While the wealthiest male citizens in Europe wore knee breeches in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, ankle-length trousers had been workingmen's attire for many years. Before the French Revolution (1789–99), the lives of the rich and poor in France grew further and further apart. The rich lived luxuriously while the poor lived in filth. To topple the tyranny of the wealthy, an angry mob stormed the Bastille, a prison in Paris, France, in 1789 to start the French Revolution. Among the mob were crowds of working people in trousers. Soon revolutionaries were referred to as sans-culottes, which meant without breeches. Trousers came to symbolize the ideas of the revolution, an effort to make French people more equal, and it was not long before men of all classes were wearing long trousers.

Trousers soon replaced breeches as the standard leg wear for men in France and England and later the rest of Europe and the United States. Later in the eighteenth century, dandies, or fashionable young men, in England were wearing neatly tailored trousers with straps under the foot or buttons at the ankle.


Boucher, François. 20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment. Expanded ed. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1987.

Perl, Lila. From Top Hats to Baseball Caps, From Bustles to Blue Jeans: Why We Dress the Way We Do. New York: Clarion Books, 1990.

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