Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why Do We Wear Pants?

Every so often I come across something I want to tag for my future research project. This blog post by Peter Turchin is one of them. Turchin talks briefly about the evolution of pants as a practical object of clothing. Essentially, a split garment came about in horse cultures, as it made it safer and more efficient to ride. I can attest to that personally!

One thing that struck me in particular about Turchin's research was this:
Before the introduction of horses by Europeans (actually, re-introduction – horses were native to North America, but were hunted to extinction when humans first arrived there), civilized Amerindians wore kilts.
But when the Plains Indians started riding horses they also adopted pants. Another correlation is that typically only men wear pants (or men are first to switch to wearing pants). 
Two things popped into my head when reading this:

1) The degree to which the Native American cultures were changed by horses is something that has certainly been explored from a scholarly POV, and something I will have to look at in more depth. It's not a strength of mine, currently. This is an interesting piece of material culture history that only adds to that argument.

2) There is some excellent work about the wives of cavalry officers in the late nineteenth century, and how their lives on the edges of civilization, among men, began to shift and their societal norms with them. Wearing pants - and in general shucking fashionable clothing for more practical and protective choices - is just one of those ways. The memoirs of Libby Custer bear this out, and will be one of my sources for the mustang project.

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