Why do we wear trousers?

According to The Atlantic, it’s because of horses.

Whence came pants? I’m wearing pants right now. There’s a better than 50 percent chance that you, too, are wearing pants. And neither of us have probably asked ourselves a simple question: Why?

It turns out the answer is inexplicably bound up with the Roman Empire, the unification of China, gender studies, and the rather uncomfortable positioning of man atop horse, at least according to University of Connecticut evolutionary biologist Peter Turchin.

. . .

The reasons why pants are advantageous when mounted atop a horse should be obvious, nonetheless, many cultures struggled to adapt, even when their very existences were threatened by superior, trouser-clad horseback riders.

. . .

What all these examples suggest is that technological systems — cavalry, bicycling — sometimes require massive alterations in a society’s culture before they can truly become functional. And once it’s locked in, the cultural solution (pants) to an era’s big problem can be more durable than the activity (horse-mounted combat) that prompted it.

There’s more at the link.

I don’t know why, but I’d never stopped to ask myself why we wear trousers.  The answer makes perfect sense when you think about it . . . but I still wonder why I never asked the question!  So, now that we don’t ride horses (much), why do we still wear trousers?  Why aren’t, say, kilts making a comeback?  Oh, but wait . . .



  1. Silly of me, hadn't thought about that.

    I always get a chuckle out of statements like the closing sentence though, 'And once it's locked in, the cultural solution (pants) to an era's big problem can be more durable than the activity (horse-mounted combat) that prompted it.'

    The idea that mounted warriors, with over 3000 years of game-changing success isn't a 'durable' activity strikes me as a rather poor use of the word. Outclassed by current technology perhaps…but certainly enduring!

  2. Nice find on the article.

    I love how the article jokes that since we don't ride horses, technically we can go back to kilts. Cause riding bicycles, disarming IEDs and operating heavy machinery in confined spaces are the perfect place for skirts, kilts and loose dangly bits.

    Also never mind that we used effective cavalry units right up to and beyond the second world war.

    Luan – Perth, Australia

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