Today I want to discuss the names which disco pants are referred to mainly by Americans and the British. Recently, one of my photos on another website featured a comment from someone regarding my shiny, white Le Gambi disco pants. The comment was ‘nice jeans.’ I found it interesting that the person called them ‘jeans’ and not ‘pants.’ Their shine is very visible in the photo. I think there is more of a sincerity behind saying ‘nice jeans’ versus saying ‘nice pants.’ I’ve had people say ‘nice pants’ to me while I was wearing disco pants but it always felt more sarcastic than sincere. On the other hand, saying ‘nice jeans’ sounds more authentic. Not that I am questioning the commenter’s intent. Not at all. This person has already like other photos of me in disco pants so I know the appreciation is genuine. I am mainly talking about the choice of wording–saying jeans instead of pants.
Before American Apparel came along and revived the famous garment, it usually had the word ‘spandex’ somewhere in its title. The modern-day young wearers of these pants have only ever known the pants to be called ‘disco pants’ as they were not born yet during the late 1970’s and early-to-mid 1980’s when the pants experienced their original heyday.
In the states they have been called ‘spandex disco pants,’ while in the United Kingdom they have been called ‘spandex disco jeans.’ I see benefits to both names. First off just calling them ‘disco pants’ is too generic of a term. Many people unfamiliar with the actual garment will think John Travolta’s white pants from Saturday Night Fever when hearing the term ‘disco pants.’ Some will think even more gawdy pants in line with the over-the-top styles of the 1970s that were seen in dance clubs. And it is not incorrect to think of such items as disco pants. On Twitter alone I have seen that guys and girls have a completely different concept of what disco pants are. Addtionally, there is a company named Betabrand that makes something called ‘disco pants’ but they do not resemble the shiny spandex type that this blog is all about. Theirs is made from a material (not nylon & spandex) that resembles disco balls, and they have a men’s along with a women’s version. I’m not a fan of either, although if I had to choose I would go with the women’s cut because the men’s version is so loose and unflattering. The women’s version is cut more like leggings.
So we need to qualify the term ‘disco pants’ to make it clear we are referring to the classic nylon/spandex type. And that’s where adding the word spandex to the name comes in. As mentioned, in the states the original pants were referred to as ‘spandex disco pants.’ The word ‘pants’ in the title is also a rather generic term. I mean, of course they’re pants! But the word ‘pants’ consitutues virtually any kind of leg wear. Trousers, jeans, khakis, slacks, chinos, leggings, capris, shorts, tights, etc. can all be considered pants. Should we be more specific when mentioning spandex disco pants?
In the UK (and perhaps the rest of western Europe) the pants are called ‘spandex disco jeans.’ To me that name takes it a step further than ‘spandex disco pants.’ The name is not meant to imply that the pants are denim. The term ‘jean(s)’ has evolved over time to describe more a style of pant rather than to signify denim material. ‘Jeans’ has also become a very generic term through the years. Yet spandex disco pants do have a jeans-type cut: 2 rear patch pockets; a button and zipper fly; wide, visible outseams. Thus, I applaud the name of ‘spandex disco jeans’ to refer to these pants. But I’m afraid many people would still expect to see some denim due to the synonimity that exists between the 2 words, ‘jeans’ and ‘denim.’ Perhaps even I would were I not familiar with this marvel known as the spandex disco pants/jeans.
I’ve also seen these pants referred to as spandex trousers, satin pants, lycra jeans, spandex pants, hot pants, disco leggings and, what I thought they were called when I was a child, silk pants. None of these names suffice, although ‘lycra jeans’ comes pretty close. Personally, ‘spandex disco pants’ works best and ‘spandex disco jeans’ is a bit more descriptive. Had I been the one who created this garment I would have named it ‘lycra disco jeans’. Spandex is a great term, but we all know that spandex has lost its shine over the decades. When I hear the term ‘spandex’ I think more in terms of stretchy and skintight. When I hear the term ‘lycra’ I think more in terms of shiny and skintight. I realize that ‘lycra’ is a brand name while spandex is a generic name, but ‘lycra disco jeans’ sounds very pleasing to the ear. I will continue use the terms spandex disco pants, spandex disco jeans, disco pants, and now ‘lycra disco jeans’ and ‘lycra jeans’ to refer to these pants here in this blog.