Tango pants are probably the most distinctive item of tango wear, simply because in Europe and America they're not really worn outside tango (even the recently-risen low-slung, gathered harem pants aren't quite the same thing).
'Tango pants' isn't really their name, and they're not actually specific to tango at all. In Argentina they're widely worn just as casual clothing, and they're called babuchas – so if you ever go clothes shopping in Buenos Aires, that's what to ask for! They're sold everywhere there. In America, they might more likely be called harem pants. In the UK, I'm not sure we have any particular name for them at all.
Whatever you want to call them, tango pants are loose, and gathered at the ankle. They're generally made of stretchy cotton, and fit around the hips for a slender profile.
The reason babuchas have ended up being so popular on the tango scene is simply because they're so popular in Argentina, and tango fashion tends to trickle down from Argentine fashion. However, babuchas make absolutely perfect tango pants, because they have all the features you want from tango clothing:
- they're soft and stretchy, so very comfy to dance in
- they're cotton, so they breathe well and are comfy even when it's hot
- they don't get caught in your stilettos, because they're gathered at the ankle
- you can wear them as a feature piece with a little top, but they're also perfect under skirts or dresses, so you can wear a skirt without worrying about flashing people mid-boleo!
- and when you get really hot, you can pull up the cuffs to below the knee, and wear them capri-style for added coolness
Some people like to wear combats / cargo pants or loose linen pants – anything which is gathered at the ankle is very tango. In Europe, there are also a lot of very baggy harem pants made from sari silk.
Where to buy tango pants / babuchas
Unfortunately for non-Argentines, the very best place to buy tango pants is Buenos Aires. Everyone wears them, so you can get them everywhere, in a range of colours, very cheaply. If you do go shopping in Buenos Aires, I recommend that you avoid the specialist tango shops, and instead wander down the side-streets off Corrientes looking for small independent shops – there you can find babuchas in every colour of the rainbow, at incredibly low prices.
It's fairly easy to find something similar in Europe these days. Your best chance is probably street stalls. Many times I've been wandering round Paris and come across a little stall selling things that would make perfect tango pants. Argentine babuchas typically have a cuff at the bottom, whereas the European equivalent may just be gathered at the ankle, but that's just as good. Also popular in Europe at the moment are babucha-style pants made from indian sari silk – these tend to be more voluminous.
I've never had much luck shopping for tango pants in the US or the UK, though. Sorry! Your best bet there is probably eBay, though the quality then is pretty patchy. My advice – if you come across some good tango pants being sold in a market or similar, snatch up as many as you can.
That said, those low-slung gathered harem pants wihch are big in the high street now are also starting to be seen at the milonga. So a good option if you can't find actual babuchas!