Peter writes to us to ask: I read Monty Don’s article about dirty attire and I love the idea of high waisted men’s pants. But how high is too high? Also, where might I find such pants?
Although there are guidelines for how trousers should fit, there aren’t many rules for how they should be styled. The rise of your trousers is largely about your taste, body type, and the prevailing fashions of the day. Slimmer men can get away more easily with lower rises, while heavier men often need something higher, but at the end of the day – it about what looks good on you. Personally, I find rise to be something of a balancing act.
For trousers I might wear with a coat and tie, I prefer a higher rise for three reasons. First, it helps avoid that dreaded shirt triangle that Jesse wrote about, where the bottom of your shirt peeks out from beneath your jacket. It also gives a longer leg line, and better proportions between the torso and legs – which I find to be nice when the jacket is worn open. You can see this demonstrated by Jake from The Armoury here.
The problem with a rise that’s too high, however, is that unless you’re extraordinarily handsome (like Cary Grant & Co. above), they can look unflattering when you’re not wearing a jacket. Possibly not a big deal if you never remove your coat, but something to consider if you do.
So, finding that sweet spot – where a rise is high, but not too high – is largely personal, and dependent on your dress habits, taste, and body type. For myself, I prefer trousers that come up just below my navel, although for more casual pants (i.e. anything I wouldn’t wear with a tailored jacket), I don’t mind going lower. Note, the higher you go, the more you might want to consider pleats. They’ll help visually break up that expanse of fabric that can take up your upper thighs and hips.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many good options when it comes to higher rise pants. Ralph Lauren used to have something they called their Preston fit – which I thought was great – but they recently remodeled their whole line of trousers, so all the old cuts have been discontinued. You might want to stop by one of their stores to check out the new line, and to see if any Preston cuts are on sale. The ones made in Italy are exceptionally nice, but they’re also very expensive. Note that the legs will be a bit full, but you can have them slimmed from the knee down.
Outside of them, there’s Brooks Brothers’ Black Fleece, O’Connell’s, and J. Press for dress pants, and then Ring Jacket, Jack Donnelly’s Dalton cut and Bill’s Khaki’s M2 model for chinos. For what Monty Don was wearing, you can check Old Town. Worse comes to worse, if you can’t find anything you like, you can also try made-to-measure through J. Hilburn or Luxire.