In our pursuit of great ideas, we must consider fashion functionality.  How useful is a garment to its user? Does it serve a work purpose? Can a garment affect history and politics? Most certainly it can. Most definitely it has.  Look at the Roman Empire.

Fashion Apparel of Fighting Roman Legionnaire

Roman Legionnaires and Trousers

As the all-mighty Roman empire expanded around the 1st century BC, pants were considered barbaric. While other cultures and their soldiers used trousers for their functionality, the Roman legionnaires were equipped with knee-length woolen tunics.  A common adversary, the Gauls wore tight fitting trousers for their ease of use in battle.

Gaul Soldiers Wearing Trousers Against Romans With Tunics

Freedom of Tunics

One could argue that the Romans simply didn’t like the trouser. After all, the Mediterranean climate was more conducive for free-floating tunics and robes, but at one point, it was even against the law to wear trousers in Rome.  This was because trousers were associated to military gear for most of the world, and the Roman’s had a hierarchal view of those who wore tunics versus those who wore trousers. In brief, the elite versus the commoner, legionnaires versus barbarians.

Barbaric Trousers

Roman historians cite that barbarian influence on fashion was an element that the emperors wanted to control, but by this point where the empire encompassed so much land mass, many of their own bodyguards were captured “barbarians.”  So it is as if fashion, an insistence on not using trousers, became a statement of anti-barbarianism.  Insisting on concepts such as purity and identity is often seen in falling empires.  Authoritarian ways to make the emperors feel in control in the face of adversity.   

Leggings in the Cold

As the Roman empire continued to expand the legionnaires started to convert to the use of trousers as the empire ventured into northern, and much colder climates. Appropriately, fashion functionality had the soldiers wearing pants. But at home, an insistence on cultural identity had emperors also banning boots, long hair and flashy jewelry as yet more “anti-Roman” fashions deemed not acceptable.

This is the End, Your Opponent has Pants

In the end, pants won, as most historians consider the sacking of Rome in 410 AD by the Visigoths as the beginning of the end of the Roman empire. The “barbarians” wore trousers for their foot soldiers and for their horseman. How could you ride into battle on a horse without trousers? How did the Roman Empire survive so long with such an insistence on not seeing fashion functionality?

This article has simplified history and events but it is important to consider that fashion functionality can lead to world changing events.  On a comic closing note, Roman legionnaires also wore socks with their sandals.  How this contributed to the empires rise and fall I will leave to the reader, but it’s a hell of a good look.

Socks with Sandals: Fashion Functionality or Fashion Taboo?

Fashion Functionality and Prototype

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