Loosely tailored, plus fours are slacks that fall 4 inches (10 cm) below the knee, and which came to be a common men's sporting garment in the late 1800s. Worn in Europe for centuries, they were named for the length of the material that blouses over the knee. Concurrently, there are also plus twos, plus sixes, and plus eights, defined by the same means, but not nearly as popular.
The trousers have a band that gathers the loose material at the knee, keeping them from being in the way of the wearer. Prior to the height of their popularity, when they became more traditionally known as men's wear, plus fours were more commonly worn by women and young boys, and they were often referred to as knickers. Their bagginess made them quite comfortable active wear due to the fact that they allow for a greater degree of movement. They are a cross between a pair of long shorts and the full-length trouser.
The height of the popularity of the plus fours was reached in the United States in 1924, following a visit by Prince Edward of Wales to America. The Prince was seen and photographed wearing them, and they soon become a fashion trend. The carefree, more baggy style was all the rage and was worn as a fashion statement and not as the sporting attire it was originally created to be.
In addition to their use on the golf course, these banded pants are also worn by horse riders and members of the cavalry. Their loose fit often makes them more comfortable than the traditional and long-favored breeches. Skiers have also been known to choose plus fours over other ski pants as they are held securely in place and do not allow for as much air movement as a loose pant leg does. Baseball players also wear a form of these pants, thought not as baggy at the knee. Whatever their chosen purpose, the common choice of material to make plus fours in is tweed, tartan, or cotton twill.
Always known to make a style statement as he golfed the greens, plus fours were favored and brought back into the spotlight by Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) great Payne Stewart. As a part of a traditional golf ensemble, argyle socks are commonly worn with them, something he did as well. While not seen as often as they once were, plus fours have not lost their iconic style.