Active bottoms

Passed on by a friend on Facebook, this sign from a Ross Dress for Less store:

Readers who are familiar with the gay use of bottom and top to describe roles in sexual encounters — see my discussion of “power bottoms” here — and also with the sexual use of active and passive will be amused at the combination of the two.

But that of course wasn’t what the Ross people had in mind.

In the clothing business, top and bottom refer to clothes worn on the top and bottom of the body, respectively: for women, blouses or shirts vs. skirts or pants; for men, shirts vs. pants. (Shirts and pants each cover a variety of garments.)

The adjective active is also a clothing-business term, rather more interesting than the relatively transparent bottom and top: it’s a strikingly non-predicating adjective — active clothes aren’t active — but instead evokes the noun activity, in the specialized sense of ‘vigorous activity’, especially in sports. So we have active wear (or activewear), active pants as a synonym of sport pants or sports pants, active tops as an alternative to workout tops, active shirts for skateboarding, snowboarding, and so on.

(The opposite of active wear is not passive wear, but, roughly, leisure wear.)

7 Responses to “Active bottoms”

  1. Chris Ambidge Says:

    ALL of my garments are “passive wear”. You drop them on the floor, they just STAY there. Do they think to move themselves to either the drawer or the hangers? they do not. FAR too passive.

  2. Elizabeth Zwicky Says:

    I would have said that active wear was a subclass of leisure wear, and its opposite was business attire or work clothes (which are totally different and neither of which can be wear).

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Ah, I see that there are two senses of leisure at work here: leisure vs. work (this is where Leisure Studies programs come from) and leisure ‘taking it easy’ vs. ‘being serious’ (roughly).

  3. mollymooly Says:

    AmE “pants” is unavailable in BrE, so “bottoms” gets more use in this sense. “Trousers” is too narrow for things like “track pants” and “pajama pants”, which perforce are “pyjama bottoms” and –erk– “track suit bottoms”. Or rather, perforce used to be; “pants” is gaining traction in the AmE sense, perhaps to obviate such circumlocutions.

  4. More bottoms « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] follow-up to active bottoms (here), on the Big Boy Fashion […]

  5. Colored bottoms | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Start with bottom. From my “Active Bottoms” posting: […]

  6. violet Says:

    Reminds me of seeing “Pegged Boyfriends” in The Gap a couple years ago. (Reference found on the internet after the fact, just now:

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