Trousers are an item of clothing worn on the lower part of the body from the waist to the ankles, covering both legs separately (rather than with cloth stretching across both as in skirts and dresses). Such items of clothing are often referred to as pants in countries such as Canada, South Africa and the United States. Additional synonyms include slacks, breeches (sometimes ) or breeks. Historically, as for the West, trousers have been the standard lower-body clothing item for males since the 16th century; by the late 20th century, they had become prevalent for females as well. Trousers are worn at 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 lycra.
In Australia the terms pants and trousers are synonymous.
In most parts of the United Kingdom, trousers is the general category term, and pants refers to underwear. In some parts of Scotland, trousers are known as trews; taken from the early Middle English trouse, its plural developed into trousers.
Various people in the contemporary fashion industry use the word pant instead of pants. This is grammatically incorrect. The word pants is a plurale tantum, always in plural form much like the words scissors and tongs. The origin of pants is due to the use of two pieces of cloth in making it. Pant would actually mean just a single leg being covered with clothing.
In ancient China, trousers were only worn by soldiers. Trousers were introduced into Western European culture at several points in history, but gained their current predominance only in the 16th century, from a Commedia dell'Arte character named Pantalone (Italian word for Trousers). In England in the Twelfth century, the rustic were often seen in long garments to the ankle, rather like trousers, which are really glorified braies. Strangely enough, trouserlike garments, which became rare again in the thirteenth century, vanished during the fourteenth century and scarcely reappeared for six hundred years. The word itself is of Gaelic origin, from the Middle Irish word "triubhas" (close-fitting shorts).
By the end of the 16th century, the codpiece had been incorporated into the hose, now usually called breeches, which were roughly knee-length and featured a fly or fall front opening.
During the French Revolution, the male citizens of France adopted a working-class costume including ankle-length trousers or pantaloons in place of the aristocratic knee-breeches. This style was introduced to England in the early 19th century, possibly by Beau Brummell, and supplanted breeches as fashionable street wear by mid-century. Breeches survived into the 1940s as the plus-fours or knickers worn for active sports and by young school-boys. Types of breeches are still worn today by baseball and football players.
Sailors may have played a role in the dissemination of trousers as a fashion around the world. In the 17th and 18th centuries, sailors wore baggy trousers known as galligaskins. Sailors were also the first to wear jeans -- trousers made of denim. These became more popular in the late 19th century in the American West, because of their ruggedness and durability.
The Wigan pit brow girls scandalized Victorian society by wearing trousers for their dangerous work in the coal mines. They wore skirts over their trousers and rolled them up to their waist to keep them out of the way.
Women working the ranches of the 19th century American West also wore trousers for riding, and in the early 20th century aviatrices and other working women often wore trousers. Actresses Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn were often photographed in trousers from the 1930s and 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, and in the post-war era trousers became acceptable casual wear for gardening, the beach, and other leisure pursuits.
In Britain during the Second World War, 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 in the armed forces. This was partly because they were seen as practical garments of 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 clothes wore out, replacements were needed, so that by the summer of 1944 it was reported that sales of women's trousers were five times more than in the previous year.
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 eroding of the prohibitions against girls and women wearing trousers in schools, the workplace, and fine restaurants.
It is customary in the western world for men to wear trousers and not skirts or dresses. However, there are exceptions, such as the Scottish kilt and the Greek foustanella, worn on ceremonial occasions, as well as robes or robe-like clothing such as the cassocks, etc. of clergy and academic robes (both rarely worn in daily use today). (See also Men's skirts.)
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 that the latter was already covered by another law.
It 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 penalized under the law would be young African-American men, the law would thus be a form of discrimination against them. Virginia's state senators voted against passing the law.
Carol Broussard, mayor of Delcambre, said that he will sign the proposal unanimously passed by town councillors, so that wearing trousers that reveal one's underwear will lead to a $500 penalty and the risk of six months in jail. "If you expose your private parts, you'll get a fine," said Mr Broussard. He told the Associated Press that people wearing low-slung trousers are "better off taking the pants off and wearing a dress." Ted Ayo, town attorney, said that the new legislation would expand on existing indecent exposure laws in Louisiana: "This is a new ordinance that deals specifically with sagging pants. It's about showing off your underwear in public". Mr. Broussard has received local criticism for the ordinance, with some Delcambre residents claiming that the proposal is racially motivated, due to the popularity of "sagging pants" among black hip-hop fans. However, he responded: "White people wear sagging pants, too."