The Menace of Tight Trousers: 1884

63.350.202.31.37

Fifth Avenue from the “World’s Dude” series of cigarette cards, 1888

Tight Trousers.

“Here, conductor, this man’s fainted.” The words were uttered in a tone of excitement by a stout woman about 40 years of age recently in a Columbia-avenue car, and as she spoke a slim youth who was seated beside her in the corner of the car fell forward and dropped in a heap upon the straw.

With the assistance of a gentleman, the conductor lifted the senseless youth on to the seat, and two minutes later, as the car passed a drug store, pulled the bell-strap, and. followed by half a dozen interested passengers, five of whom were women, carried him into the store, where he was placed on a lounge in the back room.

A doctor was hurriedly summoned, and after a disappearance of about ten minutes the young man and physician came out of the room, which had been kept closed, arm-in-arm. The young man’s face was still pale, and he walked with a very perceptible tremor.

After a few moments’ rest the young man got on another car and went away, and the doctor said: “This is the fourth case this month I have seen of the deadly effect of wearing tight trousers, and had not that young man been attended to promptly he might have been in great danger.” “Tight trousers?” queried a bystander, incredulously.

‘”Yes, sir; tight trousers! Why, you cannot imagine how often we doctors have to treat cases of illness brought on by no other cause. Take that young man, for instance; his trousers were at least four sizes too small for him; not too short, of course, but too tight, and for hours and hours he had been walking about with a pressure of at least 275 pounds to the square inch on his olexii vivisectori arteries, which are situated in the calves of the human leg. This tremendous pressure forces the blood into channels not able to carry it without undue straining, and although the victim feels no pain he is liable at any moment to topple over in a swoon, and unless relief is promptly given a long and serious illness is likely to follow. It is a similar trouble to that experienced when it was the fashion for ladies to wear very tight sleeves, except that in the case of tight trousers the material is heavier, the arteries are larger, and the result apt to be more dangerous and difficult to relieve.”

The Record-Union [Sacramento CA] 5 July 1884: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is rather refreshing to see the gentlemen censured for fashionable excesses normally confined to the ladies. Tight-lacing cannot be objectionable if the gentlemen choose to wear tight trousers.

Variations of the tight-trouser craze have come and gone: the well-turned leg revealed in the costume of the Renaissance courtier, the 18th-century macaroni’s breeches, and the “inexpressibles” of the Beau Brummel era, are some early examples. Another revival came in 1913, when this journalist called for resistance against the fashionable trend:

TIGHT TROUSERS? NEVER!

The other day in that windy hot-air city of Chicago a congress of men’s tailors got together and decided that us men must wear tight trousers. Then they adjourned as if the matters were all settled.

Gentlemen, husbands, brothers, sons. shall we meekly submit to this indignity? Are we gonna stand humbly to one side and let our tailor measure us for a pair of glove-fitting pants? No!–1000 (plus) times no! We have become so accustomed to the negligee and commodious trousers of commerce, in which there is room enough to locomote along the street without danger to the fabric thereof, that we do not propose to jump obediently into tight pants at a crack of the whip from a few tailors.

Besides it is a well-known fact which every bow legged man knows and no bow-legged man will admit that the average man is bow-legged. Fancy a man afflicted with bowlegs in a pair of tight fitting trousers. Imagine a man with either extremities like a brace of parentheses dolled up in tight trousers. He’d be a sight, wouldn’t he?

Not only that, but the wearing of tight trousers involves risk in polite society–risk to the trousers and risk to the wearer’s reputation. For instance, if we were to appear in a crowded drawing room wearing a set of skin-fitting trousers, we would remain standing no matter how many empty chairs there might be in the room. This would cause surprise on the part of the hostess. She would say:

“Do sit down, Mr. Newkirk.”

“Thank you awfully,” I would retort, “but I much prefer to stand.”

“How very eccentric!” she would effervesce. “Tell us Mr. Newkirk. why you prefer standing to sitting, do! I know the answer will delight my guests. Come give us the reason. ‘

And there you are! I couldn’t tell the lady that the reason for my obstinacy in standing was due to the fact that if I attempted to sit down these trousers would give way some where or other under their burden of responsibility. I couldn’t tell her that could I? Certainly not! So I would blush like a broiled live lobster, ooze cold heads of anguish, shift from one foot to the other, wring the ends of my coat tails, and at last, I would more than likely dash from the room with an hysterical streak of agony.

If I were wearing a pair of tight trousers on the street and I should pass a dry goods store just as the clerk tore off three yards of denim, I could not continue on my way with any comfort or piece of mind until I had retired to a private doorway and minutely examined those trousers. If a lady dropped her handkerchief, I could not with propriety stoop to pick it up for her. If I did something would bust and I’d prefer the lady to think I had no manners than to have those trousers go back on me in public. Confound a pair of trousers that a man must use a shoe horn to get into!

New Castle [PA] Herald 3 December 1913: p. 4

The inability to sit down in such garments was

A Standing Joke.

Tight trousers are out of fashion, and now it will be necessary to put on more street cars. There won’t be so many young man anxious to stand.

Morris County Enterprise [Parkerville KS] 10 May 1883: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdote

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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