Britches – a word used as commonly in Kentucky as “ain’t” and “ya’ll”. And although the south has proudly fostered this term for generations, it’s origin comes from the opposite end of the spectrum.
1205, The word Brec is used in reference to a garment for the legs and trunk. “Breeches” actually implied that the legged garment could be worn as both a pant and underwear. “Breeches” was a plural term given to explain the covering of two legs. Breeches were worn by both men and women as underwear in it’s early year, but then became widely known as “Trousers” in the late sixteenth century. When used as underwear, they were only knee-length. As a trouser or long pantaloons, they would reach the ankle length. Breeches were a symbol of nobility and wealth during the French Revolution. At the end of the 19th century, young boys wore dresses specifically made for their small stature until they were “Breeched” or able to wear an adult style of pant.
There are several different styles of Breeches, from Spanish and Petticoat Breeches to Riding and Fencing Breeches. The Spanish (men’s) and Petticoat (women’s) styles were mostly know in the 1600′s, then the term faded into Knickerbockers.
Riding Breeches are used in equestrian shows and competitions. The most famous style in Riding Breeches is the Kentucky Jodhpurs, which are saddle seat style riding pants that are long and tight down the leg, but flare out at the bottom to cover the top of the riding boot. The belled bottom will usually fall a little longer than the heel and the top will covers most of the boot to the toe. An elastic strap stretches from the pant to under the heel to hold the pant leg in place given the illusion that the riders legs are much longer. The straight-legged look appeals to the equestrian eye and gives a streamline feel.
The spelling “Britches” mostly comes from a unique way to pronounced the word, used in today’s time to describe men’s pants. Obviously, and most notably, in the southern part of the United States, “Britches” could mean any type of pant or shorts worn by a man or a woman. Denim overalls and work pants are commonly referred to a “Dungaree Britches”. Farmers and blue collar workers are most well-known for using both the term and the garments. Breeches or Britches have become a symbol for the working man and women all over the country.