What Are Clam Diggers?

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  • Written By: Emily Espinoza
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 02 January 2020
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Clam diggers are pants that end between the knee and ankle. They are typically considered beachwear and are worn in casual settings. Made from a variety of different materials and available in several different styles, clam diggers are often lightweight and soft and share some other basic characteristics. They can be worn by women, men, or children and their popularity can be traced back to the mid-20th century.

Actual clam digging requires pants that are short enough to stay out of the water, and this is most likely where clam diggers got their name. They come in varying lengths but are always shorter than trousers and longer than shorts. The basic style of clam diggers is quite similar to pedal pushers, capri pants, highwaters, and three-quarter length pants, as all of these refer to pants that are around mid-calf length.

The most common materials for clam digger pants are lightweight, soft, and comfortable. They are commonly made out of linen or lightweight cotton, though some are made of denim or heavier, blended fabrics such as polyester blends. They are most often white, tan, or brown, but black and blue are also common if they are made out of denim.


No pants can be considered clam diggers if they do not fit into the mid-calf length category. Other common style attributes are drawstring ties on the waist and leg hems of the pants. These tend to add to the beachy, comfortable style of the pants. Sometimes, the pants will include trouser style pockets at the top or back, or cargo-style pockets on the sides of the legs.

Clam diggers are available at a variety of retailers and are made by many different brands and designers. Each brand or designer will vary slightly in the style elements they choose to incorporate, the materials they use, and how much they charge. The pants are typically available in womens', mens', and kids' versions, but the basic style remains the same in all three categories. This style first became popular in the 1950s and 1960s on the island of Capri in Italy. They grew in popularity in the United States after Mary Tyler Moore wore them for a role on The Dick Van Dyke Show.


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