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Are “Thai Pants” Really Traditional?

© Hello Goodbye

Step into Southeast Asia, and you’ll definitely spot one of these on the streets. Whether you call them harem pants, elephant pants, Thai pants or hammer pants, they are definitely a favourite amongst visitors to the region!

But if we’re completely honest, most of the time, it won’t be a local wearing them. What then, makes these ‘traditional’ Thai pants so traditional, and why does everyone seem to want one of these whenever they hit this part of the world?

Are They Traditional Thai Garments?

Well yes and no.

The Thai pants that everyone knows and loves are a relatively contemporary creation, and are not traditionally worn by the Thai people in the strictest sense. That said, Thai pants are derived from the Kangkeng Le (กางเกงเล), which are indeed worn traditionally by fishermen in Southeast Asia, including Thailand.

Burmese fishermen wearing the traditional Kangkeng Le
© David Lazar | HotSpot Media

Kangkeng Le are made of incredibly lightweight material so that it dries extremely quickly, and does not weigh the wearer down when they wade in water. They are made wide and baggy to keep the wearer comfortable and agile during rigorous physical activities.

They are also made of lightweight material that dries quickly. It is for these reasons that Kangkeng Le are a favourite of fishermen in Thailand, who need this freedom as they rough it out day after day on the seas.

It is also exactly why visitors to Thailand see them as the perfect pants for the humid tropical weather, and bring several back home for use in yoga, beach holidays, or to complete a bohemian fashion ensemble.

Tradition Becomes Fashion

Hello Goodbye combines tradition with modern prints for fashionable Thai Pants you can wear at the beach or on the streets.

The Thai are a people immensely proud of their heritage and culture, preserving it in their daily lives even today. And yet, they are one of the more progressive and liberal nations in the region, and it shows in their fashion.

The Kangkeng Le evolved over time thanks to western influence and their popularity amongst tourists, leading many Thai garment makers to modernise the traditional pants into something more universal.

They added modern features like elastic bands and pockets, and wove traditional or and eye-catching patterns that are becoming a favourite for locals and foreigners alike.

Made for the Modern Adventurer… and Songkran!

The modern Thai pants are incredibly in style now, for they hark back to a simpler and more practical time. Preserving the comfort and mobility of the original Kangkeng Le, Thai pants are perfect for any activity that require unhindered movement.


Thai pants are popular for yoga because of how loose fitting it is. The lightweight fabric allows yogi practitioners to move without inhibition, and meditate without fussing over comfort. Their breezy form let you slip into your surroundings, giving you the freedom to align your mind, body and soul with the elements around you.

These days, they are incredibly popular during Songkran in Thailand, and it’s easy to see why! They keep us well covered, which is important during this traditional festival. Yet, they are airy and lightweight, which gives us the edge in a street water fight! The best part? The material dries off quickly too!

Connect with Nature

© Hello Goodbye & ShopJJ

Made with natural fibres sourced from the provinces of the Thai kingdom, you’ll invariably connect with nature around you. Imagine a sunset stroll along the beaches of Pattaya, the waves licking gently at your feet, and your vibrant Thai pants billowing in the sea breeze…

Like the Kangkeng Le from which they are derived, Thai pants are designed to immerse you with the elements, whilst keeping you protected and covered.

The Perfect Festival Getup!

© Fashion Gum

Thai pants complete the perfect boho look for hippie music and summer festivals anywhere in the world! Their unmatched comfort and airy shape are perfect for long days of dancing and soaking in the music of your favourite artists. For many, these pants are the perfect style to join new tribes and folks at your next festival.

Tradition has Evolved

© Hello Goodbye

Although nowhere like their historical counterparts, it’s heartening to know that these ubiquitous Thai pants are indeed grounded in history. As a signature fashion piece of the boho traveller, modern Thai pants have also chartered new tradition of its own.


There are two kinds of Thai pants available on ShopJJ—Traditional Thai Wrap Pants and Palazzo Thai Pants. The new Thai Wrap Pants accentuate a gorgeous silhouette, with its thigh-high slits and loose rayon fabric. You’ll need to know how to wear them, though—but they’re super easy once you get the hang of it!

Their evolution from the functional Kangkeng Le to the fashionable Thai pants today is symbolic of Thailand’s creative culture, too. A new generation of designers and garment makers are continuing the legacy of their forefathers, giving updated spins on traditional clothes. The Thai pants we know and love today are no exception.

Where Can I Get Thai Pants?

You’ll find many of them at street side shops and pedlars at the many flea markets all over Bangkok. Many of them are simple stretchy pants with ‘traditional’ prints heat-transferred onto them.

But if you want the REALLY GOOD STUFF, we swear by Hello Goodbye’s range of Thai pants. They are the perfect balance of price, quality and style.

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