Chapter 2: Pants – Three Degrees of the Well-Dressed Man

YOU MAY THINK THAT CHOOSING A PAIR OF PANTS IS SIMPLE ENOUGH. THAT’S YOUR MISTAKE RIGHT THERE. PANTS ARE A STYLE MINEFIELD. THEY CAN BE TOO LONG, TO SHORT, TO BAGGY, AND EVEN TOO STONEWASHED. CHOOSE THE WRONG PAIR AND YOU COULD END UP LOOKING LIKE MC HAMMER.
TO GET THEM RIGHT ASK YOURSELF TWO SIMPLE QUESTIONS:  1.) DO THEY FIT? AND  2.) DO THEY SUIT YOUR TASTE?
NEVER TRY TO GO “FREESTYLE” WITH PANTS. THEY’RE NOT THE ITEM IN THE WARDROBE WITH WHICH TO DEMONSTRATE YOUR FLAIR AND VIRTUOSITY. A FINAL WORD OF ADVICE: NO MAN HAS EVER SUCCESSFULLY PULLED OFF CAPRI PANTS. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BE THE FIRST.

 

PANTS BASICS

1.) THE WAIST

A question: Where’s your waist? If you’re stumped, chances are you don’t really  know your waist size either. That means your pants don’t fit. To remedy this, place a tape measure around your midsection just above your hipbone. Commit the number to memory.

2.) THE RISE

The rise is the length of the fly, or the section from the crotch to your waistband. A long rise gives you a high waist. A short rise puts you in hip-huggers. A really short rise makes you a member of Fall Out Boy.

3.) THE INSEAM

Running vertically from the crotch to the cuff, the inseam gives you the length of your leg. It’s the second number in your jeans formula (as in 34 waist, 32 inseam). Unless you have long arms and phenomenal flexibility, you might need someone else to measure this for you.

4.) THE BELT LOOPS

Not all pants have belt loops, but if they do make use of them. They’re not there for decoration.

5.) THE POCKETS

Cell phone, keys, iPod … The modern man has plenty to lug around with him. That is no excuse for overloading your pockets and ruining the contour of your pants. There are a wide variety of side pockets: on the seam, diagonal jets, slanted, depending on the formality of the pant. At the back you can choose buttoned or open pockets, one (on the right side) or two. Whatever you decide, lose the bulging wallet.

6.) THE CUFFS

After having a moment in the eighties, cuffs are more the exception than the rule, except for those jean connoisseurs who like to show off their shuttle-loom-spun Japanese denim. With trousers, if you do choose cuffs, be sure the tailor makes them in proportion to your body size. Too big and you’ll look like an extra from The Untouchables.

7.) THE FABRIC

More than any other item of clothing, your trousers take a pounding. From your morning commute to hours sitting on a bar stool listening to Brian from
sales, your pants’ arduous routine requires that they be durable. They also have to be appropriate for the season. If you’re playing golf at lunchtime in August you might want to leave your tweed pair at home.

KHAKI

Its origins in the British military make khaki’s strengths clear: the fabric is tough, and it is suitable for both office and urban combat. Opt for modern cuts for pants-slim, flat-fronted-that many retailers have made available over the past few years.

BLACK

This is your alternative to navy blue. Just don’t wear pants in the somber color with a white shirt you’ll end up being asked what the entree special is.

NAVY CHINO

These pants can do double-duty as dressy weekend attire or casual work wear. Pair them with a slim fitting white oxford shirt.

PLEATED

Pants with pleats hang better. They give the crease more room to fall and make your legs look longer. But no pair of pants needs more than two pleats.

PINSTRIPE

Match a pair of pinstripe trousers – the lines should be pencil thin – with a pressed collared shirt and you have a fail-safe dinner party uniform.

LINEN

If you ever need to sleep in your pants, make sure they’re linen. The fabric, which is made from flax, looks great rumpled: It also absorbs moisture, and will keep you cool on the hottest of days.

CUFFED

Cuffs are a style choice that evokes prep school. If you’re on the taller side you might consider them, as uncuffed pants accentuate the length of your legs.

TWEED

The Scottish textile has lost its fuddy-duddy image and is now a fixture in many designer collections. And whether ifs in the form of checks, herringbone, or twill,
tweed is a great choice for pants, as ifs Mike Tyson tough.

CARGO

Both high-end designers and mainstream fashion retailers made a mint off cargo pants during the dress-down nineties. And as long as you don’t stuff the pockets, the military-inspired pants are still a great alternative to jeans and khakis- on weekends only.

WOOL FLANNEL

Another durable choice, flannel’s warmth and softness are surely the qualities that made it such a big hit with L.A. gang bangers a decade ago. Pants cut from the cloth are a good choice even if your name doesn’t have the word Dogg in it.

THE PERFECT FIT

Your pants should be snug around your waist, but not too tight, the hem should touch your shoe, but not cover it, and the shape of the pant should be appropriate for your frame.

THE NATURAL WAIST

It’s just below your belly button. If your pants sit any higher, you’ll officially be wearing “Dad pants.”

THE JEANS WAIST

Jeans are meant to be worn a bit lower and closer to the hips than other pants. Think old Levi’s and Toughskins. But no matter how much juice you think you have on the streets, leave the low-rider pants to the B-boys.

THE HEM

One of the keys to good style is knowing what suits you. And part of this is coming to terms with what the good Lord has (or hasn’t) endowed you with. If you’re tall, then you should consider cuffing your pants. If you’re short, lose the cuffs (and the Cuban heels, for that matter).

THE BREAK

The break is where your pants touch your shoes. The lower the break, the deeper the horizontal crease that sits on your shoe. The three different types are: medium (your pants will fall midway between the top of your shoe and the top of the sole), full (which drapes fabric over the shoe top and sweeps it back to a quarter inch above the floor in the back), and short (pants are worn high on the leg with a quarter inch of swing between the bottoms and the top of the shoe). Currently, the fashion cognoscenti and designers such as Thorn Browne favor the short break. When in doubt, go for a medium break – it’s the classic choice.

PLEATS VS. NO PLEATS

Let’s make this real simple: Unless you’re built like John Goodman or you see yourself as a middle-management “road warrior,” then there is no reason to wear pants with multiple pleats. In some cases, however, well-placed pleats, which help pants drape better and make legs look longer, can be flattering.

HOW TO BUY PANTS

Length is the obvious place a tailor can work his magic. You will have to decide about cuffs and breaks, but remember to take into account the weight of the cloth and the way you plan to wear your shoes. Another way a tailor can save the day is in the seat and crotch. Get these dimensions right – lots of guys need a little more room there – and your pants are going to be as comfortable as a second skin. Beware of trying to take the waist in too much. More than an inch and you should be buying a different pair of pants. Also, ask the tailor to leave the extra fabric in the seams. You never know when you might need to go in the other direction. 

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