A Brief History of Trousers

The first recorded reports of trousers were made by 6th century BC Greek geographers, noting the appearance of Persian, Eastern and Central Asian horse riders. It makes sense that the protection and comfort they provided from extended periods on horseback would make trousers an extremely practical choice.

A vase depicting trousers dating back to about 470 BC

A vase depicting trousers dating back to about 470 BC

But the Ancient Greeks snubbed the garment, finding them ridiculous and nick-naming them thulakos – meaning ‘sacks’ (the irony of how silly togas look was clearly lost on them!) Subsequently, the Romans (who held the Greeks in high cultural esteem) rebuffed them as well. But as the empire spread further round the world, the warmth and practicality that trousers offered gradually increased their popularity.

Trousers were originally worn in the military and on horseback

Trousers were originally worn in the military and on horseback

Initially trousers were considered a military garment – either in the form of snug shorts or loose fitting trousers that closed at the ankles. But over time the design was altered and honed, and by the start of the middle ages the ‘modern’ trouser design had been established. Indeed, the Bayeaux Tapestry depicts trousers of a very similar style to the 4th century pair in this image:

Trousers from the 4th century - found in the Thorsberg moor, Germany

Trousers from the 4th century – found in the Thorsberg moor, Germany

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