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SpongeBob's pants are, as his surname implies, square pants worn by SpongeBob to fit the shape of his body. They are brown in color and contain a red tie in the middle, a pattern of black stripes, and white clothing behind at the upper top with parts of them folded. In "Little Yellow Book," it is revealed that the pants are formed up of clothing (a white shirt, red tie, and black belt), hence the interchangability of the terms "shirt" and "pants." Underneath them he has been shown to wear an average white pair of underwear.
Role in series
SpongeBob's pants play a crucial role as a defining trait of his character, so much so that they are in his last name. The singing part of the theme song even begins with Hans putting them on SpongeBob after the latter walks out of his pineapple house in his underwear, embarrassed. The first instance of his pants being a central theme of an episode is "The Sponge Who Could Fly," in which unknowingly inserting a hair dryer into them causes him to reach the sky and have the ability to fly. Although he initially dreams of flying with the jellyfish in Jellyfish Fields, he becomes a superhero to the Bikini Bottomites, saving them in dangerous situations (e.g. saving Mrs. Puff's snail from a tree), though constant requested assistance eventually annoys him and causes him to make a move to Jellyfish Fields to pursue his dreams. During the process, Canonball Jenkins flies through SpongeBob's pants and rips them apart, thus removing their inflation.
SpongeBob is shown to have a closet full of varieties of his pants, as seen in "A Day Without Tears" and "To SquarePants or Not to SquarePants," which could explain their sudden recovery after having been ripped apart, stolen, or abandoned (e.g. "Hooky," "The Sponge Who Could Fly," the aforementioned "To SquarePants or Not To SquarePants," etc.)
Episodes in which they are prominent
"Help Wanted" - Naked, SpongeBob jumps from his bed's diving board to his pants holder to put them on.
"Plankton!" - While under the manipulation of Plankton, SpongeBob walks to his pants holder to put them on, only for him to slide under them and say "I guess I won't be wearing any pants today."