What are Clamdiggers?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Clamdiggers are pants with a mid-calf length, closely related to capri pants. Unlike capris, however, clamdiggers tend to be more baggy, creating a casual look which many people associate with the beach. Clamdiggers can be found at many department stores, especially in the summer months, and they come in a wide variety of cuts and styles.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

You may also hear clamdiggers referred to as three quarter pants or pedal pushers, and some people use “clamdiggers” and “capris” interchangeably. The defining point of the style is the length, which is shorter than conventional pants, but longer than shorts. Depending on the designer, clamdiggers may be hemmed just below the knee, or halfway down the calf.

The name is a reference to the fact that clamdiggers are ideal for the beach, allowing people to wade in shallow water and play on the sand without worrying about getting the hems of their pants wet or dirty. Clamdiggers have historically been worn by people who dig for clams for a living, and by some members of the nautical community. These pants are also useful for cycling, since the short length keeps the pants from being snagged in the gears and pedals, explaining the slang term “pedal pushers.”

Clamdiggers can be worn by both men and women, although they are most commonly seen on women. The peak of the style came in the 1950s, when numerous celebrities sported the pants, although the pants began to make a comeback in the late 1990s. Depending on the style, the pants may be accessorized with a belt, embroidery, or other ornaments, or left simple, so that they do not distract from a stylish blouse or a daring set of shoes. For shorter people, finding good clamdiggers can be a challenge, as the length can look odd on shorter legs.

Many people like to wear clamdiggers during the summer months because they are cooler than full length pants, but more modest than shorts. These casual pants can also be paired well with a wide variety of things, from wrap tops for the beach to button down blouses for casual gatherings. Women tend to look best in clamdiggers when they wear heel or wedge shoes, as these shoes elongate the calves and tend to make one's behind a bit perkier.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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