Who doesn’t love a comfortable pair of go-to pants that you can wear for almost anything? Whether it be for going to work, working out, or just lounging around, the harem pants have swept the fashion industry as the ultra-comfortable alternative to almost anything in your wardrobe. And because these pants have elastic cuffs at the end, they have been the pants of choice for short people like myself (No more hemming!). Originating in Persia around 10 BCE, these pants (not given the word “harem” yet), were worn by women in certain Middle Eastern tribes to “represent modesty and innocence” since the design of the pants offered an alternative to form fitting clothing at the time. As columnist Megan Wright wrote, these pants emphasized a “women’s role as a ‘patriarchal property and ‘underdeveloped’ personality’; however, men and other family members later began wearing similar pants due to their comfort and ease of movement.
The next significant development of a similar type of pants was with the creation of the “Bloomers” by the women’s right activist Amelia Bloomer in the 19th century. Bloomer created these popular pants to push gender boundaries since only men wore pants in public and to also give women comfortable and versatile clothing. The very same style of pants used to symbolize oppression was then used to challenge societal gender norms. The pants were even wore during suffrage movements, but later decreased in popularity until designer Paul Poiret re-introduced the pants in 1911 and gave them the iconic name, the “harem pants.” Women again wore harem pants to “intentionally dress like men,” challenging gender norms and also “associating themselves with male power and privilege.”
The harem pants then surged back into popularity with the “hammer harem pants” worn by M.C. Hammer, from whom the hammer pants were given its name, in a 1980 music video. Since then and after a very positive reaction to them at recent fashion shows, harem pants are now worn by both genders for not only comfort and versatility, but also for style.