Where to Buy Good Pants (Part Two)
The market for trousers is pretty wonky. There’s surprisingly not that many good options, and despite there being a new company popping up every month for Goodyear welted shoes or handmade ties, the number of companies selling trousers over the years has remained relatively steady. 
Still, there are some great places to consider. Yesterday we talked about some some expensive options. Today we’ll cover the more affordable stuff. 
Howard Yount ($115-195): A favorite for many people, including me. They have two cuts – a slimmer Italian-made line and a fuller American-made line – but the differences are really small. Their pants are often recommended for a few simple reasons: the prices are competitive, the quality solid, the cuts slim, and they have a wide range of fabric options. The only downside is that they’ve been getting a lot of complaints for their poor customer service, but the fact that people still buy from them is a perhaps a testament to their product.
Epaulet ($150-275): Another popularly recommended source. The pricing and quality here is similar to Yount’s, but the cuts are slightly slimmer. Walt is their standard slim fit, while the Rudy has a bit more room in the seat and thighs. They also recently introduced their Driggs cut, which is an even slimmer model with a lower rise. Folks interested in picking from a wider fabric selection can utilize Epaulet’s made-to-order program. We reviewed it here.
J. Press ($82-330): A great source for traditionally cut trousers. Meaning, a higher rise (which will help you avoid that dreaded shirt triangle Jesse talked about) and a slightly fuller leg. In some models, they also give the option of a longer or shorter rise, although most of what they sell is called “regular.” In more exact terms, I find their “regular” rise to come up just below my navel, which isn’t too unlike the Ralph Lauren Preston cuts and Brooks Brothers Black Fleece models we talked about yesterday. 
J. Crew ($50-128): J. Crew’s Classic Bowery trousers are said to be very similar in cut to Howard Yount’s trousers, and have a slightly higher rise than what’s offered on the company’s Bowery Slim. You can find measurements for both models here. Like with everything at J. Crew, the key here is to wait for sales, as almost everything gets discounted throughout the season. 
Land’s End ($50-129): Always the reliable source for good, affordable clothing, Land’s End has a line of “tailored fit” pants. Measurements, however, suggest that the cut might differ from material to material. For example, these Super 110 wools are said to fit similar to Howard Yount’s trousers, but these “year’rounders” seem to be a dowdier cut. Two years ago, I tried the same fit in their moleskin fabrics, and found them to be much too slim to wear. On the upside, returns at Land’s End are fairly easy, so little is lost if you try a pair out. Like with J. Crew, however, you’ll want to wait for one of the company’s many promotions. 
Mabitex and Incotex ($50-400): Two great brands that are often sold at steep discounts in the secondary markets (e.g. eBay, Yoox, StyleForum’s Buying & Selling subforum, etc). Unfortunately, what you save in money, you’ll spend in time. The quality and fits here can really range, which is why you’ll want to pay close attention to what you’re buying (look for measurements). That said, when these are good, they’re really good. Especially at the prices they often go for. 
Benjamin ($99-115): Much like Incotex and Mabitex, the fits here are all over the place. If you pay attention to the measurements though, and compare them to your existing trousers, you can get a well-fitting pair at an exceptional price. 
Costco ($39-50): There are rumors that Costco’s house line, Kirkland, has nice wool trousers. I unfortunately haven’t had a chance to check them out, but perhaps you can take a look next time you’re there buying batteries in packs of a thousand. 
(Thanks to Ivory Tower Style, Luxe Swap, This Fits, and Voxsartoria for their help with this post. Also, credit to Howard Yount for the photo above).

Where to Buy Good Pants (Part Two)

The market for trousers is pretty wonky. There’s surprisingly not that many good options, and despite there being a new company popping up every month for Goodyear welted shoes or handmade ties, the number of companies selling trousers over the years has remained relatively steady. 

Still, there are some great places to consider. Yesterday we talked about some some expensive options. Today we’ll cover the more affordable stuff. 

  • Howard Yount ($115-195): A favorite for many people, including me. They have two cuts – a slimmer Italian-made line and a fuller American-made line – but the differences are really small. Their pants are often recommended for a few simple reasons: the prices are competitive, the quality solid, the cuts slim, and they have a wide range of fabric options. The only downside is that they’ve been getting a lot of complaints for their poor customer service, but the fact that people still buy from them is a perhaps a testament to their product.
  • Epaulet ($150-275): Another popularly recommended source. The pricing and quality here is similar to Yount’s, but the cuts are slightly slimmer. Walt is their standard slim fit, while the Rudy has a bit more room in the seat and thighs. They also recently introduced their Driggs cut, which is an even slimmer model with a lower rise. Folks interested in picking from a wider fabric selection can utilize Epaulet’s made-to-order program. We reviewed it here.
  • J. Press ($82-330): A great source for traditionally cut trousers. Meaning, a higher rise (which will help you avoid that dreaded shirt triangle Jesse talked about) and a slightly fuller leg. In some models, they also give the option of a longer or shorter rise, although most of what they sell is called “regular.” In more exact terms, I find their “regular” rise to come up just below my navel, which isn’t too unlike the Ralph Lauren Preston cuts and Brooks Brothers Black Fleece models we talked about yesterday
  • J. Crew ($50-128): J. Crew’s Classic Bowery trousers are said to be very similar in cut to Howard Yount’s trousers, and have a slightly higher rise than what’s offered on the company’s Bowery Slim. You can find measurements for both models here. Like with everything at J. Crew, the key here is to wait for sales, as almost everything gets discounted throughout the season. 
  • Land’s End ($50-129): Always the reliable source for good, affordable clothing, Land’s End has a line of “tailored fit” pants. Measurements, however, suggest that the cut might differ from material to material. For example, these Super 110 wools are said to fit similar to Howard Yount’s trousers, but these “year’rounders” seem to be a dowdier cut. Two years ago, I tried the same fit in their moleskin fabrics, and found them to be much too slim to wear. On the upside, returns at Land’s End are fairly easy, so little is lost if you try a pair out. Like with J. Crew, however, you’ll want to wait for one of the company’s many promotions. 
  • Mabitex and Incotex ($50-400): Two great brands that are often sold at steep discounts in the secondary markets (e.g. eBay, Yoox, StyleForum’s Buying & Selling subforum, etc). Unfortunately, what you save in money, you’ll spend in time. The quality and fits here can really range, which is why you’ll want to pay close attention to what you’re buying (look for measurements). That said, when these are good, they’re really good. Especially at the prices they often go for. 
  • Benjamin ($99-115): Much like Incotex and Mabitex, the fits here are all over the place. If you pay attention to the measurements though, and compare them to your existing trousers, you can get a well-fitting pair at an exceptional price. 
  • Costco ($39-50): There are rumors that Costco’s house line, Kirkland, has nice wool trousers. I unfortunately haven’t had a chance to check them out, but perhaps you can take a look next time you’re there buying batteries in packs of a thousand. 

(Thanks to Ivory Tower StyleLuxe SwapThis Fits, and Voxsartoria for their help with this post. Also, credit to Howard Yount for the photo above).

Where to Buy Good Pants (Part One)
Readers often ask us if we have any recommendations for where to buy good trousers. Usually grey flannels, as those tend to be the most useful, but other styles as well. So I reached out to a few friends to compile a list. Like with our guide on where to look for a suit, this isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but hopefully people will find it useful as a starting point. Today we’ll cover some expensive options, and tomorrow we’ll tackle the more affordable places.
Rota ($220-395): An Italian line with a slim leg and slightly higher rise. The construction is great, the fabrics excellent, and there are some cool details such as an extended waistband (which looks nice when you’re wearing your trousers without a belt). Note, the Rota Sport line is garment washed, so while the cut is originally same, the waist, thigh, and hip areas will be slightly slimmer. Rotas are mostly available ready-to-wear, but you can get them made-to-order through No Man Walks Alone. Doing so means you can choose from a bigger fabric selection.
Ralph Lauren ($200-450): Ralph Lauren is a big umbrella label, with lots of stuff at different tiers of quality. I personally like their Italian-made line of trousers through their Polo label (also known as Blue Label for how the label is blue). Their Preston cut is a more traditional fit with a higher rise. As with all trousers, you just have to make sure that the thigh, seat, and rise fit the way you want. The legs can be slimmed from the knee down and the waist adjusted accordingly. Prices are high (usually north of $400), but you can find them on sale at Ralph Lauren and select Bloomingdales stores for $200-250 at the end of every season. Just look for a made-in-Italy label, and note that it may soon be made-in-USA. 
Brooks Brothers Black Fleece ($200-575): Another great option if you like a traditional rise, but this time, the legs are slimmer than Ralph Lauren’s Preston cut. Thom Browne, who designs the line, often puts a little loop at the back of the waistband, but you can have that removed by a tailor if it’s not to your liking. Brooks Brothers also regularly discounts their stuff at the end of the season, and the Black Fleece line is sometimes discounted more heavily through online flash sales. 
Clay Tompkins ($250-400): A relatively new company, but one worth considering. Clay Tompkin’s trousers are cut somewhat similar to Howard Yount’s (which we’ll review tomorrow), but they feature some nice details such as adjustable side tabs. Those not only give a unique stylistic touch, but they’re also useful for when you need to adjust your pants in increments smaller than an inch (which is the only thing possible when you’re wearing a belt). I’m also told that if the red stitching on the back pocket isn’t to your liking, Clay can make your trousers without them. You can read more about Clay’s trousers here.
Panta ($239-379): A favorite of mine. No frills or flash sales here, just really good pants made in NYC. These are slimmer than many of the more traditional cuts at J. Press and Ralph Lauren, but not as slim as Howard Yount or Epaulet. The guy who runs this place, Ed Morel, also has an unusually good eye for fabrics. That means you’ll get lots of stuff that’s slightly more interesting (but still very tasteful) than what you’ll find elsewhere. Additionally, they can do made-to-measure and custom if you email them. The downside? They rarely hold sales, so the prices you see are what they are (though, maybe that’s a good thing?). 
Come back tomorrow, when we’ll talk about where you can find good trousers at more affordable prices.   
(Thanks to Ivory Tower Style, Luxe Swap, and This Fits for their help with this post. Also, credit to Panta for the photo above.)

Where to Buy Good Pants (Part One)

Readers often ask us if we have any recommendations for where to buy good trousers. Usually grey flannels, as those tend to be the most useful, but other styles as well. So I reached out to a few friends to compile a list. Like with our guide on where to look for a suit, this isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but hopefully people will find it useful as a starting point. Today we’ll cover some expensive options, and tomorrow we’ll tackle the more affordable places.

  • Rota ($220-395): An Italian line with a slim leg and slightly higher rise. The construction is great, the fabrics excellent, and there are some cool details such as an extended waistband (which looks nice when you’re wearing your trousers without a belt). Note, the Rota Sport line is garment washed, so while the cut is originally same, the waist, thigh, and hip areas will be slightly slimmer. Rotas are mostly available ready-to-wear, but you can get them made-to-order through No Man Walks Alone. Doing so means you can choose from a bigger fabric selection.
  • Ralph Lauren ($200-450): Ralph Lauren is a big umbrella label, with lots of stuff at different tiers of quality. I personally like their Italian-made line of trousers through their Polo label (also known as Blue Label for how the label is blue). Their Preston cut is a more traditional fit with a higher rise. As with all trousers, you just have to make sure that the thigh, seat, and rise fit the way you want. The legs can be slimmed from the knee down and the waist adjusted accordingly. Prices are high (usually north of $400), but you can find them on sale at Ralph Lauren and select Bloomingdales stores for $200-250 at the end of every season. Just look for a made-in-Italy label, and note that it may soon be made-in-USA. 
  • Brooks Brothers Black Fleece ($200-575): Another great option if you like a traditional rise, but this time, the legs are slimmer than Ralph Lauren’s Preston cut. Thom Browne, who designs the line, often puts a little loop at the back of the waistband, but you can have that removed by a tailor if it’s not to your liking. Brooks Brothers also regularly discounts their stuff at the end of the season, and the Black Fleece line is sometimes discounted more heavily through online flash sales. 
  • Clay Tompkins ($250-400): A relatively new company, but one worth considering. Clay Tompkin’s trousers are cut somewhat similar to Howard Yount’s (which we’ll review tomorrow), but they feature some nice details such as adjustable side tabs. Those not only give a unique stylistic touch, but they’re also useful for when you need to adjust your pants in increments smaller than an inch (which is the only thing possible when you’re wearing a belt). I’m also told that if the red stitching on the back pocket isn’t to your liking, Clay can make your trousers without them. You can read more about Clay’s trousers here.
  • Panta ($239-379): A favorite of mine. No frills or flash sales here, just really good pants made in NYC. These are slimmer than many of the more traditional cuts at J. Press and Ralph Lauren, but not as slim as Howard Yount or Epaulet. The guy who runs this place, Ed Morel, also has an unusually good eye for fabrics. That means you’ll get lots of stuff that’s slightly more interesting (but still very tasteful) than what you’ll find elsewhere. Additionally, they can do made-to-measure and custom if you email them. The downside? They rarely hold sales, so the prices you see are what they are (though, maybe that’s a good thing?). 

Come back tomorrow, when we’ll talk about where you can find good trousers at more affordable prices.   

(Thanks to Ivory Tower Style, Luxe Swap, and This Fits for their help with this post. Also, credit to Panta for the photo above.)

Q and Answer: How Do I Wear Brown Trousers?
Keys asks: Brown trousers seem a little tough to pull off. How would one go about wearing them?
No need to be intimidated! Brown trousers are actually surprisingly easy to wear.
Brown is a color traditionally associated with the country, and so you’re most likely to find it in more casual fabrics. That means corduroy, flannel, moleskin, cotton twill. The distinction between country and city clothes has largely broken down, though, and as long as you’re not headed to court, or a wedding or something, you can probably pull off some brown in town.
Brown is probably second only to grey in the variety of colors it matches with comfortably up top. It works great with blue, as you can see in the photo above, so it’s a nice way to make a blue blazer a little more relaxed. It also works great with earthier sportcoats - I use mine a lot with dark green coats, for example. Think of how well brown shoes sit with almost any trouser. And don’t forget about, well, contrasting shades of brown and tan.

Q and Answer: How Do I Wear Brown Trousers?

Keys asks: Brown trousers seem a little tough to pull off. How would one go about wearing them?

No need to be intimidated! Brown trousers are actually surprisingly easy to wear.

Brown is a color traditionally associated with the country, and so you’re most likely to find it in more casual fabrics. That means corduroy, flannel, moleskin, cotton twill. The distinction between country and city clothes has largely broken down, though, and as long as you’re not headed to court, or a wedding or something, you can probably pull off some brown in town.

Brown is probably second only to grey in the variety of colors it matches with comfortably up top. It works great with blue, as you can see in the photo above, so it’s a nice way to make a blue blazer a little more relaxed. It also works great with earthier sportcoats - I use mine a lot with dark green coats, for example. Think of how well brown shoes sit with almost any trouser. And don’t forget about, well, contrasting shades of brown and tan.

Rise High, Full Pleats, Can’t Lose
The advice that you should always avoid high-rise, pleated trousers - or that only heavier set men should wear pleats - is one of the most tired and wrongheaded ideas in menswear. Especially among fashion writers. Above is the photographer behind Guerreisms wearing a pair of bespoke trousers made for him by Salvatore Ambrosi, which he commissioned through The Armoury. The cut is on the rakish side of Italian tailoring, but as you can see — it looks great. 
With suits, a higher rise is especially nice, since it helps you avoid the dreaded shirt triangle that Jesse talked about. But even with odd trousers (meaning trousers that aren’t meant to be worn with a suit jacket), the cut can be flattering if it’s done well. 
Duke Ellington once said of music: “If it sounds good and feels good, then it is good.” The rules about whether or not you should wear pleats are silly. Maybe you like them, or maybe you don’t, but it’s always best to go by your eye. 
(Photo by EFV on StyleForum, where some Pitti Uomo coverage is going on)

Rise High, Full Pleats, Can’t Lose

The advice that you should always avoid high-rise, pleated trousers - or that only heavier set men should wear pleats - is one of the most tired and wrongheaded ideas in menswear. Especially among fashion writers. Above is the photographer behind Guerreisms wearing a pair of bespoke trousers made for him by Salvatore Ambrosi, which he commissioned through The Armoury. The cut is on the rakish side of Italian tailoring, but as you can see — it looks great. 

With suits, a higher rise is especially nice, since it helps you avoid the dreaded shirt triangle that Jesse talked about. But even with odd trousers (meaning trousers that aren’t meant to be worn with a suit jacket), the cut can be flattering if it’s done well. 

Duke Ellington once said of music: “If it sounds good and feels good, then it is good.” The rules about whether or not you should wear pleats are silly. Maybe you like them, or maybe you don’t, but it’s always best to go by your eye. 

(Photo by EFV on StyleForum, where some Pitti Uomo coverage is going on)

Q and Answer: Where’s My Waist? Where Should My Jacket Button?
Wyatt asks: I’ve heard said both on your blog and elsewhere that a jacket should button at one’s natural waist (about at the belly button) but I’ve had a devil of a time finding jackets that fit me this way. Is a higher buttoning point a current trend? 
And, while we’re discussing the waist, since it also seems that one’s trousers should sit at or close to one’s natural waist, does that mean that the platonic ideal of a suit would have the jacket buttoning at the belt-line?
That’s quite a question, Wyatt. But we can answer it.
Let’s start by getting one thing straight: your waist is not at your navel. Your waist is at the top of your hips.

Finding Your Waist
Make your hand flat, and karate chop your hip with the edge. Then drag that edge of your hand up your side. When the bone ends and your body goes inward, that’s your waist. You may carry some weight on your love handles that makes this a little harder to feel, but you’ll find it. For most people, the waist is a couple inches above the navel.
Take a look at Luciano Barbera above: he’s wearing a very classically-proportioned coat and pants. I’ve used my spectacular art skills to point to his waist, and to draw the side of his body with perfect realism. His tie obscures it slightly, but you can see that even with his coat splayed by his hands, his beltline and buttoning point converge at his waist, and you can’t see his shirt below that point.

Things Change
Fashion has not followed these rules, of course. In the past ten or fifteen years, the rise of trousers (the distance between waistline and crotch) has gotten much smaller. Your pants waist has moved down several inches from your natural waist. Many pants these days barely cover your pubes.
Meanwhile, the buttoning point of jackets has been moving the opposite direction: up towards the sternum. It’s not uncommon to find the functional button on a coat two or three inches above the waist. Press the button on one of these coats, elevator-style, and you’ll feel it in your solar plexus.
Fashion is fashion, and in fashion things change because things change. That’s fine. But there are some practical aesthetic issues with these changes.
Depending on your shape, you can get away with all this stuff. Currently fashion favors a slim, youthful silhouette over a more athletic or portly one. No matter what your silhouette, though, you can end up with a weird triangle of fabric under your coat button and above your belt, which is just plain goofy-looking.

The Upshot
The shape of a coat is meant to flatter and emphasize a man’s natural shape, so the further that button gets from the place an ideal man’s body is naturally narrowest, the more difficult it is to do that.
The lower the trouser waist gets, the more difficult the pants are to wear, and the more difficult it is to hang them flatteringly - soon all that’s holding them up is some friction and your butt.
So: make your choices advisedly. Rules are made to be broken, but they were put in place for a reason.

Q and Answer: Where’s My Waist? Where Should My Jacket Button?

Wyatt asks: I’ve heard said both on your blog and elsewhere that a jacket should button at one’s natural waist (about at the belly button) but I’ve had a devil of a time finding jackets that fit me this way. Is a higher buttoning point a current trend?

And, while we’re discussing the waist, since it also seems that one’s trousers should sit at or close to one’s natural waist, does that mean that the platonic ideal of a suit would have the jacket buttoning at the belt-line?

That’s quite a question, Wyatt. But we can answer it.

Let’s start by getting one thing straight: your waist is not at your navel. Your waist is at the top of your hips.

Finding Your Waist

Make your hand flat, and karate chop your hip with the edge. Then drag that edge of your hand up your side. When the bone ends and your body goes inward, that’s your waist. You may carry some weight on your love handles that makes this a little harder to feel, but you’ll find it. For most people, the waist is a couple inches above the navel.

Take a look at Luciano Barbera above: he’s wearing a very classically-proportioned coat and pants. I’ve used my spectacular art skills to point to his waist, and to draw the side of his body with perfect realism. His tie obscures it slightly, but you can see that even with his coat splayed by his hands, his beltline and buttoning point converge at his waist, and you can’t see his shirt below that point.

Things Change

Fashion has not followed these rules, of course. In the past ten or fifteen years, the rise of trousers (the distance between waistline and crotch) has gotten much smaller. Your pants waist has moved down several inches from your natural waist. Many pants these days barely cover your pubes.

Meanwhile, the buttoning point of jackets has been moving the opposite direction: up towards the sternum. It’s not uncommon to find the functional button on a coat two or three inches above the waist. Press the button on one of these coats, elevator-style, and you’ll feel it in your solar plexus.

Fashion is fashion, and in fashion things change because things change. That’s fine. But there are some practical aesthetic issues with these changes.

Depending on your shape, you can get away with all this stuff. Currently fashion favors a slim, youthful silhouette over a more athletic or portly one. No matter what your silhouette, though, you can end up with a weird triangle of fabric under your coat button and above your belt, which is just plain goofy-looking.

The Upshot

The shape of a coat is meant to flatter and emphasize a man’s natural shape, so the further that button gets from the place an ideal man’s body is naturally narrowest, the more difficult it is to do that.

The lower the trouser waist gets, the more difficult the pants are to wear, and the more difficult it is to hang them flatteringly - soon all that’s holding them up is some friction and your butt.

So: make your choices advisedly. Rules are made to be broken, but they were put in place for a reason.

Discovered: The Oldest Trousers Known
These are 3000-year-old Central Asian pants, worn by horse-riding nomadic people. A generous seat and narrow legs are like modern riding pants. Personally, I’m most impressed by the beautiful weaving.
(Thanks O-Dub!)

Discovered: The Oldest Trousers Known

These are 3000-year-old Central Asian pants, worn by horse-riding nomadic people. A generous seat and narrow legs are like modern riding pants. Personally, I’m most impressed by the beautiful weaving.

(Thanks O-Dub!)

Epaulet’s Made-to-Order Trousers

One of the online menswear community’s favorite retailers, Epaulet in NYC, recently loaned me some samples from their made-to-order trouser program. Their trousers are a popular recommendation for posters on StyleForum, as they’re aggressively priced, well made, and stylishly cut. Surprisingly, even with the growing menswear market in the last ten years, finding all three of these things in one package - particularly in trousers, for some reason - is very difficult. 

The swatchbooks here are impressive. There are just enough options to satisfy whatever you might want, but not so many that you feel lost in the choices. In linens alone, for example, there are five different shades of brown, all of which would be great for summer. Epaulet also has some tropical wools, which are often hard to find off-the-rack (tropical wool being a lightweight, breathable fabric that’s very useful for hot days). After selecting their fabrics, customers can choose some basic design details, such as how they want the waist to be styled (with belt loops, side tabs, or suspender buttons) and fly closed (zippered is easier to use, but buttons will help you avoid fly tents).

As it goes with most custom clothes, these aren’t returnable, so you’ll want to be sure of how their trousers fit before you go made-to-order. Which perhaps is my only reservation. Epaulet has a wide range of ready-to-wear trousers you can try, but those are returnable only for store credit. Which means if you know you’ll be shopping there for some time, trying out some trousers can be less of an issue (and subsequently going made-to-order easier), but otherwise, you’re taking a bit of a risk. For what it’s worth, I found their Walts to have a slimmer thigh than most pants I’ve tried on, but things fit nicely once I sized up from my regular 30 to a 31 (they also have a slightly fuller cut Rudy, but on that model, as the thigh expands, so does the seat). 

If you do find that their pants fit you well, then this made-to-order program is a great way to get what you want quick-and-easy. No more searching around endlessly for that right pair of trousers you have in your mind, as there are enough options here to make almost anything you’d want. 

Q and Answer: How Slim Should Pants Be?

John writes us to ask: Where do you land on the tapering and fullness of trousers? Just yesterday, I came across a really nice flannel suit at a thrift shop. The jacket fits like a glove, and the trousers just need a tiny bit of hemming … but I feel like the legs are practically stovepipes. Maybe I’m too used to wearing skinny trousers, but those big suit legs make me feel like I’m in a 1930s costume. How much can one take out of the legs, and when should you leave well enough alone for fear of ruining the balance of a suit?

There’s not an easy answer to this, as a lot depends on your body type, sense of style, and whatever is in fashion at the moment. Men wore trousers that were quite full in the ’30s and ‘40s, and then slimmed them down in the ‘50s and ‘60s, only to have them full again in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Throughout these times, however, good tailoring stood as good tailoring – and unless you’re going for much more avant garde looks – that typically means having clean lines all around, with no puckering or pulling on the front or back of your trousers.

How pants should fit, however, is very different from their silhouette, which means as long as you follow those basic principles, how you want your trousers to look is largely about taste. My personal rules of thumb are:

  • Beware of going overly slim: Very slim trousers are in fashion at the moment, but they’re harder to pull off than most people think (perhaps figuratively and literally). I find they look best on men with very skinny frames or middle-of-the-road athletic builds, but not so great on everyone else. When wearing slim trousers, be honest about whether they look flattering on you.
  • Add a little tapering: It’s nice to have a little tapering below the knee, just to add some shape to the legs. If you have pleats, however, be careful about narrowing them too much, lest you want to exaggerate the silhouette. Similarly, pay attention to how your feet look in proportion. Large leg openings can make your feet look unusually small, while narrow ones can make them look unusually big.
  • Keep things proportional to the jacket: Perhaps most obvious, keep things in proportion to your sport coats or suit jackets. I do find, however, that unless you’re at the extremes of silhouettes, there’s a lot of wiggle room to be had here. Slim trousers can really sharpen up a traditionally cut sport coat, so don’t be afraid to slim things down if you think it might make the overall silhouette look better.

In his book Eminently Suitable, one of my favorite menswear writers, Bruce Boyer, wrote: “wearing clothes well is still something of an art – it has not descended to one of the sciences.”  Other than fitting well, there’s no hard rule for how trousers should look, so it’s largely dependent on your body type and sense of style. That doesn’t make things easy, but it does make things more exciting and interesting.

Above: some photos from The Sartorialist that, I think, illustrate how men can look good with slim, full, or middle-of-the-road cuts.    

How Pants Should Fit

We’ve written about how tailored trousers should fit before, but our friend Ed over at Panta Clothing just posted some images of a pair trousers he made for a customer, and nothing beats a great example. 

When trying on pants, most people first look to see if the waist fits comfortably, but the waist is actually one of the easiest things to alter. If they’re a little loose, you can take them in, and if there’s enough material inside, you can let them out. The only exception is maybe cotton, where letting out the waist can leave visible holes where the stitching used to be (this doesn’t happen on wool because of the fuzzy nap). 

Instead of focusing on the waist, look for three things:

  • First, make sure the thighs fit comfortably. The legs can be tapered pretty easily from the knee down, but the thighs should fit fairly perfectly off-the-rack. (You can alter the thighs, but it comes with a bit more risk). 
  • Second, look at the seat. On the Panta trousers above, the seat is perfectly clean, with no rumples or folds. This is the hardest part to get right, not just because everyone is shaped differently, but also because we all stand differently as well. For example, if you stand with your hips forward, you’ll need a pair of trousers with a slightly shorter “rise” at the back (“rise” being the measurement from the crotch seam to the waistband). Note, to see whether the seat fits you, you’ll have to look at yourself in a three way mirror, as twisting your torso around will affect how the pants fit. And don’t get too hung up with whether there are a few folds here and there. It’s better to aim for a cleaner fit than not, but you are moving around in these things, obviously. 
  • Third, see if the pants catch on the back of your calves. This is more of an issue with really slim trousers, particularly if you wear over-the-calf socks. If they do catch, you’ll see a bunch of rippling around your calves. 

Overall, the idea for how pants should fit is very much like the idea for how shirts, sport coats, or suits should fit: there shouldn’t be any puckering or pulling anywhere, and you should have clean lines all around. The ones by Panta above are particularly nice, and unless you’ve having something custom made, it might be hard to achieve something as good. Still, the example above is a great way to show what you should aim for. 

(Photos via pantaclothing)

“I should say that he ought to have one pair for Sunday, another pair for Monday, and so on till number seven has been worn. Extra-vagant you say? Not a bit of it. On the contrary, seven pairs of trousers worn in this way will last much longer than seven pairs worn indiscriminately — say one pair for a week, the next pair for a fortnight, and so on. You may take it as an indisputable fact that a pair of trousers worn for three consecutive days will be out of shape at the end of the third day, however good the material and cut may be. Of course, I don’t mean that you wear them for three days and nights — don’t be absurd.” — Edward Spencer on trousers. Written in his book Clothes & the Man, which was published in 1901 — well before men started to wear the same pair of jeans every day for six months before washing.