Thursday, March 17, 2011



Now, are we talking inner garments or outer?   I’d think the founders of this awareness month would be the manufacturers of outer garments: pants, trousers, britches, slacks, or any full-length bifurcated garments of that ilk. No matter what month, and it really should be a winter month, it gives writers like me the opportunity to take off on the subject.

Wouldn’t it be better if women wore pants and men skirts? Yes and no. Yes, because, when you think about it, pants would be more protective than skirts for women, and, in the same area, skirts would be safer for men. No, because it just hasn’t worked out that way. 

The cavemen had the right idea, although they didn’t have much choice.  The Romans had the right idea, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and so on. Those men wore flowing robes and thought the pants-wearing peoples were uncivilized. Much of it depended on where you lived.  Flowing clothing was, and still is, worn by men of the southern Mediterranean, the Middle Eastern countries, in India, and around the equatorial regions of the world.  The Vikings wore pants, all the Arctic region’s people, men and women, wear pants. If you live where it snows - unless you are a Scot and in a class all by yourself - the men wear pants. It just chills me to think of the kilt-wearing Scots in the winter in the Highlands.

The earliest known pair of pants, made of wool in a twill plaid weave, was found on the mummy of a Eurasian who died about 3800 years ago in the desert Tarim Basin of western China. There were many civilizations in the classic ages that sported pants, loose or fitted as the fancy and the fashion dictated. Over the centuries, myriad combinations of pants and toga or tunic-like garments were worn. During the Renaissance the pants became hose. The actual pants part became shorter and shorter and almost disappeared.  That led to things like purpoints and codpieces and other subjects I’d rather not touch.  But back to the hose which led back to close-fitting trousers, as the term is preferred by the British-speaking peoples, and then on, with a stop for plus-fours and Knickerbockers, to what is worn today.

Many of our clergy sport gowns or cassocks. Our western politicians and executive businessmen could go back to togas or gowns, but the men who are toiling to keep the world’s physical plant safe, running smoothly, and well supplied, do need them.  Can you get a visual of a fireman or policeman in a toga or a kilt?  What about artisans, farmers, fishermen, or truckers? It would be inconvenient and, surely, downright dangerous for them to sport skirts around the modern tools of their trades. 

Historically, there were few groups of women who wore pants.  I did see a picture of an Amazon woman depicted in pants on a Grecian urn. Until the last half of the last century, pants-wearing women were few and far between. There were some who were miners, and I’d think that many horsewomen would have preferred them. These days, thanks to the likes of pioneers like Katharine Hepburn and all those Rosie-the-Riveters, we women wear them without much comment from the peanut gallery.  We even wear them, all dolled up of course, to all but the most ceremonial occasions. We’d never wear them to a coronation, for example, now would we?

So that wraps it up for pants as outer garments.  Sometime in the future we may touch on pants as under garments - panties, if you will.  It will be a topic we can treat with delicate care, for there is as much of interest in the history of undies as there was with outies.  I’ll have to look up the month.
(originally posted February 4, 2011)

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