Hot pants are extremely short shorts that were designed to be worn as dressy clothing for women. Young people of the 1970s began to leave behind the ragged, patched-denim political style of the mid- to late 1960s. They gathered in nightclubs to dance to disco music and returned to the glamorous styles made popular in Great Britain in the early 1960s by youths known as "mods." Many fashion experts see hot pants as a natural development of the rising miniskirt. Skirts became so short that they exposed the underwear, so a sort of formal short pair of shorts, known as short shorts, came into style. The new shorts were considered shocking and slightly naughty, and Women's Wear Daily, an influential fashion magazine, gave them the name hot pants. Unlike ordinary shorts, hot pants were usually made from formal fabrics such as velvet, satin, or leather.
Short, sexy pants had been seen before, as far back as the 1920s and 1930s, especially in Europe, but they had mainly been worn by prostitutes and nightclub performers. In the 1930 German film The Blue Angel, Marlene Dietrich (c. 1901–1992) played Lola Lola, a seductive nightclub singer who shows off her legs in a pair of extremely short shorts that are an obvious ancestor of hot pants. Comic book heroine Wonder Woman was also costumed in short shorts with high boots, a fashion that accurately predicted the 1970s look of hot pants paired with boots or platform shoes.
Though not everyone had the courage to wear the revealing new fashion, hot pants were popular among thin young women who wished to keep up-to-date in the extravagantly flashy climate of the 1970s. For a short time they even became part of the official flight attendants' uniform for Allegheny Airlines (a subsidiary of US Airways). Rhythm-and-blues singer James Brown (c. 1928–) released a popular song titled "Hot Pants" in 1977.
Hot pants went out of fashion within a few years of their introduction, and they are usually remembered as one of the many fashion mistakes of the 1970s. Since the end of that decade the look has been seldom seen, though sometimes they have been spotted on fashion models and celebrities. However, hot pants did feature prominently in the early 1980s television show The Dukes of Hazzard (1979–85), in which the female lead wore short denim shorts that came to be known as "Daisy Dukes" after her character.
Steele, Valerie. Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.