Why doesn't anyone climb in knickers anymore?
—Ned Wright, Dallas,Texas
Nothing says, “I am a climber" (or badminton player or Lady Diana)
like knickers. These “knee breeches,” as Gramps called them, right before kneeing sissy boy in the groin, then punching him in the face, are baggy
pants cropped just below the knee.
Their loose fit provides more freedom of movement than conventional trousers, which can bind at the knee or groin during critical movements. Because knickers
are short, they minimize the chance you'll get a pant cuff snagged by a crampon point, and slide to your death, arms outstretched as if to beseech
The Maker for mercy—and knowing there will be none.
Most critically, knickers let you casually see your feet when you are rock climbing.
Due to the numerous and important advantages of knickers, I am surprised that all climbers do not wear them. You feel the same way, obviously, and, like
me, are amazed that climbers choose instead to wear such ridiculous items as pants that stretch or have gusseted crotches, board shorts and even capris,
or “manpris” when donned by an alpha who pulled them on in a dark closet and didn’t realize his error until he'd already cinched up the waist cord.
I can’t recall the last time I saw a climber wearing knickers. Certainly it has been decades. This is something to think about, because history is not
kind to bad style. For example, our books are filled with archival illustrations and photos of the Great Ones dashingly suited up in knickers, usually
of the finest tweed. Gazing upon these images causes a deep and satisfying internal stirring, yet photos of modern Lycra-clad climbers with their
junk protruding like small cups of fruits are nearly as distressing as Vertical Limit, and viewed even less frequently.
I suspect that people don’t wear knickers because they can’t find them—most clothiers don’t rack knickers in the logical place, alongside full-length
pants. Instead, you must seek them in the beret and scarf section. Don’t forget the accessory belt. Next!
This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 212.