Everyone is a barbarian to someone else.
Quisque est barbarus alio.
Thus reads a High Gothic proverb known to the well educated castes in the Imperium of Man, that dilapidated cosmic domain formally belonging to the Celestial Imperator of Holy Terra, a realm stretching across the starspangled void, straddling a million worlds and voidholms beyond counting.
This saying describes the everlasting fact of cultural differences between humans, and indeed its meaning has been extended to describe not only the seed of Terra, but also abhorrent xenos by Rogue Traders roaming the murky corners of the Milky Way galaxy.
Out of all the caleidoscopic clashes of custom where insular tribes and congregations collide, let us briefly examine a peculiar phenomenon evident across vast swathes of several thousand Imperial colony worlds and voidholms. It is not dependant on the high culture of Holy Terra, but sprung from a plethora of local cultures sprinkled across planets and void dwellings alike. It is a source of friction on planets and larger voidholms that house populations settled across multiple climes. Is is likewise a cause of strife where ethnos and tribes with visually distinct culture come into contact, as traditional garb and markers of belonging turn into hotly contested points of pride by parochial and myopically aggressive people. Let us thus examine the myriad of dispersed human cultures, who for whatever climatological and historical reasons of their own has grown to despise the barbarian filth known as trouser-bearers.
The human custom of wearing britches date back to the misty past of the Age of Terra. Some of the first trousers were worn by steppe nomads to bring comfort during extended periods on horseback, in a way that kilts, tunics and bared nether regions could not. This rider's garb spread to become commonplace across Old Earth, and variations of this item of clothing remained popular throughout the entire stretch of the Dark Age of Technology, no matter the shifts in fashion and technology and the demands of alien living spaces. This simple garment survived among primitive survivors during the Age of Strife in a great many locales, and the all-conquering forces of Imperial Compliance would often slaughter foes in trousers, although a great many other tribes of cannibals and scavengers knew not of such an article of clothing, if they kenned any clothing whatsoever.
The early Imperium during the Great Crusade saw an eclectic mix of garb among the regiments of the Imperial Army, from strict uniforms, cunning camouflage and armoured voidsuits, to fighters donning mere loinclothes or fighting naked, protected only by tattoos or patterns of body paint. Drawn from hundreds of thousands of freshly conquered worlds, these human warriors brought their own styles of fighting and fashion with them, and often they would adopt favourite ways from others during lengthy service far away from their homeworlds.
To some extent, the trend-setting high culture of Imperial Terra would spread through encouragement, eager imitation and a limited degree of centralized issuance of equipment, yet the Emperor knew better than to try and impose a template of garb and aesthetics on his suddenly sprawling dominion. That way, unnecessary discontent and opposition lay. Better instead to let the hordes of provincials wear much what they liked, and place the Terran example of finery on a pedestal for voluntary imitation. It is after all easier to attract bees with nectar than with vinegar.
For all the visionary plans and insights that were burnt away to ash and drowned in blood following the epoch-shattering calamity of the Horus Heresy, the surviving Imperium nevertheless managed to retain an understanding that the simple Imperial modus operandi, to largely leave native customs be and avoid meddling overly much in local affairs, was for the most part the wisest path to tread. Occasional hiccups of Imperial history have seen some misguided decrees issued from the Throneworld that attempted to ban and dictate such mundane matters as clothing or alcoholic consumption, yet the perverse and unintended consequences of those culture-shaping campaigns that were actively executed on the ground inevitably saw the masters and mistresses of the Adeptus Terra shy away from prodding such explosive nests of hornets.
At the end of the day, who on high wants the trouble of riots and rebellions over superficial trifles, when all that the Imperium of Man really cares about is extracting Tithe, feeding the ravenous demands of total war and maintaining control over His Divine Majesty's scattered holdings? And was the drastic fall in Tithe grades following the Argamon Genocides of M37 really worth implementing a hated Sector-wide edict to enforce the wearing of monastic garments among the civilian population, on the pain of public abacination and quartering between four bull groxen?
Thus, Imperial authorities seldom attempt the imposition of sweeping dress codes outside the ranks of the God-Emperor's own elevated Adepts. Whatever is the local equivalent of respectable garb is expected for Ecclesiarchal Temple services, whether they be sombre robes or feathered loinclothes. Local authorities of planets and voidholms will dabble more frequently in sumptuary laws than will Imperial Adeptus, though the extent to which local administrations and policiary forces are able to enforce such laws restricting caste clothing, food and luxury expenditures is usually dubious. Amid the sclerotic and hollowed-out state of mankind during the Age of Imperium, even the most eager tyrants will tend to find that the penetration of their power into wider society has decayed from the totalitarian ideals which their dynastic ancestors better lived up to.
In parts of worlds and voidholms sporting warmer climes, such sumptuary laws will include a ban on the wearing of trousers. Sometimes, as in the case of the planet Macragge or the voidholm Felix Pulceris, the laws are dead and inert, a relic of past centuries before fashion or climate changed the way people dress. Other times, the legalities may be stringently followed by innumerable upholders of mores among the population, especially by older women whose watchful eyes and admonishing voice do much to keep a community in check. In such locales, much the same people who participate in pogroms will trot out to beat and berate straying members of the community as they drag the contemptuous deviants bloody through the streets or corridors for harsh punishment at the hands of governatorial law enforcers.
Naturally, such warmer climes where the wearing of pants is seen as a taboo broken only by barbarians and obscene infidels, the existence of sumptuary laws is only an additional obstacle to trousered folks. Even where there are no sumptuary laws against the wearing of britches, insular communities can manage perfectly fine with the instruments of public scorn, violence and social ostracism to punish filthy trouser-wearers. Here, foreigners and locals breaking their ancestral custom of clothing will find themselves heckled by children through the streets. Doors will shut close in their faces, and those desperately seeking employment will be told in no uncertain way that people in pants need not apply. Indeed, rabid and malnourished crowds with a need to kick someone can easily be worked up into a frenzy, and more than a few Imperial subjects have went under the omnibus of lynchmobs chanting that trousers equals heresy.
In such parochial cultures, where the garment on your legs have become an infested question to fight over, all proud bearers of kilts, tunic and virile togas must know that pants are the true enemy. Be gone, tube-legs!
The sprawling fauna of Imperial saints approved by the Adeptus Ministorum even includes an obscure martyr for the despisers of trouser-bearers to rally around. His name is that of Saint Oxymandias the Leper, and churchly lore says that he first snapped his finger, and then tore off his entire arm as he tried to pull up his bewitched trousers following a visit to the communal outhouse. And on the asteroid mining voidholm of Utica Extremalis, a local legend sevenhundred years old is still told vividly around electro-heaters, about how the devout Emperor-worshipper Jacques the Butcher was strangled with his own pants by a revolting mob of traitors and malcontents who dragged him out of a shed in the slums. Ever since, the denizens of Utica Extremalis has worn nothing but kilts, robes and skirts inside the station's air seals, so as to avoid suffering the baleful fate of this righteous Imperial martyr.
Speaking of trousered infamy, voidsmen in three subsectors will tell you wild story variations about Captain Zedek Mascadolce, a downbeaten Rogue Trader renowned for his ill fortune with the rearguard durability of his tight and costly trousers. Even more fell rumours claim that the splendid Captain of the Debt Collector himself repairs his ripped pants instead of ordering underlings to carry out the task. Speculations as to why range from fear of assassination, through fear of subordinate incompetence, to sheer embarrasment over such a faux pas occuring to this refined socialite. Indeed, any self-respecting Rogue Trader caught with such damaged garb on his derriere would have to hide his face in odious shame.
The cultural phenomenon of aversion to britches in some human cultures in warmer climes will undoubtedly have hygienic origins related to ventilation. Upstanding bearers of kilt and tunic swear by the advantages to health of avoiding trousers, and they curse the strange ways of self-degrading barbarians who would have their legs and nobler parts trapped inside tubes of textile or hide. Do these fools pursue eczema and itchy ratches? Do they not know that both virility and fertility is dampened by the constraints of pants? God-Emperor judge their foul garb unworthy!
Conversely, some of the worst wounds from alchemical combat gasses can be found among kilt-wearing Astra Militarum regiments, whose suffering afterward beggars belief. Any member of the Officio Medicae with relevant experience can attest this fact, while making warding gestures and spreading their fingers across their chest in the sign of the Aquila to keep away Daemons drawn to the mere words of such horrendous hardship. Yet such sacrifices of self is nothing compared to the virtue of fighting and dying for the Terran Emperor, seated on the Golden Throne of hallowed myth.
O Terra, verti est sua aeterni!
Coincidentally, a great empire during the distant past of the Age of Terra went to hell in a hand basket around the same time it widely adopted pants. Similar examples of a much later date will sometimes be bandied about by jurists and governocrats across the Imperium, as they point to a decline in planetary fortunes and a wilting of military arms following the adoption of heinous luxuries of one sort or another. Yet for the plebeian mob, such matters mostly come down to drunken violence and red-blooded herd mentality. For them, the sight of strangers being dressed in pants whereas they are not, is reason enough to cook up a fight and have some malevolent fun at the expense of another.
And so we see that human cultures always tend to fall back on cycles of petty violence and frothing outrage over trivial matters, in a circumlocution that leads nowhere. In the Age of Imperium, such movement into a dead-end is all that humanity has proven itself capable of, as mankind under the rule of the High Lords of Terra flagellates itself in abject misery and ignorance, even as its grasp on knowledge and technology rots away in a slow death spiral of demechanization.
In such a depraved interstellar civilization stuck in a rut, is it any wonder that man has been reduced to a resentful wretch, his demented hate fuelled by trauma and dogma alike? Where man has fallen so low from the golden pinnacles of his ancestors, is it any wonder that he is so prone to spontaneous outbreaks of communal violence? What else can one expect from a humanity sunk into the abyss of senility?
Such is the waywardness of mankind, after it went down the wrong trouser leg of history.
Such is the decrepit state of our species, in a time beyond hope.
Such is the raging nonsense that awaits us all.
It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only bile.