Parachute pants are a style of trousers characterized by the use of nylon, especially ripstop nylon. In the original tight-fitting style of the early 1980s, “parachute” referred to the pants’ nylon material, similar to a parachute’s. Parachute pants became a fad in US culture in the 1980s as part of the increased popularity of breakdancing.
The clothing company Bugle Boy manufactured the pants in the early 1980s, although they were not the first company to manufacture parachute pants. Bugle Boy parachute pants are identifiable as having the word “Countdown” on a small tag above the rear pocket’s zipper.
Teenage boys were the main wearers of parachute pants. They typically cost $25-$30 a pair. During the height of their popularity, 1984-1985, boys wearing parachute pants became ubiquitous. Bugle Boy did make pants for girls and women, though they remained most popular with males. They went out of fashion almost as quickly as they arrived, with the fad lasting about two years.
Early breakdancers occasionally used heavy nylon to construct jumpsuits or trousers that would be able to endure contact with the breakdancing surface while at the same time decreasing friction, allowing speedy and intricate “downrock” routines without fear of friction burns or wear in clothing. In the early part of the 1980s, parachute pants were tight fitting. Due to the use of nylon in parachutes, the style of pants became known as parachute pants. Often, early outfits were of a single color or slightly patchwork in nature as they were sometimes made of found materials.
When manufactured and marketed as fashionable clothing, parachute pants were often constructed with lightweight synthetic fabrics, making this variety of pants more suitable for fashion than breakdancing.
Suprisingly you can still buy Parachute Pants today. There is a whole online store dedicated to them at https://parachutepants.us/