Parachute pants

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Not to be confused with Hammer pants

Parachute pants are a style of trousers characterized by the use of nylon, especially ripstop nylon. In the original loose-fitting, extraneously zippered style of the late 1970s/early 1980s, "parachute" referred to the pants' synthetic nylon material. In the later 1980s, "parachute" may have referred to the extreme bagginess of the pant. They are typically worn as menswear and are often brightly colored. Parachute pants became a fad in US culture in the 1980s as part of the increased popularity of breakdancing.[1] Parachute pants played a pivotal role in the 1980s in fashion.

Functional clothing[edit]

Early breakdancers occasionally used heavy nylon to construct jumpsuits or trousers that would be able to endure contact with the break dancing surface while at the same time decreasing friction with the same, allowing speedy and intricate "downrock" routines without fear of friction burns or wear in clothing. Some, possibly apocryphal, sources[who?] attribute the use of genuine parachute nylon having been cut to make such trousers possible. In the early part of the 80s, parachute pants were more tight-fitting and only later became looser. In the later 80s, the term "parachute pants" was used to describe any pants that were somewhat voluminous and narrow at the ankles, sometimes cinched with a tie cord running through the lower hem (unlike bellbottoms or wide-leg baggy jeans) in order to increase mobility for dance moves requiring flexibility. Due to both the use of nylon in the parachutes, and the large baggy appearance of the parachute pants, the style of pants became known as parachute pants. Often, early outfits were of a single color or slightly patchwork in nature as they were sometimes made of found materials.

When manufactured and marketed as fashionable clothing, parachute pants were often constructed with lightweight synthetic fabrics, making this variety of pants more suitable for fashion than breakdancing.

Fashionable clothing[edit]

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. They were also sometimes seen with many zippers, hook-and-loop fasteners, and pockets, although many of these pockets were too small to be used as pockets and existed only in order to apply another zipper or other superficial feature to the outfit. Parachute pants were then used primarily in choreographed hip hop dancing, with the light, baggy fabric and folds visually enhancing the flowing rhythm of the dancers' moves while allowing for greater comfort and mobility.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mansour, David. "Parachute pants". From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century. p. 353.