The word "trousers" was derived from the words "trouses" denoting "drawers," "trousses" for trunk hose. The word "pants" come from "pantaloons" and first appeared as an English word in the 1600s to describe the Italian comedy character Pantaleone who wore the first loose "clown pants." Eventually, the character's name came to mean the pants he wore. In England, the term pants still refer only to underwear. Pants have also been more associated with women's wear.
Here is a quick trip through their history.
- During the dark ages, men wore loose baggy pants wrapped over with strips of fabric (usually linen) to keep them up.
- The middle ages gave birth to leg hose which were worn with anything from doublets to tunics and were often very brightly coloured or patterned.
- Around 1600, men's leg fashion moved to leg hose and short breeches.
- In 1820, hosiery progressed to long pantaloons that were strapped under the foot or boot to keep them taut. Pantaloons were either laced in the back or side or strapped using a buckle.
- In the 1830's, pantaloons gave way to pants. These were slim line, tapered and fastened for the first time by buttons down the front and held up with suspenders. However, the button front fly did not arrive without controversy. Mormon leader Brigham Young was appalled by them and dubbed them ‘fornication pants'!
- In recalling the history of men's pants we can't forget that the 1850s saw Levi
- Levi Strauss develop canvas pants for the hard-working American gold miners. He later exchanged canvas for denim and called the pants ‘jeans' after Genes, the French nickname for Genoa, the town in France where he bought the denim. Today they are an indispensable casual pant.
- Pleated front pants, called ‘trousers', were introduced in 1870. These were looser than pants, sported cuffed bottoms and resembled the styles we now wear. Trousers were higher in the back to accommodate the suspender buttons, and also had a strap and buckle to adjust the waist measurement. They could be found in solid colours, checked or pinstriped.
- Both WWI and WWII saw pants once again replace trousers. Pant legs narrowed, cuffs disappeared and jackets were short (just above the crotch); all symptoms of wartime shortages and austerity measures.