“Woah, that’s a long zipper.”
That was my first thought upon trying out Epaulet’s new “Taylor” trousers (pictured above). They’re a longer rise, pleated cotton twill trouser, and mark a sort of return to that elegant silhouette to off-the-rack pants. Derek has written several times about the under-appreciated pleat, mostly in relation to the Armoury crew, who wear and carry some very nice fuller rise, pleated trousers (Neapolitan trouser maker Ambrosi also sells bespoke through the Armoury and does this shape very well). A trouser designed to sit at the natural waist with a pleat or two has a few clear advantages over its lower rise, flat front cousins:
- The line from waist to hem will be cleaner (think vintage Apparel Arts illustrations).
- When you’re wearing a tailored jacket, the bottom of your shirt (where it’s tucked in) won’t show below the waist button.
- Once you get used to them, they’re arguably more comfortable than lower rise trousers, which are more likely to pinch at the waistband when you sit down. Pleated trousers give where you need them to give.
Modern Full Rise, Pleated Trousers
It’s a style truism that everything is cyclical, but the pleated trousers you want today are likely not the same ones your dad bought by the dozen at Haggar in the 90s. Wait that was my dad. (Sorry, dad.) One of the valid reasons pleats fell out of favor is that in the last couple of decades pleated khakis became the default who-cares-anyway-business-casual; most men wore them low on their waists, and combined with them being a little too tight in the waist and cut a little too large in the leg, this led to some very big, very unflattering pants.
So if you want a modern pleated trouser, other than ordering them from a tailor, your best bet is buying a modern pleated trouser, vs searching for a pair in a thrift shop. The Armory’s versions and Eidos Napoli’s Lorenzo cut trousers are beautiful but maybe a bit costly if you’re just venturing back into pleat-infested waters. Another possibility is browsing Italian tailoring brands like Boglioli or Incotex on a site like Yoox, although as with all things Yoox that’s sort of a gamble–it’s hard to tell from the photos and descriptions exactly the cut of the pants–and low rise pleated trousers are still a bad combination to me. I have a pair of Yoox’d Boglioli stone cotton pants that I wear all the time in the summer, and a pair of Aspesi pants with more of a mid rise that I dig as well.
Ralph Lauren always has a pleated trouser on the market, often made in Italy and generally with reverse double pleat–that is, the fabric is folded into the pleat from the center of the leg rather than the side. I don’t particularly like Ralph’s basic pleated chinos, which embody the less great aspects of pleated pants.
Options Under $200
Fortunately Epaulet, Unis, and Suit Supply have recently released trousers that can be a good fit if you’re looking for a balance of reliability, elegance, and value. Keep in mind all of these options will require some alteration for most people, a small but not insignificant added cost. Uniqlo’s upcoming collaboration with designer Christophe Lemaire will likely also offer a higher rise, pleated trouser at a bargain price, although I haven’t handled them.
Epaulet’s Taylor trousers ($195, pictured above) are made in USA and pretty much nail the cut for the average guy in 2016. For example, my old Polo Dalton pleated trousers have a wide hem that just swallows shoes. It’s a classic proportion, but not particularly current. My Bogliolis are quite narrow at the hem, at 7.5 inches across. Epaulet strikes a nice balance at 8.25 inches in my size (I verified Epaulet’s measurements myself). They also fit quite true–a size 36 measures 18 inches across. Size 36 flat fronts often measure significantly larger, since they’re meant to sit lower on the hips. The Taylors are a very clean, accessible cut, and they’re intended to be dry cleaned, so they’ll maintain that sharp leg crease. The finishing on the pair I handled was quite good–these are well built pants, and the funky printed pocket lining differentiates them a little. While these are great in cotton, I would like to see them in wool, which would make the drape even better (currently a number of wool fabrics are available MTO).
Suit Supply offers the Brentwood ($189) in a number of fabrics, in a sort of Pitti Uomo-lite style of patterns and with an extended waistband and side tab adjusters, making these even more of a stylistic jump from your average flat front khaki. Like most Suit Supply trousers, these are a pretty slim fit. It’s great that the Brentwoods are still under $200 in wool or cotton/linen for summer. I admit I don’t know much about the manufacturing of Suit Supply goods, although the stuff I’ve handled has seemed quite well made for the price.
Unis’s Davis trousers ($198) are a little more aggressively casual. They actually measure a hair larger in the waist than tagged, but overall have a narrower leg and stronger taper than the Taylors–more like my Aspesi trousers. I like the washed cotton Unis uses for these, for an overall more casual effect than most modern pleated trousers, a nice way to ease into it if you usually wear, say, J. Crew’s washed chinos. Unis’s version is also machine washable, a bonus if you don’t plan on wearing them with tailored jackets and dress shoes. These are made in Portugal, and in character seem more akin to the Italian-made brands than U.S.-made trousers. They have a button fly–a nice but to me incidental detail.
One more bonus of pleats and higher rises? A little more volume and the aforementioned longer zipper means more… maneuverability… in situations where that’s valuable, like the bathroom. Not much is worse than hurriedly trying to negotiate a short trouser fly and boxer fly that just. won’t. align.