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In Japanese language those clothing items are treated as singular nouns. Glasses, socks, shoes, gloves are easier to understand as plurals, but I would like to find some plausible explanation for the plural recognition of those clothing items above mentioned. Are they plural because of historical reason? When I saw chaps for cowboys for the first time, I was tempted to connect them to this question of mine. I have long wanted to find an answer but I have been lazy. Would anyone please help me? K.I.
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According to several costume historians who have helped me with this reply, the answer to all this conventional plurality is very simple. Before the days of modern tailoring, such garments, whether underwear or outerwear, were indeed made in two parts, one for each leg. The pieces were put on each leg separately and then wrapped and tied or belted at the waist (just like cowboys’ chaps). The plural usage persisted out of habit even after the garments had become physically one piece. However, a shirt was a single piece of cloth, so it was always singular.


--this is from http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-pai1.htm
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Just a guess - all these items of clothing have two legs. That's why the plural.
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I think that is the usual explanation.

However, jackets have two arms?
Yes, but it doesn't look too weird when you only use one sleeve... Think how it would look with only one trousers leg "occupied"...
 khoff's reply was promoted to an answer.
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Hello Khoff

Thank you for the great infomation. It's very helpful to my understanding why we should always use plurals for things like trousers.

paco
Thank you very much for your convincing explanation. Thanks to you I will be able to teach my students better regarding this matter.

FYI
The following is an excerpt from what I found via Google.

It was from the site called "The Phrase Finder" and entitled "Undies" and posted by Lewis on January 12, 2004.

Trousers or 'trews' are a modern form of breeches/britches. Notice the name - it contains the name for a gap (once more until the breech etc) and that I think is because the middle part of a pair of trousers is a later addition. I think that the original trews were leg coverings - like all-round protective 'chaps' (chaps from cheeks - meaning side pieces - yes?) which may have sometimes been worn under a kirtle or kilt. often the genitals would be separately covered (or not) for easy access. when cod-pieces were the rage - a holder for cods - the leggings would definitely have been a pair without all-round cover.

So, partial answer - the clothing that covers the legs, bottom and genitals - was originally not in one piece and a pair of trousers was thus two leg-pieces joined together - with or without crotch cover.
So, partial answer - the clothing that covers the legs, bottom and genitals - was originally not in one piece and a pair of trousers was thus two leg-pieces joined together - with or without crotch cover.


Depending on the climate, perhaps?
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I thought I was the only person who ever thought to ask why "jeans" are always plural. At least I am not the only weird one out there.
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