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I was told by a veteran that it was not until the Korean war that American soldiers began to balloon their pants. Prior to that it was only paratroopers. Can this be validated?

  • Your source may be correct, however the question is problematic in that the amount of ballooning is subjective. – G Warner Sep 25 at 2:12
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    As per our site guidelines, some effort at research would be appreciated. Can you tell us where you have already looked and what you found? – Lars Bosteen Sep 25 at 4:00
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    Does this answer your question? Why are military uniforms often flared or poofy above the knee? – Boaz Sep 25 at 6:21
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    What does "balloon their pants" mean? Does it have to do with fit near the ankle or fit near the thigh? – kimchi lover Sep 25 at 13:57
  • It's pretty clear your question was closed because it was misunderstood to be about jodhpurs. Your vagueness & imprecision in stating your question are to blame. – kimchi lover Sep 25 at 22:04
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“Ballooning” is somewhat nebulous . . . does this refer to “blousing” or does it refer to, as they say, “stuffing” one’s trousers inside the boot top?

In WW2 the US Army started out with a standard ankle high field boot, see http://www.usww2uniforms.com/9-6F.html . Over this was worn canvas leggings which also covered the trousers, see http://www.usww2uniforms.com/figures_army.html. The “ballooning” effect could be had by allowing some slack were the trousers entered the legging. This effect also occurred in general wear as when someone having just laced up his leggings were to squat, causing the trousers to slightly pull up/out (actually a good idea as it permits an additional modicum of freedom of movement). Wearing of leggings in the field was prescribed for all personnel, except those in animal mounted, animal drawn or pack mounted, in the 1941 uniform regulations (see paragraph 29c) http://www.usww2uniforms.com/bib_AR600-40_28aug41.html

In 1943, the Army started issue of a combat boot, see http://www.usww2uniforms.com/BQD_114.html. Note that this boot is essentially an extension of the earlier field boot with an added buckled leather upper reaching up the calf. One also tucked one’s trousers into these boots, and, if smart, also did the squat thing. Thus, the trouser legs were in the tops of the boots and slightly bagged where they met the boot top. Whether or not this can be called “ballooning” is a matter of personal opinion. To me, yes, it could be so termed.

Paratroopers were issued a laced boot that provided support over the ankle and up the calf. Originally the trousers were also to be inside the boot. At some point, and here I am unsure if this is a WW2 timeframe or somewhat later in the program (though I lean towards a post-war phenomenon), paratroops took to “blousing” their trousers on the outside of the boot. This entails use of an elastic device, rubber bands, elastic bands, condoms (yes, I’ve seen that, but my take was that someone was just trying to be a comedian), and such. (In modern times there are these nifty little devices, "blousers," to accomplish blousing, shown here as sold by the Aggies https://shop.corpsofcadets.org/products/boot-blousers-green). In the lore, the paratroopers came to espouse the belief that they were the sole members of the US Army permitted, note, “permitted,” not “authorized by regulation,” to blouse their trousers outside their boots (though the expression is to “blouse boots” not “blouse pants” or “blouse trousers”) and took grave offense at any non-paratrooper types blousing their boots.

From an appearance standpoint, stuffing one’s trousers into either leggings or boots creates a “ballooning” effect and blousing simply exaggerates it. Today, blousing is fairly common, but not to say that troops do not stuff their trousers into their boot tops as well. Sometimes whichever practice is found could be at the preference of the commander. Modern US field uniform trousers have a draw string or draw ribbon inside the bottom hem that allows the wearer to tie off the bottom of the trousers over the boots.

I have seen this gone to extremes in some garrison units. One puts on his trousers, situates the bottom hem of the leg where he wants them, folds the trouser bottoms to form a neat V in the back and duct tapes or uses blousers to hold the trousers legs in place. Then put on and lace up the boots over the bottoms. Now, before pulling up the trousers, place a chain or some slightly weighted device into the trousers where they meet the boot and then pull up and secure the trousers. This creates a balloon effect that stays in place without blousing on the outside. Looks really spiffy in a garrison environment, but totally impractical for wear in the field.

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Horseback riding breeches date back to the late 1800's, and were popularly named Jodhpurs after a region in India. A Quora Q&A goes into further detail.

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