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)

The WSJ on Pleats
The Wall Street Journal published a piece last week about the possibility of pleats coming back in fashion. Author Ray Smith writes:

“They’re pushing pleats – again. It took years, numerous tries and sometimes, coaxing from girlfriends and wives, to get men to part from their pleated pants and squeeze into flat front pants. Now, just as men have finally gotten comfortable wearing the style, many menswear designers are bringing back pleated pants.”

Smith then goes on to write about the various eras when pleats have been fashionable (and likewise, unfashionable), and suggests that because of what we’ve seen on designer runways and in high-end boutiques, perhaps pleats are coming back in style.
I genuinely have no problem with fashion or even trends. Even classic men’s style is a lot less timeless than many of its adherents believe. But articles like this make me think that menswear too often adopts one extreme before it swings towards the other, declaring everything else before it bad. Like how slim flat fronts have long been said to be the only kind of trouser every man should wear, you can imagine pleats one day becoming such the rage that deep folds will be put on every trouser in every store. At that point, some writer will then pen an article declaring, “flat fronts are coming back in fashion again.” And the cycle starts over.
Pleats serve very specific, useful functions. For heavy men, they can accommodate the natural widening of the hips and seat when the wearer is sitting down. They can also help the trouser line drape cleaner and more sharply, and as Mark and Ethan at The Armoury noted, if a man likes to wear higher-waisted pants, they can help visually break up the expanse of cloth that takes up one’s lap. For these reasons, heavier men will actually look slimmer in pleats, while men with washboard stomachs can go either way. What one should choose depends on one’s proportions; the kind of trousers at hand; how much one values that cleaner, sharper leg line; the types of suits and sport coats one likes to wear; and one’s own sense of personal style.
Unfortunately, too many fashion writers have written off pleats, rehashing that terrible advice that slim, flat fronted trousers are the only kind of trousers men should wear, regardless of who they are. That has left a lot of men who aren’t even that large look heavier than they are. Beware of such advice. Neither flat fronted nor pleated trousers are “the thing” every man should own this season. It depends on what flatters you the most and your own sense of personal style. Obviously the latter partly depends on fashion and trends, but don’t ignore what you look like in the mirror in favor for what you’ve read in magazines. 

The WSJ on Pleats

The Wall Street Journal published a piece last week about the possibility of pleats coming back in fashion. Author Ray Smith writes:

“They’re pushing pleats – again. It took years, numerous tries and sometimes, coaxing from girlfriends and wives, to get men to part from their pleated pants and squeeze into flat front pants. Now, just as men have finally gotten comfortable wearing the style, many menswear designers are bringing back pleated pants.”

Smith then goes on to write about the various eras when pleats have been fashionable (and likewise, unfashionable), and suggests that because of what we’ve seen on designer runways and in high-end boutiques, perhaps pleats are coming back in style.

I genuinely have no problem with fashion or even trends. Even classic men’s style is a lot less timeless than many of its adherents believe. But articles like this make me think that menswear too often adopts one extreme before it swings towards the other, declaring everything else before it bad. Like how slim flat fronts have long been said to be the only kind of trouser every man should wear, you can imagine pleats one day becoming such the rage that deep folds will be put on every trouser in every store. At that point, some writer will then pen an article declaring, “flat fronts are coming back in fashion again.” And the cycle starts over.

Pleats serve very specific, useful functions. For heavy men, they can accommodate the natural widening of the hips and seat when the wearer is sitting down. They can also help the trouser line drape cleaner and more sharply, and as Mark and Ethan at The Armoury noted, if a man likes to wear higher-waisted pants, they can help visually break up the expanse of cloth that takes up one’s lap. For these reasons, heavier men will actually look slimmer in pleats, while men with washboard stomachs can go either way. What one should choose depends on one’s proportions; the kind of trousers at hand; how much one values that cleaner, sharper leg line; the types of suits and sport coats one likes to wear; and one’s own sense of personal style.

Unfortunately, too many fashion writers have written off pleats, rehashing that terrible advice that slim, flat fronted trousers are the only kind of trousers men should wear, regardless of who they are. That has left a lot of men who aren’t even that large look heavier than they are. Beware of such advice. Neither flat fronted nor pleated trousers are “the thing” every man should own this season. It depends on what flatters you the most and your own sense of personal style. Obviously the latter partly depends on fashion and trends, but don’t ignore what you look like in the mirror in favor for what you’ve read in magazines. 

Q and Answer: Should My Pants Have Pleats?
David writes: What’s the story on pleated pants? I keep thinking they are outmoded,  but is that so? I’ve got several suits and slacks that are pleated, and  if I can wear them without embarrassing myself, I’d be happy. They all  fit fine, but again, I wonder.
The short, easy answer to this question remains: yes, they are outmoded.  There is, however, a longer, fuller answer which isn’t so simple.
Pleats in your pants serve a few roles.  They facilitate ease of movement and allow for (if desired) a fuller cut.  Most importantly they help maintain a clean line from your waist to your shoe.  Whether deep or shallow, they do a great job of maintaining that nice clean line, and or that reason, they were largely standard on men’s dress pants until not so long ago - the mid-90s or so.  Check out the voluminous pants on the young Duke of Windsor (above), and note how the pleats keep that crisp front crease.
In part, the anti-pleat was a reaction to the pleat-crazy late 80s, when the fashionable reacted to concerns about flooding by wearing pants that, by virtue of their many and generous pleats, could double as sails on a dinghy or life raft.  It was also a function of the jeans-ization of men’s pants.  Jeans and other work pants are made as simply as possible, and don’t need to hold a crease, so they don’t have pleats.  Their waistlines have also dropped from the natural waist to “barely cover the pubes” over the last 20 or 30 years, and pleats tend to billow in weird ways when they start at the top of your weenis, rather that at your waistline.
So: what does this mean for you?
Never buy pleated jeans, no matter what Marithe and Francois Girbaud tell you.
For other pants, it is your decision.
The safer choice is flat-front (unpleated) pants, which have been the rule for ten or fifteen years now.  The pleated-front, however, is both returning, fashion-wise, and probably the more classic choice. 
If you do go with pleats, remember a few things.
Pleats should be worn on higher-waisted trousers.  This creates a flattering line that becomes an unflattering billow on low-waisted trousers.
More than two pleats is MC Hammer territory.
The pleats should help you create the silhouette you want, not destroy it.  In 2010, this generally one or maybe two relatively shallow pleats.
Pleated pants should generally have cuffs.
Pleats generally work better in wool, especially heavier wool, than in casual cotton pants.
The nation’s Men’s Wearhouse stores and their ilk are still full of deep, early-90s-style pleated pants.  You should be confident that these aren’t what you’re buying before you pull out your credit card.
Removing pleats is a pretty expensive and dicey proposition.
If you’re not confident and comfortable with pleats, the default remains a flat front.  You’ll be fine with a flat front.

Q and Answer: Should My Pants Have Pleats?

David writes: What’s the story on pleated pants? I keep thinking they are outmoded, but is that so? I’ve got several suits and slacks that are pleated, and if I can wear them without embarrassing myself, I’d be happy. They all fit fine, but again, I wonder.

The short, easy answer to this question remains: yes, they are outmoded.  There is, however, a longer, fuller answer which isn’t so simple.

Pleats in your pants serve a few roles.  They facilitate ease of movement and allow for (if desired) a fuller cut.  Most importantly they help maintain a clean line from your waist to your shoe.  Whether deep or shallow, they do a great job of maintaining that nice clean line, and or that reason, they were largely standard on men’s dress pants until not so long ago - the mid-90s or so.  Check out the voluminous pants on the young Duke of Windsor (above), and note how the pleats keep that crisp front crease.

In part, the anti-pleat was a reaction to the pleat-crazy late 80s, when the fashionable reacted to concerns about flooding by wearing pants that, by virtue of their many and generous pleats, could double as sails on a dinghy or life raft.  It was also a function of the jeans-ization of men’s pants.  Jeans and other work pants are made as simply as possible, and don’t need to hold a crease, so they don’t have pleats.  Their waistlines have also dropped from the natural waist to “barely cover the pubes” over the last 20 or 30 years, and pleats tend to billow in weird ways when they start at the top of your weenis, rather that at your waistline.

So: what does this mean for you?

Never buy pleated jeans, no matter what Marithe and Francois Girbaud tell you.

For other pants, it is your decision.

The safer choice is flat-front (unpleated) pants, which have been the rule for ten or fifteen years now.  The pleated-front, however, is both returning, fashion-wise, and probably the more classic choice. 

If you do go with pleats, remember a few things.

  • Pleats should be worn on higher-waisted trousers.  This creates a flattering line that becomes an unflattering billow on low-waisted trousers.
  • More than two pleats is MC Hammer territory.
  • The pleats should help you create the silhouette you want, not destroy it.  In 2010, this generally one or maybe two relatively shallow pleats.
  • Pleated pants should generally have cuffs.
  • Pleats generally work better in wool, especially heavier wool, than in casual cotton pants.
  • The nation’s Men’s Wearhouse stores and their ilk are still full of deep, early-90s-style pleated pants.  You should be confident that these aren’t what you’re buying before you pull out your credit card.
  • Removing pleats is a pretty expensive and dicey proposition.
  • If you’re not confident and comfortable with pleats, the default remains a flat front.  You’ll be fine with a flat front.

A couple people have sent me this amazing video of Cab Calloway performing “The Jumpin’ Jive” in the film Stormy Weather (1943).  If the Hi De Ho Man isn’t enough for you, the dancing, by the Nicholas Brothers, will explode your mind.  And all performed in proper evening wear.

I love the way these pants move - fabrics were much heavier, on the whole, in days of yore, and the drape that comes from the combination of those fabrics, high waists, and well-placed pleats and cuffs is spectacular.

I’d also heartily recommend that you check out Fayard Nicholas watching and commenting on the video, which you can check out here.

Q and Answer: Can Pleats Be Removed From Pants?
James writes: I have two suits that I bought on sale a few years ago.  I still love the fabric and the cut of the jackets, but the pants  are pleated, and I find that I am not wearing them because I don’t enjoy wearing pleated pants anymore.  I feel like if they were flat-front  pants I would have two more suits in the closet.  Can a tailor take the pleats  out of pants?
Yes, a tailor can take the pleats out of pants.  It’s pretty major surgery, though, so I would only trust it to a solid tailor, not an alterationist. 
For reverse pleats (those whose mouth opens to the outside), this involves removing the waistband, opening the pleat then re-cutting the side seam and pocket.  For forward pleats, it’s even more complicated.  Some tailors will replace the pleat with a dart, which is pretty weird.  We’re not really cool with that, frankly.
Because it’s such a complicated job (you’re essentially having the tailor re-cut the pants), it generally costs about $50-75.

Q and Answer: Can Pleats Be Removed From Pants?

James writes: I have two suits that I bought on sale a few years ago.  I still love the fabric and the cut of the jackets, but the pants are pleated, and I find that I am not wearing them because I don’t enjoy wearing pleated pants anymore.  I feel like if they were flat-front pants I would have two more suits in the closet.  Can a tailor take the pleats out of pants?

Yes, a tailor can take the pleats out of pants.  It’s pretty major surgery, though, so I would only trust it to a solid tailor, not an alterationist. 

For reverse pleats (those whose mouth opens to the outside), this involves removing the waistband, opening the pleat then re-cutting the side seam and pocket.  For forward pleats, it’s even more complicated.  Some tailors will replace the pleat with a dart, which is pretty weird.  We’re not really cool with that, frankly.

Because it’s such a complicated job (you’re essentially having the tailor re-cut the pants), it generally costs about $50-75.