Are pants really more comfortable than skirts?

Recently I stumbled upon this paper from a few years back, The invention of trousers and its likely affiliation with horseback riding and mobility: A case study of late 2nd millennium BC finds from Turfan in eastern Central Asia. Basically, it seems that trousers emerge with mounted cavalry. The dominance of mounted cavalry in the years after the fall of Rome resulted in the emergence of a trousered elite, and the shift away from the tunics of antiquity.

Today we don’t ride horses, so the utility of trousers in that context is gone. It seems that if you work in blue-collar professions and it cold climates trousers are still useful. But is there a reason for men in warm climates in white-collar professions to continue going with trousers as opposed to a simple tunic? Are we just stuck with tradition?

8 thoughts on “Are pants really more comfortable than skirts?

  1. There are lot of Western clothing standards which are uncomfortable. Especially if talking about standard business dress.
    On the other hand there were much more uncomfortable, even unhealthy ways of dressing and making oneself up in Europe and beyond in the past. In comparison to that, modern Western clothing is practical, but has still potential for improvement.

    There was a time when women wore heavy bronce rings, just to show off their wealth to others, even if this ruined their posture and health on the long run. I’m talking about an ancient European culture…
    Human culture is just prone to degeneration, especially if there is some sort of social competition which left all bio-logic and gets a dynamic on its own.

  2. here in The Netherlands we ride bicycles daily, so a tunic would be a bit draughty.
    Or we’d have to adopt ladies’ saddles, lead weighted tunics or ride with one hand constantly holding down the tunic. All things skirt-wearing cyclists do.

  3. It is worse than that.

    White collar men around the world, are wearing outfits specifically devised to fit the climate of London, England, even though the climate in much of the United States and other places that have adopted this fashion by imitation, are ill suited for it because they have much warmer weather than London ever experiences.

    We compensate for that, partially, with air conditioning which compounded with more climate suitable women’s clothing produces the white collar office phenomena known as “women’s winter” in AC season.

    Ironically, as one of my former bosses observed regularly, the British themselves had no qualms about conquering the tropical parts of the world while wearing shorts.

  4. I’ve worn Japanese yukata (more formal ones, not the ones you get in a hotel to go to the bath) in heat and humidity. I find it very uncomfortable as I can feel the sweat on my legs much more than with pants. It’s also not really cooler–rather like mittens are warmer than gloves I imagine.

    In the old days, people tucked the ends of their kimono up into their belts to work, exposing the legs. I’ve tried this, and it improves the comfort of the garment a lot. However, it’s considered improper for wearing around town.

    I’ve also worn Mongolian deel for an extended period. Here are some observations on skirt-like garments from wearing deel and yukata:

    (1) Pants work better with western chair-toilets. Skirts are better than pants on Asian squat-toilets but more troublesome than pants on chair-toilets.

    (2) It’s easier to adjust your legs on a chair while wearing pants. I have a job where I have to sit for extended periods, and I often shift around, changing my leg position by, eg, hooking my toes around the chair legs or “man-spreading.” This is virtually impossible in kimono and less easy in other skirt garments.

    (3) Walking and especially running are easier in pants. Want to bound up several stairs at a time wearing a kimono? Can’t do it.

    It’s true that kimono/deel is different from, eg, Burmese longyi in that the design makes them more constricting. Men in Myanmar are constantly having to re-tighten the waists of their longyi however. Also, I have serious doubts that the longyi doesn’t have the same “sweaty mitten” effect that the yukata does, it’s use in a warm clime notwithstanding.

    A major drawback of western trousers is that the area around the hips and waist has to be presentable because of tucked-in shirt-tails. I would prefer if people moved toward some variant of a Chinese magua/tangzhuang. This would cover trousers’ waistlines, allowing them to be designed with comfort rather than appearance in mind.

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