Parachute Pants

Parachute pants are characterized by their material. Just like actual parachutes, they are made of nylon, allowing them to be lightweight and durable. The crotch is low and pockets and zippers adorn the pant legs. At their advent, parachute pants were tight all over. They are typically worn as men’s wear and are often brightly colored. Parachute pants became a fashion sensation in US culture in the 1980s as part of an increased cultural appropriation of breakdancing.

As fashion cut pants, parachute pants were popularized by hip-hop performers. From this point, they were often woven of loose, light fabric, with a low seat containing many folds, and sometimes printed with complex designs, ranging from neon patterns to prints resembling Middle Eastern pattern embroidery, contrasting the earlier monochromatic heavy jumpsuits and trousers. And in the late 1990s, neon, khaki, or olive drab colored heavy duty nylon pants became popular in the rave scene. While these trousers didn’t exist principally for breakdancing, but rather participating in a rave, they were still primarily worn for functional reasons: many pockets for use with concealment of one’s wallet or money, water, accessories, ecstasy etc. Often, the pants had a zipper around the calf used to remove the lower part of the leg, or otherwise vent the leg, to increase cooling on hot dance floors; and they were durable and inexpensive.

Taking inspiration from the Middle East, harem pants, shared the low crotch and tight ankles of parachute pants. This is a variation of parachute pants. They first appeared in Western culture in 1911 through French fashion designer Paul Poiret. They were also popular in the 1980s. Lightweight fabric emphasized its billowing effect. American designer Norma Kamali designed harem pants in sweatshirt fabric and made garments with parachute silk. Recent versions of harem pants have taken a more fashion-conscious approach, in fabrics such as silk and jersey, while retaining the ease and comfort of their 1980s predecessors.