So, I have a world and cybernetics are common, but I might have a little bit of a "dumb" question. The cybernetics are often used in military settings (you have commando units of people with artificial super-limbs and various implants etc. to enhance performance), and I'm just wondering:

Does it make sense for someone in such a role to wear pants? I mean they would have something to cover their privates, surely, but is not a pair of shorts technically better for mobility than long pants, being lighter and less restrictive? Cybernetics made for military use could easily be covered in camouflage colours, too.

(the question can also apply to shoes, to be honest, since cybernetic limbs can be designed so you might not need shoes for any purpose)

A relevant way to rephrase myself would be: What specifically are the advantages of wearing pants, not shorts, in a normal military uniform?

  • $\begingroup$ I think the biggest reason to not wear shorts is because they look ridiculous. As I recall, the Australians attempted it in WWII (and perhaps elsewhere), and to me they just looked like a bunch of Boy Scouts. $\endgroup$ Sep 8, 2015 at 14:48

3 Answers 3


Cybernetics would be a dead give-away that the person has been enhanced for combat, particularly in an otherwise young and healthy body. This would be even more apparent with matched sets of limbs (you might have one cybernetic limb due to an accident, or perhaps two not matched sets (one limb amputated above the knee and the other below, for example, but a matched set would be statistically much more rare). So clothes would provide a certain amount of camouflage for the operator, unless you have some sort of scanning system similar to airport security in operation. This applies for both clandestine operations by commandos (dressed as civilians) and overt military operations (uniformed soldiers), especially if unit identifiers are removed, or you dress your soldiers in uniforms from a different branch (Russian SPETSNAZ operators were routinely disguised as signals troops, since radio operators could be expected anywhere the military operates). Keeping the element of surprise, or forcing the enemy to spend inordinate amounts of time trying to discover where your cybernetic soldiers actually are would be very advantageous.

Shoes provide protection to the feet, but also can aid in how you operate. Running shoes give you lots of traction, while hiking boots provide support for the ankles. Snowshoes spread the weight of your body over a large area so you can move on a soft surface, while special shoes with cleats can help you climb. This is a bit like changing the tires on your car for different driving conditions. Of course with cybernetics, there is the option of changing the entire foot module, but once again, a backpack with an extra set of hiking boots is far less obvious than a pair of Mk 19 high modulus foot units.

Since cybernetics is going to be very resource intensive, these considerations will be much more important at first, since you don't want the enemy to quickly identify and pick off enhanced soldiers. Given the resource bill of fielding enhanced soldiers, the first generation will probably be Special Forces operators, so preserving them will be even more important.

  • $\begingroup$ "but a matched set would be statistically much more rare" This is likely true of arms, but not of legs. If someone loses a leg it would be actually quite difficult to make a replacement for it that matches their remaining leg exactly while being neither over nor under powered, and the settings could require fine-tuning every time the user goes out for a long jog. It really might be cheaper and easier to just lop the other leg off at the same point and give them two robo-legs. $\endgroup$
    – Saidoro
    Sep 8, 2015 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ What I meant was the injuries to the two legs would be different, hence the replacements would also be different. A soldier would need a symmetrical matched set to ensure that they would be equally adept on either side, and also to make logistics simpler. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Sep 8, 2015 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ And what I'm say is that even if only one leg is injured, it's probably cheaper and easier to just add an identical injury to the other and make robotic replacements for both than it is to try to match the new robotic limb to your old meat. We don't currently do this because current prosthetics are clearly worse than the meat, but if that is no longer true getting rid of the meat becomes a really attractive option. $\endgroup$
    – Saidoro
    Sep 8, 2015 at 22:56

It all depends on what your cybernetics are.

If you have sleek cybernetics, wearing normal clothes and shoes helps conceal them, so in turn you could conceal items inside said cybernetics.

If they are instead simple, with wires and gears protruding, you wouldn't want anything to cause those to fail, so don't wear such stuff.

Shoes are a different problem however.

Cybernetics are affected by wear and tear. The simplest and cheapest way to protect them against such things is by simply wearing shoes, if the feet resembled a humans.

It also stands to reason that clip on attachments could function as shoes, and perhaps serve other purposes. A foot attachment with magnets for walking up walls, storing weapons or the like.

Finally, instead of thinking about the cybernetic covers as pants, you could use modular plating with different patterns. These could be designed in a way that give the illusion they are wearing something, but not. Modular plating is just like clothing, except it's very hard.

Keep in mind there may be many reasons to hide cybernetics. What the users wears will relate to this, be it normal pants, plates, attachments or what have you.

Lastly it may just be the users choice. Perhaps wearing pants helps them accept that they have cybernetics, or cover the shame of losing their legs. It depends on culture as well. Do they believe in the purity of the body or are cybernetics fully accepted, or even endorsed?

You can very easily take the above and blend them into your story. Just add what works for you.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Also note that even in societies where cybernetics are common and accepted, it may still be taboo to go outside without pants. $\endgroup$
    – user867
    Sep 8, 2015 at 6:45
  • $\begingroup$ Yes you are correct, anything's possible considering the setting, hell there may be tripod or quadriped legs as opposed to bipedal $\endgroup$
    – Nonafel
    Sep 8, 2015 at 11:56

Why do we currently wear pants?

Protection from the environment. Be that the sun, the wind, or spiky things we might walk past. We choose clothing to suit the environment; in the cold, we wear insulative pants to keep the heat in. Firefighters wear clothing insulative clothing too, but it's to keep the heat out.

Fashion (and in a military context, camouflage) is ancillary to that.

Why would we wear robo-pants?

If your robo-legs needed protection from the elements, then you would wear an appropriate covering. They may not be conventional pants at all. Moving surfaces around joints may jam when things get stuck in them, so your pants could be designed to keep loose objects clear (as well as the pants themselves).

That, however, seems like a poorly designed leg joint.

If you're in a situation where you want to conceal the fact that you've got artificial limbs, then 'regular' human-pants are a natural choice. Outside of that, most days would be pants-off Fridays.

  • $\begingroup$ Just to be a little obstinate, could we not wear "robo-pants" because we don't want our "robo-legs" to get scratched and maintain that new leg shine??? $\endgroup$
    – user66696
    Aug 30, 2019 at 15:22

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