What are Gaucho Pants?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

As a fashion trend that seems to make a comeback every now and then, gaucho pants were the 1970s version of a late 1950s and early 1960s classic. With a hem that fell just below the kneecap and a slightly higher waist than many pant types, capri pants were considered both very chic and very practical for young women growing up during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. Capris were usually form fitting without being too snug and were the ideal garment to wear on a warm day while running errands or taking care of the home. Never considered to be appropriate office attire, these early gaucho pants never made it out of the realm of casual clothing, but for several years they were almost a necessity in any well-dressed woman’s wardrobe.

Young boy eating an apple
Young boy eating an apple

The cultural changes in society and in fashions during the mid-1960s spelled the temporary end of capri pants, possibly because it was so closely associated with the prevailing social climate and not worthy of being included in any counter-culture wardrobe. Even those who were firmly pro-establishment were ready to abandon the pants in favor of bell-bottom pantsuits and jeans. An attempt to create A-line flared-leg capris failed dismally, and it looked as if the garment would go the way of the old time wire corsets.

However, by the middle of the 1970s, the former capri was making a comeback as gaucho pants. While still hitting just below the knee, the new improved gaucho look has a slightly longer inseam and a slightly flared leg that gave the garment an updated look compared to the form fitting models of the decade before. Instead of being worn with simple sneakers, the new versions were more properly worn with knee-high boots. Another change was that the pants were flared enough to make it into the business world. When coupled with a matching jacket, gaucho pants were soon considered to be acceptable attire for the office as well as for a date or doing some shopping. Interestingly enough, the gaucho pants of the Seventies were not considered to be casual attire at all, but more of a nice compromise between formal and informal dress.

The gaucho pants phenomenon went on for a few years, but by the early 1980’s the garment once more fell out of favor is just about every situation. However, since gaucho pants were a big hit in their day, and known to be comfortable as well, it is only a matter of time before some retro-oriented fashion designer manages to make this old time garment new once again.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


Bombachas are traditional manly pants - they let a man's terstcles breathe and bob comfortably (OK, and also for a man to ride). That's why it'd be nonsense for women to wear it (women wore dresses).

So, there you go. "Gaucho pants" are the same as "bombachas". It's a man's clothing. The text is completely lacking the historical/cultural basis for this piece of clothing.

How do I know all of this? I'm Gaucho (that is, a Brazilian from the Rio Grande do Sul State, *bordering* Argentina - "gaucho" is our gentilic).


Dear John Bur, bombachas are a modern substitute to authentic gauchos pants, both chiripas and calzoncillos con puntilla (above mentioned gaucho pants more similar to the last ones). Bombachas are supposed to come from larger surplus of french zouaves' equipment, after Crimean War period. Please take a look after some old images from colonial and post colonial images, depicting gauchos.


You must mention also the bombachas de campo or gaucho trousers/pants which are the real pants the real gauchos use in Argentina.

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