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A Brief History of Pants



We make pants. Damn fine ones if you ask us. Whether you call them trousers, slacks, pants, britches, breeches, breeks, trews, cacks, or any of the myriad other names available to this ubiquitous piece of clothing comprised of material covering each leg separately from waist to ankle and bound around the waist, you may have never thought about the history of pants.

So, buckle up, we’re about to get into some obscure, and fascinating, history. 

The oldest known pant

The oldest known physical example of pants was discovered in the Tarim Basin of China. Carbon dating estimates that the two pairs are more than 3,000 old. Further examination of the garments indicated that the pants were constructed of only 3 pieces of fabric with no obvious stitching; the legs and crotch pieces were joined on the loom meaning that these were especially bespoke pants. Hints of belt loops were also discovered. 


These wide, straight leg pants were discovered in a region associated with the Silk Road from your school history lessons. Vast amounts of commerce, war, and migrations of peoples have marked this region that was known as the Western Region until the 1880’s. It stands to reason that given the volume of trade and conflicting influences this region has experienced over the millennia that even older pants could be discovered in the arid plains of the Tarim Basin.

The Achaemenid Empire city of Persepolis, itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site, found in modern Iran has recorded examples of artwork and rock carvings dating to the sixth century BC showing nomads of both sexes wearing pants. Ancient Greeks referred to these garments as anaxyrides when worn by nomads of more eastern Asia, and sarabara for the Scythian and Pontic Steppe peoples. The primary differences are the materials used and the width of each pant leg. The Ancient Greeks generally disdained pants, calling them all thulakos, or sack, and preferred to wear tunics and robes.   


The Romans continued with the Greek tradition of wearing a himation in various forms. Himations could be worn as a stand-alone garment and are typically featured in Biblical representations of women’s dress, in particular, the Virgin Mary. Roman togas are a variation of this noticeably non-pants garment. But as the Roman Empire expanded into the colder climes of Europe and the British Isles soldiers adopted the Braccae and Feminalia worn by the Barbarians we know as Celtis and Teutons. Early examples of trews appear on Volubilis’ triumphal arch which shows a Caledonia Pict prisoner wearing tartan trews. Trews would remain a staple of Scottish Highland dress for centuries and are likely the origin of the word trouser.   

As the Roman Empire waned the proliferation of pants continued. Now made from leather, wool, cotton, or silk and featuring a tight cuff at the ankle or with foot coverings (just like your footie pajamas from childhood) and were known as brais. Charlemagne wore pants under his ceremonial tunics so frequently that it became fashionable for men’s pants to not be seen; as the pants became briefer (shorter, and perhaps the root of the modern underwear term), they were worn in conjunction with medieval hose or stockings.

pants through the ages

By the fourteenth century, we have reached what could be considered a fashion low tide. Sure, the materials and colors were vibrant and unique. Men’s leggings were frequently high-waisted and exceptionally tight. So tight that undergarments were done away with and were once again generally a three-piece construction- 2 independent legs and the separate fastening codpiece.   

In 1701 Russian Tsar Peter the Great issued his new dress code requiring Russian men to wear pants. Only the clergy and some peasant farmers were excluded from the nationwide mandate to adopt “Western dress” which included guidelines for French or Saxon style shirts and “upper dress” and German style waistcoats, trousers, and boots for “lower dress”. Pants were having a moment even if by royal decree.   

Nearing the end of that same century in France, the ankle-length working-class pantaloons became emblematic of the French Revolution while the shorter culottes played the aristocratic foil. Following the revolution in France British fashion advisor and designer Beau Brummel helped move the pantaloon into acceptable menswear known as breeches. Remnants of breeches can still be seen in British court dress as well as in the uniform bottoms of American football players, baseball players, as well as by many competitive equestrians.   

In a previous article, we discussed the origins of Denim Blue Jeans which began at about this same time, so we won’t go into detail here about that origin story. Chinos began to come into use among British and French militaries by the mid-1800s. These cotton twill pants were a vast improvement in comfort and mobility for soldiers. Many soldiers kept their uniforms, when possible, to have them patched up and wore them for years after leaving service. Still, others hired tailors and seamstresses to duplicate their Chinos but without military embellishments. As the early panatolones chinos originated in China and were of khaki color, we now refer to them as either Chinos or Khakis- even though khaki is used as both a color and a garment style.


Not much happened in the timeline of pants until 2003 when a small gathering of friends hatched the plan to make better pants and Mountain Khakis was born. Since that time, we have grown immeasurably. As consumer demand increased and tastes ebbed and flowed, we have gone from 1-2 styles of Men’s pants to serving as a full-scale outfitter with shirts, outerwear, shorts, jeans, work pants, along with our cotton canvas Mountain Pant, and the classic styling of the Teton Pant.

We have incorporated 2% stretch, so our pants move with you and not against you. Not only does this improve comfort and mobility but it also improves the lifecycle of your Mountain Khakis. So even though your new pair of Mountain Pants don’t feel like the pair you bought years ago, they are no less durable. Both feature 10.2 oz Organic Cotton Canvas. We updated the canvas to have a softer feel- as if you have broken them in already- so you can love them from the first time you wear them and for years to come.

Our Camber series of pants has developed its own cult following. Tough, durable, comfortable, and functional each of the Camber pants has been designed for work, the field, casual wear, and everything in between. 

The Camber series and the Mountain Pant anchor our Outdoor Collection of purpose-built pants. Available in Classic fit and a variety of approachable colors this Collection is a staple for many men. The Teton Pant is joined by a host of other can’t go wrong pants in our Casual Lifestyle Collection. Here you might find denim jeans, our dressy Archer Herringbone Pant, the Waterrock Pant as well as styles available in Relaxed, Modern, or Slim fit profiles.

While our pants don’t date back to prehistoric periods, they will accompany you on adventures far away, or a quick trip to town. If you need help finding the right Mountain Khakis, reach out to us, and one of our Consumer Engagement team members will make sure you are well cared for.   

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