slacks).
North Americans call undergarments underwear, underpants, undies, jockey shorts, shorts, long johns or panties (the last are women's garments specifically) to distinguish them from other pants that are worn on the outside. The term drawers normally refers to undergarments, but in some dialects, may be found as a synonym for "breeches", that is, trousers. In these dialects, the term underdrawers is used for undergarments. Many North Americans refer to their undergarments by their type, such as boxers or briefs.
In Australia, men's underwear also has various informal terms including under-dacks, undies, dacks or jocks. In New Zealand men's underwear is known as "undies", or "y-fronts".
Various people in the fashion industry use the words trouser or pant instead of trousers or pants. This is nonstandard usage. The words "trousers" and "pants" are pluralia tantum, nouns that generally only appear in plural form—much like the words "scissors" and "tongs". However, the singular form is used in some compound words, such as trouser-leg, trouser-press and trouser-bottoms.
Trousers first enter recorded history in the 6th century BC, with the appearance of horse-riding Iranian peoples in Greek ethnography. At this time, not only the Persians, but also allied Eastern and Central Asian peoples such as the Bactrians, Armenians, Tigraxauda Scythians and Xiongnu Hunnu, are known to have worn them. Trousers are believed to have been worn by both sexes among these early users.
The ancient Greeks used the term "ἀναξυρίδες" (anaxyrides) for the trousers worn by Eastern nations and "σαράβαρα" (sarabara) for the loose trousers worn by the Scythians. However, they did not wear trousers since they thought them ridiculous, using the word "θύλακοι" (thulakoi), pl. of "θύλακος" (thulakos), "sack", as a slang term for the loose trousers of Persians and other orientals.
Republican Rome viewed the draped clothing of Greek and Minoan (Cretan) culture as an emblem of civilisation and disdained trousers as the mark of barbarians. As the Empire expanded beyond the Mediterranean basin, however, the greater warmth provided by trousers led to their adoption. Two types of trousers eventually saw widespread use in Rome: the Feminalia, which fit snugly and usually fell to knee or mid-calf length, and the Braccae, a loose-fitting trouser that was closed at the ankles. Both garments were adopted originally from the Celts of Europe, although later familiarity with the Persian Near East and the Teutons increased acceptance. Feminalia and Braccae both began use as military garments, spreading to civilian dress later, and were eventually made in a variety of materials including leather, wool, cotton and silk.
By the 8th century there is evidence of the wearing in Europe of two layers of trousers, especially among upper-class males. The under layer is today referred to by costume historians as "drawers", although that usage did not emerge until the late 16th century. Over the drawers were worn trousers of wool or linen, which in the 10th century began to be referred to as breeches in many places. Tightness of fit and length of leg varied by period, class, and geography. (Open legged trousers can be seen on the Norman soldiers of the Bayeux Tapestry.)
Although Charlemagne (742–814) is recorded to have habitually worn trousers, donning the Byzantine tunic only for ceremonial occasions, the influence of the Roman past and the example of Byzantium led to the increasing use of long tunics by men, hiding most of the trousers from view and eventually rendering them an undergarment for many. As undergarments, these trousers became briefer or longer as the length of the various medieval outer garments changed, and were met by, and usually attached to, another garment variously called hose or stockings.
In the 14th century it became common among the men of the noble and knightly classes to connect the hose directly to their pourpoints (the padded under jacket worn with armoured breastplates that would later evolve into the doublet) rather than to their drawers. In the 15th century, rising hemlines led to ever briefer drawers until they were dispensed with altogether by the most fashionable elites who joined their skin-tight hose back into trousers. These trousers, which we would today call tights but which were still called hose or sometimes joined hose at the time, emerged late in the 15th century and were conspicuous by their open crotch which was covered by an independently fastening front panel, the codpiece. The exposure of the hose to the waist was consistent with 15th century trends, which also brought the pourpoint/doublet and the shirt, previously undergarments, into view, but the most revealing of these fashions were only ever adopted at court and not by the general population.
Men's clothes in Hungary in the 15th century consisted of a shirt and trousers as underwear, and a dolman worn over them, as well as a short fur-lined or sheepskin coat. Hungarians generally wore simple trousers, only their colour being unusual; the dolman covered the greater part of the trousers.
Europe before the 1900s
As a modernisation measure, Tsar Peter the Great issued a decree in 1701 commanding every Russian, other than clergy and peasant farmers, to wear trousers.
During the French Revolution, the male citizens of France adopted a working-class costume including ankle-length trousers, or pantaloons (from a Commedia dell'Arte character named Pantalone) in place of the aristocratic knee-breeches. The new garment of the revolutionaries differed from that of the ancien regime upper classes in three ways: it was loose where the style for breeches had most recently been form-fitting, it was ankle length where breeches had generally been knee-length for more than two centuries, and they were open at the bottom while breeches were fastened. This style was introduced to England in the early 19th century, possibly by Beau Brummell, and by mid-century had supplanted breeches as fashionable street wear. At this point, even knee-length pants adopted the open bottoms of trousers and were worn by young boys, for sports, and in tropical climates. Breeches proper survived into the 20th century as court dress, and also in baggy mid-calf (or three-quarter length) versions known as plus-fours or knickers worn for active sports and by young schoolboys. Types of breeches are still worn today by baseball and American football players.
Sailors may have played a role in the worldwide dissemination of trousers as a fashion. In the 17th and 18th centuries, sailors wore baggy trousers known as galligaskins. Sailors also pioneered the wearing of jeans, trousers made of denim. These became more popular in the late 19th century in the American West because of their ruggedness and durability.
Starting around the mid-19th century, Wigan pit brow girls scandalised Victorian society by wearing trousers for their work at the local coal mines. They wore skirts over their trousers and rolled them up to their waists to keep them out of the way. Although pit brow lasses worked above ground at the pit-head, their task of sorting and shovelling coal involved hard manual labour, so wearing the usual long skirts of the time would have greatly hindered their movements.
Women's trousers after 1900
Although women had been wearing trousers for outdoor work thousands of years earlier in the Western world, by the time of Christianization it had become taboo for women to wear trousers. It was Eastern culture that inspired French designer Paul Poiret (1879–1944) to be one of the first to design pants for women. In 1913 Poiret created loose-fitting, wide-leg trousers for women called harem pants, which were based on the costumes of the popular opera Sheherazade. Written by Nikola Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888, Sheherazade was based on a collection of legends from the Middle East called 1001 Arabian Nights. In the early 20th century women air pilots and other working women often wore trousers. Frequent photographs from the 1930s of actresses Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn in trousers 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. In the post-war era, trousers became acceptable casual wear for gardening, the beach, and other leisurely pursuits. Further, in Britain during World War II, because of the rationing of clothing, many women took to wearing their husbands' civilian clothes, including their trousers, to work while their husbands were away from home serving in the armed forces. This was partly because they were seen as practical workwear and partly to allow women to keep their clothing allowance for other uses. As this practice of wearing trousers became more widespread and as the men's clothing wore out, replacements were needed. By the summer of 1944, it was reported that sales of women's trousers were five times more than they had been in the previous year.
In 1919, Luisa Capetillo challenged mainstream society by becoming the first woman in Puerto Rico to wear trousers in public. Capetillo was sent to jail for what was then considered to be a crime, but, the judge later dropped the charges against her.
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 erosion of social prohibitions against girls and women wearing trousers in schools, the workplace and in fine restaurants.
In 1969 Rep. Charlotte Reid (R-Ill.) became the first woman to wear trousers in the US Congress.
In 1989 California state senator Rebecca Morgan became the first woman to wear trousers in a US state senate.
Hillary Clinton was the first woman to wear trousers in an official US First Lady portrait.
Women were not allowed to wear trousers on the US Senate floor until 1993. In 1993, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Carol Moseley Braun wore trousers onto the floor in defiance of the rule, and female support staff followed soon after, with the rule being amended later that year by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Martha Pope to allow women to wear trousers on the floor so long as they also wore a jacket.
In Malawi women were not legally allowed to wear trousers under President Kamuzu Banda's rule until 1994. This law was introduced in 1965.
Since 2004 the International Skating Union has allowed women to wear trousers instead of skirts in competition if they wish.
In 2009 journalist Lubna Hussein was fined the equivalent of $200 when a court found her guilty of violating Sudan's decency laws by wearing trousers.
In 2012 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police began to allow women to wear trousers and boots with all their formal uniforms.
In 2012 and 2013, some Mormon women participated in "Wear Pants to Church Day", in which they wore trousers to church instead of the customary dresses to encourage gender equality within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Over one thousand women participated in this in 2012.
In 2013, Turkey's parliament ended a ban on women lawmakers wearing trousers in its assembly.
Also in 2013, an old bylaw requiring women in Paris, France to ask permission from city authorities before "dressing as men", including wearing trousers (with exceptions for those "holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse") was declared officially revoked by France's Women's Rights Minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. The bylaw was originally intended to prevent women from wearing the pantalons fashionable with Parisian rebels in the French Revolution.
PARTS OF TROUSERS
Trousers have varied historically in whether or not they have a fly. Originally, hose did not cover the area between the legs. This was instead covered by a doublet or by a codpiece. When breeches were worn, during the Regency period for example, they were fall-fronted (or broad fall). Later, after trousers (pantaloons) were invented, the fly-front (split fall) emerged. The panelled front returned as a sporting option, such as in riding breeches, but is now hardly ever used, a fly being by far the most common fastening. Most flies now use a zipper, though button-fly pants such as Levi's 501 jeans continue to be available.
In modern Western society, males customarily wear trousers and not skirts or dresses. There are exceptions, however, such as the ceremonial Scottish kilt and Greek fustanella, as well as robes or robe-like clothing like the cassocks of clergy and the academic robes, both rarely worn today in daily use.
Based on Deuteronomy 22:5 in the Bible ("The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man"), some groups, including the Amish, Hutterites, some Mennonites, some Baptists, a few Church of Christ groups, and most Orthodox Jews, believe that women should not wear trousers, but only skirts and dresses. These groups do permit women to wear underpants as long as they are hidden. By contrast, many Muslim sects approve of pants as they are considered more modest than any skirt that is shorter than ankle length. However, some mosques require ankle length trousers for both Muslims and non-Muslims on the premises.
Among certain groups, low-rise, baggy trousers exposing underwear became fashionable; for example, among skaters and in 1990s hip hop fashion. This fashion is called sagging or, alternatively, "busting slack."
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 be hemmed or left to fray after being cut.
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 whether the latter was already covered by another law.) The law 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 penalised under the law would be young African-American men, the law would thus be a form of racial discrimination. Virginia's state senators voted against passing the law.
In California, Government Code Section 12947.5 (part of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)) expressly protects the right to wear pants. Thus, the standard California FEHA discrimination complaint form includes an option for "denied the right to wear pants."
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