Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Who invented trousers?

This time, it was not a Roman invention, but the Greeks relate it back to a powerful barbarian woman. According to 'ancient Greek traditions', 'the origin of this exotic attire' was referred to a series of different warrior queens of the East. In one of these legends, it is claimed 'that trousers and long sleeves were first introduced by Medea, the mythic sorceress-princess of Colchis who became the lover of the Argonaut Jason' (A. Mayor, The Amazons, Princeton, 2014).
In fact, trousers were more complicated to produce than a tunic or a toga. The latter were roughly a rectangle piece of cloth, draped and mostly fastened with pins and belt (as we can see them also in the wrap-around skirt of the Egyptians or the ancient and modern sari of Indian people).
Trousers, however, had to be invented, and they served a particular purpose - not far from their use in modern times, linked to riding, in antiquity they were produced for sitting on horses and fighting wars. Indeed, 'the earliest preserved trousers have been excavated in burials of horse-riding men and women in the Tarim Basin, dating to 1200 to 900 BC'. And in more recent excavations, 'two pairs of trousers fashioned more than three thousand years ago' were made from 'three pieces of wool with complicated zigzag and other woven patterns and featuring an inset crotch gusset for freer movement' (Mayor, 191). Again, it points to them having been used for sitting on the back of a horse.
What is interesting to note: They were not originally made for men, but used by both sexes, and it seems curious that what was once produced for hunting and warfare has been retained as the standard cloth for men today, even though there is now a general acceptance of trousers by women, while old tunica, skirts and sari are still not common as dresses for men.