are a style of trousers (pants)
characterised by the use of ripstop nylon
and / or extremely baggy cuts. In the original loose-fitting, extraneously zippered style of the late 70s 'parachute' refers to the pants' synthetic nylon material. In the later 80s 'parachute' may refer to the extreme baggyness of the pant. They are typically worn as men's wear and are often brightly colored. Parachute pants became a fashion sensation
in US culture
in the 1980s as part of an increased cultural appropriation
Early breakdancers occasionally used heavy nylon to construct jumpsuits
that would be able to endure contact with the break dancing surface, or 'break pad', while at the same time decrease friction with the dancing surface, allowing speedy and intricate 'downrock
' routines without fear of friction burns or wear in clothing. Some (possibly apocryphal) sources attribute the use of genuine parachute nylon having been cut to make such trousers possible. In the later 80s the term 'parachute pants' was used to describe any pants that were somewhat voluminous and narrow at the ankles, sometimes cinched with a tie cord running through the lower hem (unlike bell bottoms or wide leg baggy jeans), in order to increase mobility for dance moves requiring flexibility. Due to both the usage of nylon in the parachutes
, and the large baggy appearance of the parachute pants, the style of pants became known as parachute pants. Often early outfits were of a single color or slightly patchwork in nature as they were sometimes made of found materials
When manufactured and marketed as fashionable clothing, parachute pants were often constructed with lightweight synthetic fabrics, making this variety of pants more suitable for fashion than break-dancing.
As fashion cut pants, parachute pants were popularized by hip-hop performers. From this point, they were often woven of loose, light fabric, with a low seat containing many folds, and sometimes printed with complex designs, ranging from neon patterns to prints resembling Middle Eastern pattern embroidery, contrasting the earlier monochromatic heavy jumpsuits and trousers. They were also sometimes seen with many zippers and pockets, although often the pockets existed only in order to apply another zipper or other superficial feature to the outfit, and the pocket(s) would not be large enough to be usable. Parachute pants were then used primarily in choreographed hip hop
dancing, with the light, baggy fabric and folds visually enhancing the flowing rhythm of the dancers' moves, while allowing for greater comfort and mobility.
Decline in use
Infrequent in fashion as of 2008. This garment has received little serious exposure since the late 1980s. By the early 1990s parachute pants were sometimes mocked in popular culture as emblems of the 1980s, much as flares (also known as "bell-bottoms
") are associated with the 1970s.
Parachute pants had made a hidden comeback, however, as "Phat Pants", associated with the Raver subculture. For a short time in the late 1990s/early 2000s, neon, khaki, or olive drab colored heavy duty nylon pants became popular in the rave scene. While these trousers didn't exist principally for breakdancing, but rather participating in a rave, they were still primarily worn for functional reasons: many pockets for use with concealment of one's wallet/money, water, accessories, ecstasy etc. Often, the pants had a zipper around the calf used to remove the lower part of the leg, or otherwise vent the leg, to increase cooling on hot dance floors; and they were durable and inexpensive. While the surface of the textiles used didn't have the gloss associated with parachute pants, they were much closer to the early 1980s version than the misnomer given to "Hammer Pants." They were made of the same or similar heavy-duty artificial materials, with the same fit, featuring a profusion of pockets and zippers, and driven by functional awareness. Interestingly, one can find adults who have worn both types of trousers during their respective eras, and that person will make no association between nearly identical "parachute pants" circa 1982 and "rave pants" circa 1998, despite identical cut and material.