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Mar 17, 2015

Knickers for Men -- YEA or NAY?



Friends, I was taught to call the pants up top knickers.

I know that in many anglophone countries, knickers refer to women's underwear.  A big YEA for women's underwear.

The word knickers, as I understand it, is short for knickerbockers.  These are trousers that generally gather just below the knee.  They are also called breeches, plus fours and plus twos.  In the last century, they were often associated with golf.  To some extent, they still are.  You can read more about them here.

A few images through the ages:









A close cousin below:



Today, in some circles, similar knee-length pants seem to be making a comeback: in wool, in an evocation of Edwardian England, and in synthetics, as a sporty biking/hiking pant.









Not entirely coincidentally, today on Etsy I purchased this vintage unisex hiking knickers pattern, Daisy Kingdom 21 (below). 



I'm curious to see how I might incorporate these in my wardrobe.   To me they look like fun and -- hopefully -- not too costumey.

What do you think, readers?  Are knickers best left in fashion's dustheap, unearthed only for the odd 1920's reenactment party or roadshow revival of The Sound of Music?

Knickers for men -- YEA or NAY?

62 comments:

  1. I'm of two minds. On the right gentleman (taller than not, and definitely slimmer than not) a pair of not outrageously full plus-fours look terrific - I certainly think they'd flatter you.

    On the other hand, they've been out of circulation for so long that they seem likely to be more than a little costume-like. As for the bicycle shorts/pedal pushers compromise, they's a tad more practical, but they'd definitely need to favor the latter more than the former (bicycle shorts are without exception egregious).

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  2. I bought a pair in a synthetic blend tweed from Gap about 15 years ago, they're still going strong. I love that they're not mainstream, but in find them so wearable. I am a big fan of this length. Not sure about fellas, but you can pull off anything. I can see them paired with your newsboy cap!

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  3. I say yea! go for it - I think they would definitely look nice on you in a summer linen with a nice breezy shirt and nice sandals

    Cynthia

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  4. Ah, the latest recycled fashion 'trend' from 'designers' who can't seem to think of anything original, trying to foist an old moneyed style reeking of class distinction and idle leisure upon consumers who seem to think sophistication is purchased in herringbone and tweed. Studied affectation is not stylish.

    A huge 'Nay'.

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    Replies
    1. :D

      At the very least, one could practice not getting them in a twist.

      Delete
  5. Knicker(bockers) for men? Only with the long socks. With a bare calf looks too "gear-y." With gaiters only if you're actually hunting 'gators.

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  6. the one at the first picture an enthousiastic yeah ! But I don't like the ' big ' ones

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  7. I have several pictures of my dad as a kid in the 30's in knickers. He hated them and couldn't wait to get old enough to wear long pants. I actually sewed a pair in a plaid wool when I was in about 8th or 9th grade. I loved them. But that was also probably 45 years ago.

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  8. Well, everything old is new again. I say: why not?

    If you can pull that look off, go for it. But..... avoiding a "costume" look is going to be darn difficult.

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    Replies
    1. Uh, oh.... one of my friends took a look at this topic and said.... Humph, these guys look like they are channeling Rerun from What's Happening Now. Just add rainbow socks.

      Hey HEY hey.

      Delete
  9. yea for the tech fabric biker look, nay for the voluminous tweed!
    -karen

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  10. some of them, particularly the first one, i think would look great on you. but some are too balloon-y and tend to be goofy looking.

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    Replies
    1. Basically Breeks look OK. Very practical for hiking, hunting, etc. Plus Twos are roomier, but would look odd off the golf course. And Plus Fours would require you to buy a red rubber nose and orange wig.

      Delete
  11. Yea! I think the two gentlemen it the first photo look very well turned out! Not a big fan of the blousy ones though.
    On a related note, women's coullottes seem to be making a comeback.
    Maybe there's going to be a fabric shortage!

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  12. I think it depends on the physique (taller, slimmer, longer legged would work) and the fabric. I would go for linen or a technical fabric in a subdued olive or grey. The worst that happens is that you really hate them and then you can pair them with something else for costumed occasions. That's the fun part of sewing--we can make something and see if we like it. And I confess to buying a culotte pattern or two as I loved them when they were fashionable and they are so practical. Good luck! Susan

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  13. If anybody can pull off that look, its you! Go for it.

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  14. I still make these for clients, so yea!

    Plus fours have 4" of cloth fall over the knee; plus twos have 2". The ones worn with gaiters above are breeches. The two on the right in the 'Styles for Boys' ad are Jodhpurs.
    It seems to me that 'knickers' usually refers to plus twos which were used for golf and bicycling by youths and young men.

    In England the term knickers referred to the same garments, more usually worn by small boys. George Orwell refers to 'corduroy knickers' he wore as a young schoolboy in his essay 'Such, Such Were the Joys.'

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    Replies
    1. I always wondered about the "plus 4" and "plus 2" thing. Thanks!

      Delete
    2. My sister and I thank you for this information! Yes, like Leigh Ann, we've wondered why......
      I understood that only underage boys and golfers wear 'short pants', but plus 2s could be pretty damn snappy on you. In tweed.

      Delete
    3. I have also wondered about those terms. Thanks for the explanation! :)

      Delete
    4. I too am thankful for this explanation.

      Delete
  15. Meh. They look costumey to me. I do like the exercise version. Very sexy.

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  16. Go for it Peter!! I more favor the breeches width leg over the plus 4s width leg, but go for it in any case. The guy in the tweed flat cap, Fair Isle sweater, tweed jacket and knickers, and argyle socks if rocking a look I could aspire to. Though for country wear over city.

    Michael A

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  17. Like many fashons it seems to depend upon your life style and how you wear them. In the first photo,the guy in the red scarf and boots looks dreamy in them, but the guy in the front looks awkward, kinda geeky. The gentleman in the bow tie and argyle socks lounging in the 7th photo looks cool and interesting. Either of them have the panache to carry it off as a normal look.

    As for the breeks, well, the guys at Ren Faire or SCA event all carry it off. The Scots look great in their kilts. No one thinks anything of it, it's just clothes in that environment.

    I find that there are styles that I really like the idea of, but I don't feel attractive wearing. In my case, I think that there is a fine line between rocking a look and looking like a crazy lady. The key seems to take the elements you like and use them without going to such an extreme you feel ackward or in costume, then again self confident people look great no matter what.

    I really like the tweed ones with riding boots.

    regards,
    Theresa

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  18. Replies
    1. So when do man-pris come back??

      I've got a few me - made pairs.

      Delete
    2. Man pris never left

      see them on the lakefront of Chicago all summer long
      Cynthia

      Delete
  19. No. Not unless you are auditioning as one of the singing Von Trapps..

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  20. I have pair of these on my "To Make" list for a friend of mine. He's looking forward to them.
    I had a lot of trouble finding a pattern for them though. I ended up having to purchase a PDF pattern in German and then have a friend translate. I'm looking forward to making them.

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    Replies
    1. How did the German pattern go? Were they breeks, plus twos or plus fours?

      Delete
  21. You can also get Plus Sixes and Plus Eights too! The Daisy Kingdom ones might look ok if you were going hiking....

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  22. I love them. Definitely don't see too many men wearing them here, and yes you would definitely want to refer to knickbockers rather than women's undies if you ever visit Australia. I agree that if anyone can pull them off, you can!

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  23. My Oxford based nephew and his friends have taken to wearing plus 2s for golf - he is 19..............you could be ahead of the trend here Peter. I think they key is being slim, and obviously you meet that target.

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  24. Go for it! But only with the knee-high socks to match.

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  25. I think it's possible... But not the fullest styles and with the high socks. Knickerbockers are supposed to function as trousers, they are not supposed the be used as shorts. In the first half of the 20th century, these were worn not only as men's casual/sports wear as you've shown here, they were also the step between a little boy's short trousers and the long ones worn by grown men. Reading the many comments which suggest this style might work for the young or the slender, I think those those memories are still with us.

    Oh, and please stop calling them 'knickers', I would have believed that to be a peculiar term used only in your family if you hadn't included the picture of that pattern... I know many people in the US don't care about what things are called in other parts of the world but this is a style that so clearly refers to old Europe, you kind of have to.

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  26. YEA! I've been wearing what I call short pants for a few years now (always with knee socks) and you'd be surprised how practical they are! Perfect for spring and fall weather. But I agree with the above commentor: avoid the baggier styles!

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  27. ok, I LOVE photo #9! Next time I make a pair of pants (full length), I'll also make gaiters in the same fabric, and wear them over the pants on ocasions.

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  28. knickerbocker is a german word. "Knicker" is a small hunting knife wich is used to kill hurt deer with a stab in the neck. This knife is usually carried in a small pocket on the side seam of the alpine knee length leather pants, handle sticking out. this pants were often made from roe deer, chamois or alpine ipex leather called "bock" leather. So it is quite funny to see this term being used for silken female underwear.

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  29. Dustheap! Unless you have the tall boots to go with them.

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  30. In the UK they are commonly known as breeks (http://www.johnnorris.co.uk/shop/ty_264-breeks/) and often seen in the country at shooting parties, usually with a tweed or Barbour jacket, a country check shirt and a tie. It is a good look for men with nice legs - with the slight hint of Mr Darcy! Long socks and often a decorative tie at the sock/breek junction. It is classic UK country gentleman but not sure about how it will go down in New York!

    Very practical and comfortable. Go for the slim breek look - plus 4s really look like an Edwardian time warp (but then I am not exactly fashion forward). Moleskin is an ideal material to use. If you need any details or photograph of a genuine UK pair of breeks, let me know.

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  31. Nay. Whatever you call poofy short pants, they were sportswear for rich men before stretch fabrics were invented. I'm sure they are comfortable, with ease of movement, but for looks--costumey, slim or not, imho. City wear, as far as I can tell after living 25 years in the country, calls for less costumey style.

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  32. PS The ladies' equivalent was bloomer pants under a skirt, of varied lengths depending on the era. When I played tennis as a girl, I wore short bloomer pants under a very short pleated skirt, the uniform required by all the tennis clubs at which one wanted to play, all white all the time. They sound quite antique but were comfortable and unwearable anywhere else! Maybe that's why the knickerbockers/plus fours etc. look costumey to me.

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  33. DON'T DO IT!!! [Actually, do it, just for the fashion shoot...] Knickerbockers not knickers, and even that's so old fashioned most Brits wouldn't know what you're talking about anyway. Pleased that the plus 4s/2s got cleared up, that's niggled at me for yonks!

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  34. NAY! Absolutely ridiculous look. Unless you are at a costume party or in a play.

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  35. In the golf world, they are known as "plus fours." They were Payne Stewarts' signature fashion statement.

    Peter, I think you would look rather dapper in a pair, with that nice newsboy cap you made a year ago.

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  36. Yes to knickerbockers of the slimline variety. But just FYI knickers in the UK refers solely to women's underwear and is also one of the best modest swear words; as in you've just sewn a sleeve on inside out 'Oh knickers!' Happy sewing.

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  37. I do like the slim fit ones you ordered. They could be practical. The older ones and some of the pictures are styled to the nth. The tighter ones look like pedal pushers. I say make them for the experience, I mean you made a matenity outfit and wore it. Make em & rock em

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  38. I like them, but when they are specific! I mean that the plus -four type are really proper for golf, the chino ones shown would be MORE proper if he were sailing (or something similarly ocean going/water related) & wearing boat shoes and the tweed suit* & hiking ones are proper with the right socks - those socks MUST be patterned. Yes they can be fashionable for men, but knickers are actually functional and when worn that way are perfect.

    *the tweed suit ones in the photo (beautiful socks btw) are very well styled, but I cannot help but think back about 200 years ago that this style of knickers were called short pants and only boys wore them. It was part of the rite-of-passage in becoming a man when when a fella got out of short pant and into trousers. The re seems to be some traces of this idea lingering in our culture, and so I think that is what makes them tricky and more costume-y in the tweed version.

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  39. I remember wearing knickerbockers in the early 1980s as a young teenager, along with cable knit jumpers and frilly Laura Ashley blouses. Consequently, I always think of these as being for girls and women. This is despite the fact that my grandfather regularly wore them into his eighties to play golf. For what it is worth, I say make whatever makes you happy and wear it with confidence and pride.

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  40. Knickers were pop, for women in the late 70`s early 80`s. For men, Bridehead Revisited made pedal pushers pop, with the gay crowd and was kinda a GQ look during that time.

    I have some that were similar from 1994, by DKNY, they were more like the ones featured here with the lace ups on the lower leg. These kind are not really knickers as much as more riding pants so that you can were the boots with them. I find these are still ok style wise. True knickers for men are `dated`` and costumeeeee.

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  41. I wore knickers like that in the 70s...they were the school uniform for the girls at the Interlochen Arts Academy in northern Michigan. They were made of navy corduroy, and we secretly loved them, ugly as they were. They were so comfy! For a guy, I'd say unless you're going steampunk, baggy tweed is too affected, but the narrower ones in tech fabric should work. It beats those silly Italian biking outfits that boomer guys wear.

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  42. I dislike knickers as much as I dislike culottes for women... dated and usually unflattering to most. So nay for me (OK, you asked!)
    Eve

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  43. I like the ones that look more like man-capri pants. You may be leading a trend here.

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  44. Two words: Payne Stewart.

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  45. Certain fashions looked good in the 18th century but not any more! These are best left to Louis XVI or at the very latest Bertie Wooster! However, we all know you're not going to be resist trying them!!

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  46. I just saw a man on W 23rd street sporting short pants! They were more like well-fit sweatpants, but had hems finished a couple of inches below the knee. He had on black high socks with them (no leg showing). Looked good, even in that casual fabric. I say "Yea!"

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  47. Many naysaying comments here. Men's clothing styles have shrunk to a handful of styles as compared to what it was. Coats with a waist seam (as per traditional riding coats and frock coats etc), many styles of trousers, waistcoats and shirts, have disappeared because a lot of people (often women) believe men should dress in a certain limited way.

    It's time to break that spell.

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  48. Yeah! (but I ride horses, and get to wear a tailcoat and white gloves if I want to.) You've mentioned cycling so it seems these could be practical for you.

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  49. I really like it ,but I come from Europe ,so here many Men wearing knickerbockers.The English Hunting Men do ,for example.The german bavarian hunting men also.But I like the english Tweed style most.Unfortanely my husband dont like it

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  50. I love these! I wish men dressed this way today. It's so much more interesting that jeans, t-shirts and trainers that so many men I know wear. I'm actually on the look out for a sewing pattern for plus twos for women. I'd love to make myself a pair of tan tweed ones.

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