Why Are Trousers Called Slacks? (Are Trousers and Slacks the Same Thing?)

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Why Are Trousers Called Slacks?

In the United States… slacks are known as pants or trousers. The word “slacks” is also used to refer to men’s shorts… which are never called pants. But in places like Australia and the United Kingdom… women’s pants are called slacks… and men’s pants are called trousers.

So why are trousers called slacks?

The term “slacks” dates back to the mid-16th century when sailors were working on a ship with sails. The ropes that held up their pants became known as slacks because they were slack when the sailors weren’t working but taut and tight when they were at work.

Slack is also a British slang term for not busy or idle. When you’re not doing anything… you’re said to be “slack.” It is a derogatory term for someone who is not pulling their weight at work.

Because of this… many people feel that the term “slacks” comes from a time when men wore their pants while doing nothing because they didn’t have anything else to do.

The term “slacks” comes from an alteration of “sleek”… a reference to the styling of both trousers and slacks… which tend to be smoother and sleeker than their counterparts.

Are Trousers and Slacks the Same Thing?

Well… as already discussed that depends on where you come from. If I was in Australia a man would shop for trousers… he would never ask for slacks because that is the female version of pants. So… in Australia… they would definitely not be the same thing.

However… in the United States… the term is more interchangeable so the words could refer to the same thing.

What’s the Difference Between Slacks and Pants?

Even though you can’t go wrong with either word most of the time… slacks are more formal… and trousers are often used as a more casual alternative (although you can get formal trousers as well).

Trousers are a man’s pair of pants. They have an opening at the front and are held up with a belt at the waist. They can be worn for particular occasions such as weddings or funerals or for sports such as horse riding.

Trousers are usually what men’s pants are referred to… while slacks are a term usually used for women’s pants. The difference between trousers and slacks is that slacks have a looser fit than trousers.

This is probably because women’s hips are bigger than men’s hips and so need more room for their thighs to move freely.

It can also be because slacks are worn in places such as offices where smartness is required… whereas men’s trousers would be worn in situations where comfort rather than smartness is needed… such as in a factory or garden shed.

  • Trousers are generally loose-fitting and waistbanded… while slacks are made more for comfort and fit… having no waistband.
  • Slacks are typically worn as business attire… while trousers are worn more casually.

In the past many people would distinguish between the two by using slacks only for darker colors and trousers only for lighter colors; however… this is no longer always observed.

Are Trousers and Pants the Same Thing?

Trousers and pants are the same things… but the terms are used differently in different countries. In the U.S.. trousers are usually worn by men… while women and children wear pants. In the UK… Australia… and Canada… the two words mean exactly the same thing. They refer to a garment that covers a person’s legs and is typically part of an outfit.

In other countries—particularly those in Africa… Asia… South America… and Eastern Europe—a trouser is a type of garment that may or may not cover a person’s legs. It’s worn by both men and women and is made from a heavy fabric such as denim or wool.

Are Trousers Dress Pants?

Are trousers dress pants? It depends. Trousers… which are the British word for pants… is a generic term that can refer to any item of clothing made of fabric.

Dress pants are a specific kind of trousers… one worn primarily with business suits. Both men and women can wear them. So while not all trousers are dress pants some trousers are dress pants.

Trouser pants have many other names. They’re also sometimes called slacks… although informal parlance this term is more strictly used for a specific type of trouser that is loose-fitting and ankle length.

  • Athletic pants are the kind of long shorts that people wear to do sports in.
  • In the military… they are called fatigue pants… and this term is also used to describe a casual style of trousers that has become very popular in recent years.
  • In informal parlance… trousers are called jeans when they are made out of denim fabric and chinos when they are made out of twill cloth.
  • Jeans were originally worn as work clothes; chinos were originally worn by British colonial officers and subsequently became a staple of international style.

So as you can see there are many different types of trousers – including trousers that are dress pants.

What Are Considered Trousers?

Trousers are a type of garment that is worn on the lower body and covers the legs… usually down to the ankles. The term trousers can be used to describe both men’s trousers… which are also known as pants and knickers… and women’s trousers… which are also known as slacks or pantaloons.

There is no firm definition for what constitutes a pair of trousers… but a general consensus is that it refers to any pair of pants that are not shorts or a skirt.

Trousers are two-leg garments that end at or below the knee and are fastened about the waist. Typically trousers will fall below the ankle bone. Trousers can be worn by both men and women. Examples of trousers include jeans… chinos… cargo pants… and slacks.

Why Are Trousers Called Trousers?

Trousers are also called pants in American English. The word trousers is a borrowing from French… which in turn comes from the Middle French word “trousses,” meaning “leg wraps.”

Trousers were originally a type of clothing worn by sailors and fishermen in Europe. They were made to be loose-fitting… and they were tied at the waist with ribbons or string so they wouldn’t fall off. Trousers later became part of men’s streetwear and formal attire throughout the 18th century… when they were often paired with knee-high boots.

Why Is It a Pair of Trousers?

Pair of trousers… pair of shoes… pair of socks – all are pairs. But why is it a pair of trousers?

We’ve all heard that you put pants on one leg at a time… but did you ever stop to wonder why it wasn’t called a pair of legs?

Trousers were originally two separate items that were worn together: breeches and stockings. You put them on one leg at a time because they were not one item. Pants came to be used for one leg covering.

Trousers were originally called “pantaloons” because they came with matching leggings… which could be buttoned up the side. The name “pants” eventually caught on… but it didn’t happen right away. At first… people used both words interchangeably to refer to the same thing.

Pantaloons vs. pants

Eventually… however… pants became so prevalent that “pantaloons” fell out of use. It’s pretty easy to understand why: If you had to wear one-half of your pants separately from the other half… you’d have a hard time getting dressed in a hurry. It’s also much more comfortable to wear them together — and this is what most people do today.


How Many Trousers Is a Pair of Trousers?

So what exactly constitutes a pair of trousers? Because… if you buy one trouser you get a pair automatically? Or do you need to buy two pairs to get a pair?

One trouser garment is called a pair of trousers. If you want two garments you would buy two pairs of trousers. While two pairs are usually 4 in the case of trousers it is 2. Because the pairs refer to the legs.

In summary… the bottom line is that… no matter how strange it may seem… trousers and slacks are the same things to most of the English-speaking world. Slacks have overtaken trousers in contemporary usage… though their exact origin is a bit vague. Despite this fact… the term trousers will still be in use for some time to come.

You may also be interested in. How Are Chinos Different from Trousers? and Can You Wash Leather Trousers?