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Who First Invented And Wore Pants?

by Kristin Beck
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Who First Invented And Wore Pants?

Who First Invented And Wore Pants?

“Pants are one of those things that we all take very much for granted. They’re a basic part of our wardrobe, but they’ve also changed a lot over time. The oldest known pants were discovered at the Yanghai Cemetery on the outskirts of modern-day Turpan, Sinkiang (in present-day Tocharian country) in western China. It was estimated that these pants were worn around 2,000 years ago by people who lived during the Bronze Age.
These pants were made from wool, which is why archaeologists refer to them as “”pants.”” These pants had straight legs and wide crotches and would have probably been made for horseback riding. We don’t know if the pants’ inventors wore them themselves or if other people just saw them being worn and decided to copy them.
One thing is certain though: The pants were not invented in ancient Egypt. That honor goes to a man named Heracles, whose mythological history dates back to about 1500 BC. He was said to be the son of Zeus, king of Greece, and the goddess Hera. When he was born, his mother hid him because she didn’t want her husband to kill his child. As an adult, Heracles fought snakes and monsters, killed his family relatives, and served as a god of healing. His story has some similarities with another Greek legend called Gilgamesh, except that instead of battling animals, the latter wrote epic poems about human achievements.
In both stories, there is a character called Dionysus, who is depicted as the god of wine and fertility. This may seem like a stretch, since Dionysus wasn’t really associated with anything having to do with clothing or underwear until later times, but let’s leave that aside for now. What does matter here is how this character was connected to Heracles. It seems that after killing his nephew Pentheus — King of Thebes, who was murdered by women worshipping the god Bacchus, aka Dionysus — Heracles went into mourning. He took off his royal garments and went naked into the wilderness. There he spent several months fasting and drinking water out of rivers. Afterward, he put on new clothes again and continued his journey to find new lands.
So what did this have to do with pants? Well, according to some historians, Dionysus was the first person to wear pants. But others say that Dionysus was actually wearing loincloths when he appeared before humans. In any case, the idea of pants originated somewhere in Asia and spread throughout Europe. By the Middle Ages, everyone knew how pants functioned, and it became a common practice among royalty. For example, the French monarchs Louis VII and Philip IV were often seen wearing short pants.
But then something changed. Around 1300 AD, European lords started to grow their leg hair long enough to cover their lower limbs completely. At first, they kept their pant legs short to prevent anyone from seeing their nether regions. However, as more and more men grew their leg hairs longer and longer, eventually some began wearing pants that covered their feet entirely.
This change occurred because in the Middle Ages, Europeans became increasingly interested in hunting. Hunting required boots, and hunters needed weapons, especially sharp ones. Since the Middle Ages, most people used knives, swords and spears to hunt. But these tools could only cut through animal hides. So when they wanted to go after game, such as deer, they’d need to use dogs and horses. If they caught sight of a wild boar while walking down the road, however, they could simply chase it. A hunter wouldn’t even need a weapon; all he’d have to do was grab hold of the pig’s hind legs and pull it behind him.
It didn’t take long for someone to figure out that using dogs and horses to catch prey would be faster than pulling it along by hand. One of the earliest documents testifying to this fact comes from 1276 AD, when a monk named Peter the Venerable described a group of people dressed in leather armor chasing boars across marshlands.
As mentioned earlier, the idea of pants originated in Asia. The Chinese word chái means trousers in Mandarin, Cantonese and Taiwanese dialects, which shows that its origins can be traced back to the Tocharians. According to anthropologist Wang Mengshu, the word “”pant”” came from Persian pánç (“”undergarment””). Another possible source of the term comes from Arabic al-qanqa’, meaning “”breeches,”” which refers to loose-fitting outerwear similar to what early Christians wore under their robes. These breeches were usually worn by merchants and traders.
A third possibility stems from Sanskrit níkhl, meaning “”legs.”” All of these terms point to the fact that pants originated in the East. Historians think that the concept first came to Europe via Persia, where many trade routes passed through Central Asia.
Whatever the exact origin of pants may be, they were widely adopted in Western culture once they arrived there. Scholars believe that the reason for this lies in the fact that trousers allowed for greater freedom of movement than traditional tunics and cloaks. Trousers gave people the ability to walk comfortably without falling over or stepping in mud. This increased productivity and efficiency, thus leading to better living conditions and greater wealth.
Even today, people tend to prefer pants over skirts. Although the reasons for this preference aren’t yet fully understood, one theory suggests that pants allow us to move more freely, making it easier to access areas beyond reach. Another theory states that pants help keep insects away due to their tight fit. Finally, some scientists suggest that pants make it easier to regulate body temperature, thanks to their air circulation capabilities.
If you liked this article, you might also enjoy:
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Emily Upton writes for the wildly popular interesting fact websiteTodayIFoundOut.com. To subscribe to Today I Found Out’s “”Daily Knowledge”” newsletter,click here or like them on Facebook here. You can also check ’em out on YouTube here.
Image: Shutterstock/Oksana Prokopenko”

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