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Thai Fisherman Pants are, you guessed it, a type of pants whose name originates from Thailand and which are worn by Thai Fishermen. Thai fisherman trousers are thought to have originated in Siam, which later became Thailand, at the end of the 19th Century and are very similar to the ones that are produced today. Thai Fisherman’s pants traditionally consist of cut and sewn trouser legs with an oversized waistband that can be wrapped and tied to fit the individual. This gives flexibility both in movement and in fit.
The precise origins Thai fisherman pans are not known but the pants are similar to those worn by the Intha tribe who are of Tibeto-Burmese origin. There are fewer than 200,000 left today and they mostly live around the Inle lake. Interestingly they are extremely knowledgeable about water-based activities. They grow vegetables on floating gardens, have developed a unique rowing technique and wear attire which looks strikingly similar to Thai fisherman pants.
Another tribal group seen to be wearing fisherman pants are the Shan people. They speak a language which closely resembles Thai and are practitioners of Theravada Buddhism. As they are known to cultivate wet rice and have a reputation for being skilled artisans it is not unlikely that they were the original source of Thai fisherman pants.
Whatever the history, they are still seen today throughout Thailand and nearby countries such as Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Let’s take a closer look a what Thai Fisherman pants actually are.
Prior to the arrival of Thailand’s fisherman pants nearly everybody in Thailand, or Siam as it was then called, wore a sarong or Chong Kraben to cover the lower body. Regardless of their social status or gender a sarong would be folded around and through the legs to form a lower body covering similar to western pantaloons. This was what was considered traditional Thai dress at the time. The Chong Kraben was a practical outfit choice for the people of Siam as it was well suited to keep them cool in the hot and humid conditions experienced most of the year. It was only with visiting Europeans to the Royal Court did the concept of sewn trousers start to take off in Siam. Given the dominance of the traditional sarongs, Thai Fisherman pants were perceived as a modern fashion revolution of the time.
Slowly, western-style sewn pants began to be adopted and popularity grew in the population at large. These types of trousers became favorites of laborers, but especially fishermen, from whom the name is derived. It is thought that the fishermen pants were so popular amongst fishermen because they allowed for quick drying as well as greater mobility than the more traditional sarong. They also allowed for easy removal and adjustment due to the unique way in which they are simply but securely wrapped around the body.
They did, however, have significant differences when compared to traditional western pants worn by Europeans at the time. For the most part they were the same but they had significantly larger and baggier legs and a lower crotch making them very breathable and helping to keep the fishermen cool in the tropical heat.
Fisherman pants are designed to be one-size-fits-all. They are purposely big, baggy, and oversized so that the waistband can be adjusted and tied to fit any body shape. Interestingly the length can also be adjusted by folding the waistband. Thai Fisherman pants consist of a long tube of material (the waistband) at the top of the body and two larger tubes attached to the waistband, which are for the legs. The material used to make Thai fisherman trousers is usually a raw cotton fabric although you can find variations.
The pants are put on as you would any other pair of pants, putting one leg in each section, it is at the waist where they differ. You wrap the waist across your stomach so that it is pulled tight around the waist. They are then tied tightly around the waist using straps which are attached at the rear. Finally the left over material is folded over to hide the straps and provide a neat finish. It can take a little getting used to but there are many tutorials online explaining how to tie Thai fisherman pants.
Despite their origins, you won’t see as many Thai Fishermen wearing these pants in 2023. While you may still find some traditional boat men using these pants in rural settings, those that fish on larger modern boats or on the deep sea will more likely be wearing newer, water-resistant fishing pants. On the other hand they are no longer used primarily by male laborers and have become more of a unisex piece of clothing. Today, you are quite likely to see Thai women wearing traditional Thai Fisherman trousers for social occasions, massage therapists using them while performing Thai traditional massage or simply lovers of comfortable, hassle-free clothing strolling the streets of Chiang Mai or the hills of Pai.
What is clear is that the wearing of Thai Fisherman pants is not just reserved for the people of Thailand and South East Asia. Their comfort and adaptable fit have seen fisherman pants grow hugely in popularity around the world in recent decades. In the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom there has been a steady increase in demand for Thai Fisherman Pants where they are used mostly as loungewear. They are particularly popular with yoga and practitioners of martial arts such as Tai Chi. Of course, Thai fish pants have now been modified for fashion purposes and you can buy them in just about any color, pattern, and in multiple fabrics but the classic way is still plain cotton. Sometimes they are worn at capri or three quarter length but more often than not the long style is preferred.
Due to them being able to be adjusted for a snug fit every time they are worn, Thai fisherman pants have become popular maternity wear. They can be wrapped to fit a changing body shape and many find that cotton is a softer material to wear during pregnancy than jeans or other pants that may have buttons or zippers. Whether experiencing a c-section or not many women choose fisherman pants as a comfortable option after pregnancy too.
All of these new ways to wear them have made the traditional Thai Fisherman pants a much sought-after pair of pants. They are loved by many and yet unknown to others.