Back in the 6th C BC, among the Persians and Scythians of Asia, both men and women wore trousers, for warmth and comfort, so there’s nothing new about women wearing trousers.
The word trousers comes from the Irish triús and the Scottish triubhas which also gave rise to trews, close-fitting tartan trousers. Ironically, the Scots and Irish wore kilts themselves.
The ancient Greeks wore flowing robes and considered trousers to be ridiculous. The ancient Romans despised trouser-wearers as barbarians.
However, by the 4th century in Britain, only women were wearing trousers. Men considered them unmanly and wore tunics, obviously influenced by the Romans ruling Britain.
When the Romans left, the Germanic hordes invading Britain wore the trousers in more ways than one, and trousers eventually became the norm except for the clergy who continued to wear the flowing robes, as they do to this day.
Throughout centuries, fashions changed and trousers came and went.
In the nineteenth century women wore trousers to ride horses, but hid them by wearing full skirts on top.
In Paris a police decree banned women from wearing trousers unless they had permission. Later the rule was modified and they were allowed only if they were riding a horse or bicycle. It was only in 2010 that Parisian law finally relented and officially allowed women to wear trousers.
Breeches, also called britches or breeks are close-fitting trousers, like jodhpurs. The word ‘breeches’ is used in some translations of the book of Genesis describing Adam and Eve: “They sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves breeches.”
Pants comes from pantaloons, which were men’s attire similar to breeches but longer, ending mid-calf to ankle and more tightly fitted. They gradually morphed into women’s baggy trousers gathered at the ankle and were also called pantalettes. In America, Australia and NZ, ‘pants’ are used in place of ‘trousers’.
Galligaskins or Gascon Hose were very full breeches gathered into the waistband and legbands but ended directly above the knee.
Slacks, meaning ‘loose trousers’ was originally a military term.
Nowadays the most popular trousers are jeans. The word ‘jeans’ comes from the French bleu de Genes meaning ‘the blue of Genoa’, referring to a cheap hard-wearing material for work trousers for sailors – what we now call denim, ‘de Nimes’. The trousers became popular with farm labourers and cowboys, due to German merchant Levi Strauss popularising blue denim trousers with reinforced riveted pockets.
To be caught with your trousers down means to be caught in an embarrassingly unprepared state. To wear the trousers is to be the dominant partner and to fly by the seat of your pants means to rely on instinct rather than knowledge or logic.
I hope I haven’t bored the pants off you.