Why do we wear pants

Meeting a man in a skirt on the street is unusual and attracts our attention - not a woman who wears pants. Since the women's rights movements, women have fought for the right to wear trousers. Today women in trousers shape the image of women in western societies just like their co-workers wearing skirts or dresses. But men wear little or no skirts. A marginal exception, besides the tartan skirt, is the men's skirt, brought to the catwalk by fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier in 1984 and worn as a short-lived fad by male fashion icons and stars as a kind of masquerade at public appearances. Even if the men's skirt has never completely disappeared, only a very small group uses this garment today. It did not catch on as a fashion trend at the end of the 20th century and is now considered unusual and “special” when it is worn in public. The skirt is considered unmanly, as the name «men's skirt» shows. At the same time, trousers, a long symbol of bourgeois man and masculinity, are no longer considered unfeminine and can be worn equally by both sexes. It wasn't always like this: until well into the 18th century, skirt was not only reserved for women; on the other hand, trousers have always been a garment attributed to men. Clothing assigns us to a social group and creates identity, which clearly includes gender identity. The bodies become visible as sexually marked bodies through clothing, among other things. How masculinity and femininity are shown and fixed in clothing has changed over the course of time.

Let's take a look at history and see if we can find a possible explanation of how the two pieces of clothing were made and how they are handled and handled further. In the 12th century, clothes in Europe, starting from France, were first cut to the body, which is shown by the Middle High German term "snit" (cutting of clothes). This now tailored courtly clothing was something new, after bag-like clothing had been common since the Carolingian times. The cutting technique developed quickly and, due to the improved economic situation, spread from the nobility to the urban bourgeoisie. Since the clothes were now tailored to the body shape, women's and men's robes differed more clearly than before, but the distinction was not yet decisive. In the 14th century, the differences in clothing increased, for example with the advent of the décolleté for women. Individual design elements assigned clothing to either women or men and thus made a clear distinction between the sexes clear: From now on, dresses were an important part of the assignment of a gender. However, the distinction between the social class - the class - based on the clothing that identifies someone as a peasant or a nobleman, for example, is much clearer than that of the sexes.

Beauty of man's legs
The skirt (or the long shirt that fell over the legs) was still worn by both sexes in all layers. Depending on the class, women’s and men’s clothes were equally valuable or functional, as the pictures and texts of this time show us. It is important that the distinction between the sexes through clothing has been made since the 14th century, but it was more about gradual difference and classification. The biological, physical distinction was only given the qualitative significance we know today from the middle of the 18th century. Before the eighteenth century, we could ask ourselves the following question: Why did men wear skirts and women not trousers? However, such a question would have met with incomprehension at the time, because why should men not wear skirts? The skirt did not yet have a feminine connotation, but trousers as a piece of clothing were reserved for men. The trousers were initially stocking-like, tight-fitting trousers, which were supposed to bring out the beauty of the male legs. In many pictures from the Middle Ages we find men with shorts and / or a robe that allowed a view of their legs. However, it wasn't until the 14th century that trousers as we know them today were made. This new type of trousers marked masculinity, but did not (yet) replace the skirt for men. During this time, the difference in clothes served mainly to mark the class affiliation. The fabrics, the colors and the cuts of the clothes differed greatly between the stands. With the emergence of increasingly strict dress codes, the separation of the sexes also became more pronounced. In particular, women's clothing was clear and laid down down to the smallest detail by rules for the preservation of honor and morality. But men's clothing was also subject to regulations - for example, the men's skirt could not be too short. Over the centuries, clothing and dress codes changed continuously, but they always served to maintain the existing hierarchical order. In the 17th century, nobility fashion culminated in the display of extravagance and luxury: women and men wore wigs, high heels and skirts. At the same time, the emerging and growing bourgeoisie propagated expediency and sobriety.

Bourgeois two-gender model
In the course of the 18th century, the gender roles previously defined by the class changed: the bourgeoisie prevailed against the nobility and opposed them with their new ideals. With the nobility, their clothing was also derogatory feminized, the bourgeoisie as well as their way of life and morals were defined and idealized as male, represented by the (male) working citizen. The bourgeois idea of ​​masculinity - and thus of human beings - was defined, among other things, by work, performance, activity and intellect. The bourgeoisie produced a hierarchically structured, hegemonic two-gender model in which women were qualitatively inferior and subordinate to men. The man was the yardstick, the norm, while the woman was defined as the "other", the "lesser" and lost her right to self-determination. The clothing now consistently differed from the brightly colored and playful of the nobility, for example in their dark colors and simple cuts - and they also differed greatly according to gender. The man no longer wore a skirt - at most in his earliest childhood, because until the 1920s, boys and girls were dressed the same way up to the age of three, so boys also wore skirts. The trousers and the suit were reserved for men; wearing trousers was still taboo for women. The rights of women only had to be laboriously fought for in women's rights movements since the middle of the 19th century. As a result, there were calls for equal rights in terms of clothing, including trousers. First of all, women's pants were tolerated for sporting activities such as cycling, although this initially caused quite a stir. This was followed by women's trousers as part of work clothing, especially during the two world wars. Wearing trousers was not socially accepted until the 1960s.

Man as a yardstick
For a long time, wearing uniform trousers - especially those that did not accentuate the body - represented the bourgeois man and could not be feminized under any circumstances (because this would have meant imitating the effeminate nobility). This may explain why women shouldn't wear pants for such a long time. Because that would no longer guarantee the bourgeois man's sole position of power. Conversely, adopting a feminine-coded item of clothing such as a skirt would mean the loss of masculinity and its position. The man would be subject to a devaluation. This is probably one of the reasons why the “modern” men's skirt never really caught on. The equality of men and women was theoretically achieved through the women's movements and at the same time the wearing of trousers was legitimized for women. Nevertheless, the hegemonic gender order, which was established by the bourgeoisie about 200 years ago, still exists. The man serves as a yardstick, the woman approaches this status, among other things, by wearing trousers - the man who wears a skirt, however, renounces his male status.