Fab Finds: Toppers, Pants & Dresses

Here’s an assortment of items across a range of price points that have been winners on my clients recently. It’s fun to see fresh and “new” silhouettes come through, and in colours other than black and grey. It’s great to see a more consistent level of good quality across brands like Universal Standard, Boden, Club Monaco, Halogen and COS. I’m loving the availability of extended sizes too. 

1. Universal Standard Short Puffer Jacket

This is the first time I’ve seen a plus-size brand size down to supply regular sizes in the same items. Usually it’s a regular size brand sizing up to provide plus sizes, and I like how the tables have turned. This puffer is available from a US2-4 to a US26-28, and the complete size assortment was displayed in the casual Point of View area at Nordstrom. A step in the right direction. It’s one of the best short puffers of the season, and well made too. Avant-garde, fashionable and architectural. Looks like a COS piece. The cut is sublime and works on a range of body types. The high-low hem is flattering. The colour is in between a cinnamon and burgundy, and quite accurate in the stock photo. It’s very versatile, looking as good with a dressy outfit as it does a casual one.

2. 1901 Cape

Bring out your inner Sherlock Holmes with this darling cape jacket. It’s SUPER cute, especially in the check. The waist tie is removable so that you can button the jacket like a proper cape if that’s more your vibe. Runs a size big so size down. NICE quality and crease-resistant. The checked cape has matching wide cropped pants. That’s a lot of check to wear in one outfit, but fabulous if that’s the statement you want to make.

3. Catherine Malandrino Faux Fur Collar Snap Down Jacket

One of the best $ 47 purchases of the year, and unfortunately the stock photo does not do the item justice. It’s a sweater jacket with a small faux fur collar that works on all neck lengths and bust sizes. Its gentle cocoon silhouette gives it an on trend vibe, as well as a Modern Retro one. It’s soft, comfortable and works over single and multiple layers. Dress it up or down. Wear it over dresses, skirts, jeans or pants. Leave it on indoors, or wear it as outerwear. VERSATILE. The ink blue with black collar gets my top vote. The black with the leopard collar next.

4. Boden Velvet Pants

The best velvet pants of the season at a relatively affordable price. Beautifully made and a fabulous fit. They have worked on everyone who has tried them on, although some need a slight waist alteration at the back. A magical fit that works on curvier and straighter body types because of sturdy fabric, a longer length rise, a bit of stretch, and enough room on the legs so that pocket linings don’t grin through. Available in petites, regular and talls in an assortment of colours, and up to a size US18. Very deserving rave reviews. The mustard is on its way to me.

5. Boden Velvet Blazer

The best modern classic velvet blazer of the season. It has worked on a range of body types, and is absolutely GORGEOUS quality. The stretch makes it extra comfy and allows it to mould to the body. Wear it with the matching velvet pants, or with jeans or trousers. Available in petites and regular, but not in tall. It might feel a little short on tall gals, but not too bad. Read the rave reviews. The mustard is on its way to me.

6. Zara Coat

BEST brown on-trend cocoon coat of the season. The silhouette is very flattering in an architectural way, and has worked on a range of body types. There is ample structure in the tapered hem and architectural drape of the style. My client tried it on and took my breath away. The shade of brown is cool-toned too. Wear it over single or multiple layers.

7. Club Monaco Dress Kyosti Sweater Dress

One of the best holiday dresses of the season. Warm, covered, avant-garde, architectural and very comfortable. Fabulous quality. Both colours are beautiful. Best suited to a straighter hip and less curvy bottom half, although a gentle hourglass can feel fab in it too. No shapewear required. Works really well on a broader shoulder line and shorter neck. Length is longer in person unless you are very tall.

8. Club Monaco Knitwear

Do yourself a favour and browse Club Monaco’s knitwear this season. Try it on, and look at all the colour options. It’s a little dressier and more unique than most of what is out there at the price point, and much nicer quality too. The colours skew cool-toned and neutral, which isn’t good for me, but might be ideal for you. The styles in this collection are the winners on clients so far.

9. Halogen Atlantic Pacific Faux Fur Coat

The quality of the coat is brilliant for the price point, and better than the usual Halogen level of quality. It’s a delicious shade of spicy cinnamon and makes a gorgeous on-trend statement. Modern retro, versatile and fun. Great length. It spans a range of sizes, which is one of the best things about it.

10. COS Pleated Dress

This is a repeat style for good reason because its works extremely well on a larger bust, and both curvier and straighter body types. Not good on extreme pretty pear shapes, but wonderful on adorable apple body types and broad shoulders. Substantial fabric and great drape. Can be dressed up or down. Wear it as dress with hose and boots, or over leggings. Our Inge has last year’s version in navy and looks sensational in it. She wears it over leggings and with booties and pops a coat and scarf over the top. Urban Casual Chic.

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Outfit Formula: White Boots with Pants and Jeans

Boots in white shades are on-trend. There have been lots of questions on the blog and forum about how to incorporate them into outfits, so here is the first of two outfit formula posts on the topic. 

A few things upfront:

  1. Platinum blondes, light silver, and white-haired people naturally bookend white boots in outfits. If the white boots match nothing else in the outfit, they will effortlessly create a complement with their coloured light hair.
  2. It is not essential to bookend the look. You can have ANY complexion and hair colour and rock white boots.
  3. When you wear tops and toppers in shades of white, white boots look more integrated into the outfit.
  4. Create a two or three-item complement with white boots using a belt, a scarf that picks up some white in the pattern, a handbag, or a an item of jewellery. My white pearls do a good job of picking up the white in my footwear.
  5. Don’t worry too much about mismatching white boots in an outfit. Their jarring and bright effect as a stand-alone addition is in itself a trendy look, although an acquired taste.

Some visuals to get those white boot outfits rolling:

1. Column of Colour

The white boots here are a mismatched addition, which I think works well. Less expected than black, animal print, or cognac boots to match the top layers. There is no bookending with light blonde hair, but there is an extremely narrow white stripe in the pinstripe of the blazer that picks up the white of the boots. It’s very subtle, and might as well not be there. The column of navy, and the long layer of toffee add vertical integrity to the outfit which offsets the high-contrast horizontal line created by the white boots.

PAUL ANDREW Banner Patent-leather Ankle Boots

2. Low-Contrast bottoms & Topper

Wearing white boots with light bottoms like these light wash jeans creates a low contrast that lengthens the leg line. Adding a low-contrast coat further elongates the outfit and harmonizes with the light blue and white. Here the white boots are less visually jarring than in outfit 1 above. They blend like the froth of cappuccino.

LOEFFLER RANDALL Cooper Snake-effect Leather Ankle Boots

3. Graphic Matching

Wearing wardrobe items with white in them makes white boots look integrated into the outfit. Here, the white of the sweatshirt and colour blocking of the topper match the white of the boots. The black-white-denim palette is a graphic classic where the white adds crispness to the outfit.

BALENCIAGA Talon Slash Leather Ankle Boots

4. Suited & Unexpected

Another mismatched combination that looks as if the wearer forgot to swap out her shoes. Personally I like the unexpected and jarring effect of the white boots. They look interesting, fun, crisp, and make a bold statement. There is very subtle bookending with the black hair of the wearer and the soles of the boots, which in turn matches the black bag. These small visual details help pull together the look.

CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC Claire Metal-trimmed Glossed leather Ankle Boots

5. Black, White & Grey

Wearing a black-white-grey outfit with white boots is a classic colour combination. First, the column of black creates vertical integrity which offsets the horizontal line created by the high-contrast boots. The white in the plaid and stripe of the coat pick up the white of the boots to create a harmonized whole. When the coat comes off, the repetition of the white is thrown out the window. That’s fine because mismatched boots look just a fab.

THE ROW Coco Leather Ankle Boots

I’ve been wearing white footwear forever. It’s my thing, signature to my style, and bookends my blonde hair and white pearls. White footwear is my wardrobe essential, so much so that I don’t think about how I’m going to integrate it into outfits because white footwear always works to my eye. It’s a completely subjective thing. It might not be your preference, and it’s all good. Horses for courses, always.


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Low vs. Mid Vs. High Rise Pants: Choosing Your Best Fit

Like lapel width, the rise on a pair of pants is one of those things that go in and out, or rather, up and down, over the decades. But what exactly is it?

When you buy a pair of pants, do you look for the rise? If you are new to the finer points of men’s garments, the rise may not be your first consideration. So, in this article, let’s hike up our pants and address what trouser rise means and what sort of rise is best for you.

Cary Grant in The Red List wearing spectators and full cut trousers

A young Cary Grant in The Red List wearing spectators and full cut trousers that sit on the natural waistline

What is Trouser Rise?

Trouser rise is measured as the distance from the front waistband between the legs to the back waistband.  This may be generically referred to as the “crotch.” Low rise pants have a smaller measurement and sit lower on the torso while higher rise pants have a higher measurement and sit higher on the torso.

This may be in the range from 7-13 inches depending on the size of the pants (smaller sizes have lower rise height).  The waistband of low-rise pants rests at the hip bones, mid-rise between the navel and hip, and high rise at the natural waistline (close to the belly button or directly on it).

Mottled, fainted red jacket with green knit vest - too short, and rise of pants too low

These low rise pants elongate the torso and make the jacket appear very short

To remember this easily, keep in mind the two reference points of hips (low rise) vs. belly button (high rise). Rise height matters because the amount of fabric in this area dictates how long your legs and your torso are perceived to be. A higher rise makes your legs look longer, while a low rise elongates your upper body. As we’ll discuss later, this will factor in what sort of pants rise you choose.

Ethan Wong wearing high-rise trousers

A mid-rise trouser rise at left–not too high, not too low. Photo by @sebastianmcfox

Pants Rise and Fashion

As mentioned in our introduction, pants rise is heavily impacted by fashion. High-rise also referred to as “long-rise” or “high-waisted,” pants have had a bad reputation for several decades because they are associated with either out-of-touch granddads or young nerds with their pants hiked up to their chests.

Steve Urkel in high-rise pants

Steve Urkel’s high-rise pants defined his nerdiness – if he’d just worn a jacket, lengthened his hem and worn some real socks, this would have been a totally different look

High-rise trousers are colloquially referred to as “old man pants” and were worn by the likes of Steve Urkel on Family Matters and Martin Short’s character Ed Grimley on Saturday Night Live. Of course, these are either intended for comedic effect or illustrate simply that the majority of people don’t think about how to dress well.

Look at the grey suit - beautiful lapels, high waisted trousers, boutonniere and pocket square plus collar pin - stunning from Night After Night

These high waisted trousers in Night After Night were du rigeur in 1932 – just look at how long they make the star’s legs look!

Some older men may recall that “back in the day,” high-rise trousers were the standard, and this is true. If you look at illustrations in Apparel Arts or vintage advertisements, you’ll see high-rise trousers, also with wider legs, so quite the opposite of the skinny and low fits promoted in today’s fashions.

Viennese Suit Styles

The style of the 1930’s was dominated by high-rise trousers with a longer, wider leg

The changeover to a lower rise is only a recent development. Ironically, along with a move to casualization, lower-rise pants are at the opposite extreme on the continuum, sometimes lying below the hip bones, or in the case of streetwear down toward the buttocks.

As with most things in life, it’s best to avoid the extremes. If you choose a mid-height rise, you can be assured that what you wear from the waist down will have enduring value. However, the middle of the pack can be boring too, so there are other factors to consider.

What Rise Should You Choose?

Navy pants with inward pleats worn with suspenders for a smooth look

Sven Raphael Schneider often opts for higher-rise pants because they drape nicely over fuller thighs

Consider Your Body Type

The first consideration in choosing trouser rise is your body proportions. Because there’s more fabric in the rise of high-waisted pants, they create the impression that your lower body, and especially your legs, are longer. On the other hand, low-rise pants make your upper body appear longer because your pants only start at your hips.

So, if you have a long upper body, high-rise pants will counterbalance that and make you look more proportional. On the other hand, if you are short waisted, a lower rise should be your choice to make your upper body appear longer.  Of course, if you wear a suit jacket or sport coat and keep it buttoned when you walk around, these differences will matter less.

High-Rise Pants Elongate the Legs

Jan (@mrjantleman) of the Armoury Hong Kong showing how high-waisted trousers can elongate your legs and balance your torso and lower body.

Similar to pleats, a high rise can make your more comfortable if you carry weight in your abdomen. Often high-rise pants will also be pleated. As a side benefit, a higher waistline also helps disguise your belly.

If you wear low-rise pants, even some holiday overindulgence at the dinner table will give you an overhang or muffin top above your waistband. This makes the tucked-in bottom of your shirt look sloppy in turn, and if you wear a knitted sweater or vest, this in combination with lower-rise trousers will visually emphasize your gut.

Spezzato Suit Jacket and Matching Vest with Contrasting Yellow Pants and Brown Oxfords

Sven Raphael Schneider wearing bespoke mustard yellow high-rise pants

Higher-rise pants are therefore more flattering under these several conditions. When sizing, be aware that if your waist measurement is a certain size but you have a belly, you may need to have high-rise pants let out at the waist because it sits up where your stomach is and not at your hips.

Ethan Newton with Higher-Rise Pants

Ethan Newton of Brycelands in Beijing demonstrating how high-rise trousers can be flattering to different body types; note the pleats as well

The shape of your body also tends to change with your number of years, and pants rise is also a part of dressing appropriately to your age. While younger men have a wider range of possibilities when considering rise, an older man wearing low-rise pants risks looking like he is trying to recapture his lost youth. However, for younger men too, low rise will maintain a perception of youthfulness, but a strong motive for wearing tailoring and classic menswear is to avoid dressing like a boy.

An off-white suit

Low rise pants are a distinctly youthful look

Usually, this means not wearing flip-flops, a t-shirt and a backward baseball cap as your day-to-day outfit, but to be perfectly frank, a moderately high waist gives you a more mature appearance than pants that hang off your hips.

Check How the Pants Fit

Your decision then goes to which is more comfortable for you. When you try on a pair of pants, if the waistband is level and you feel like the crotch is bunching up or confining you, you may need a higher rise. On the other hand, if it looks like there’s excess fabric in the rise and the material is hanging down, you need a lower rise. On the internet, you can find some old tailor’s formulas for calculating the optimal rise for you based on taking your usual pants waist size, dividing by 52 and then multiplying by 18. So, if you have a 34 waist, you would calculate 34/52 x 18, giving you a rise of 11.8.” This seems about right, but try the formula for yourself.

 

Clark Gable wearing high-rise trousers

Clark Gable wearing high-rise trousers

Consider the Aesthetics of Your Look

Other aesthetic considerations come into play when choosing rise height. Note as well that high rise trousers usually will help keep your shirt tucked in as a whole simply because the shirt has a long way to rise out above the waistband. With lower-rise pants, simply moving around, bending and getting up will force you to re-tuck your shirt throughout the day.

Keep in mind that because your waistband is higher your tie will either have to be quite short to keep it just touching your waistband. Though the image of Oliver Hardy has some comic intent, such short ties were more common with the high-rise trousers of the time. Otherwise, you’d need to tuck your tie into your waistband or wear it sprezzatura style with the blades hanging below the waistband. The trick to pulling this off is to make it obvious that it is intentional.

If you like looking fashionable and contemporary, a low rise–in a slim fit, along with a fitted suit jacket or blazer–will be your choice. However, if you prefer a traditional, even vintage, look, opt for a higher rise. That’s the way men during the Golden Age of menswear wore them, and they knew what they were doing in creating a clean, uninterrupted transition from the jacket to the pants.

Sam Smith and unknown - velvet green dinner jackets are nice but sockless tassel loafers are not for black tie events

Green velvet dinner jackets are elegant, but only when paired with pants high enough not to show the shirt under the buttoning point

There should never be a small triangle of shirt showing below the buttoning point of your jacket when you have it closed as this disrupts the flow of your look. If your trouser rise is too low, that bit of shirt will certainly be visible where the quarters (front skirt) of your jacket begin to separate. You can disguise this gap with your tie, which is a little better though technically still incorrect form, but the best solution is a higher waistline; some mid-rise pants will be high enough.

Fabio Attanasio Lower Rise Pants

With lower rise pants, your shirt will be visible below the buttoning point. Photo of Fabio Attanasio via The Bespoke Dudes.

Gents from the first half of the 20th century also knew high-waisted pants look best if you are wearing a suit jacket, blazer or sport coat, especially closed. If you open your jacket, high-waisted pants risk making your chest look concave or sunken and also shortens your torso. Even the Swedish sartorial icon Andreas Weinås looks better with his jacket closed when wearing high-rise trousers.

Closed and Open Jackets with High-Rise Trousers

A closed jacket tends to look better (more proportional) with the jacket closed

Where to Buy Mid- and High-Rise Trousers

So, ultimately, in most cases, it’s better to go with a mid- to high rise. That’s why many gents who try a higher rise say they’ll never go back to something lower. We certainly would welcome a return of popularity for the more traditional high rise on dress pants!

High Rise Pants are Rarely Available Off the Rack

In fact, it’s virtually impossible. The trend for lower rise pants, despite the fact that they are flattering for so few, means you’re less likely to find high-rise pants because they won’t appeal to a broad clientele. One possibility is to try small menswear boutiques and haberdashers. Berg & Berg, for example, only sell higher rise trousers, but the selection is fairly small.

Mid-Rise Pants, However, Are Much Easier to Find (Just Avoid Fast Fashion)

On the other hand, it’s much easier to find mid-rise pants from brands that lean classic, such as Ralph Lauren. They list the height of the rise in the “details” section of their product listings. Many of their OTR models are mid-rise, even though they aren’t advertised as such. In general, pleated pants require a higher rise to drape properly, so that feature is an indication the rise might be higher than average.

Avoid fast fashion brands entirely; they are simply too trend focused to offer mid- or high-rise pants.

Order High Rise Pants Bespoke or MTR

Button closures on a pair of pants

Multiple button closures on a pair of custom Luxire trousers

A better option, though often more expensive, is to go bespoke or made to measure. Luxire is a name that often comes up when discussing custom trousers. They’ll copy a pair of pants with a rise height you like in any fabric they stock, and they have a lot. The quality is not the highest, but the fits are good.

Buy Pants Large and Tailor Them to Fit

Ethan Wong of Street x Sprezza presents interesting advice for how to get around this shortcoming. He recommends buying pants 1-2 sizes larger than you normally wear and getting the legs tapered and the waist taken in. Bigger sizes will have longer rises by default, and you can will have a larger selection to choose from if you think outside the box this way.

Ethan Wong wearing high-rise trousers

Ethan Wong wearing high-rise trousers

Conclusion

Although many men don’t think much about the rise when buying a pair of pants, those who are true sartorialists understand that it has a tremendous impact on how the trousers fit, how they look and how they feel. Though the current trend is toward lower rises, a medium to high rise usually has more benefits in terms of appearance and comfort. The choice ultimately depends on your body shape and personal taste. So, what sort of rise do you prefer?


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Outfit Formula: Easy Black Pants with Grey and Blue

It’s a challenge to make a simple pair of black pants feel fresh, especially when they’re a staple for the office. Adding key, on-trend components, like white boots, sneakers, Western elements, longer blazers, statement plaid, and a flared pant silhouette are some of the ways my clients are preventing black-pant-outfit boredom without breaking the bank. 

Here are four easy renditions:

1. Blazer & Sneakers

When flares like bootcuts were on trend a while ago, it was all the rage to wear them with pointy-toe heels. Although a beautifully elegant combination that I adore and will personally continue to wear, it’s much more 2018 to wear flares with flats (like sneakers), a tucked top to showcase the fashionable high rise, and a blazer of sorts. That ‘90s longer length is on trend, but a shorter modern classic blazer is just fine. Feel free to add a blue blazer instead of grey, and any colour sneaker. Fabulous with cowboy boots too.

J Brand Velvet Joan High Rise Pants

2. Volume & Western Boots

Combine a pair of black culottes, wide crops or harem pants with a white top, and oversized grey or blue jacket. Wear the top tucked or untucked. Finish off the look with short cowboy booties or shooties. If Western booties aren’t your thing, choose black booties that are tailored on the ankle. A grey or navy top will look as fab.

Mango Flowy Straight-fit Trousers

3. Modern Classic & Polished

Combine a pair of black pants with black boots, a navy top and and a plaid topper of sorts. Choose a blazer instead of a coat if that’s more your thing. NICE to see full-length black pants here for a change. I like the exposure of the high rise, but you can wear the top over the bottoms.

Sandro Long Plaid Coat

4. Columned & White Boots

Create a column of colour with black pants and top. Layer a navy blazer or coat over the top, and finish off the vibe with white boots. No need to match the white boots with anything in the outfit. No need to have blonde or silver hair to bookend your look either. Just throw in the white boots and wear them! If that feels off – remember, you might need to get used to the jarring effect so give it some time. Failing that, build a white complement with white bag, scarf, top or belt. Add jewellery, eyewear and watch as desired.

STELLA MCCARTNEY Robin Cotton-corduroy Blazer


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Features of a Pair of Pants

So much effort goes into the finding the perfect jacket that if there is one garment men tend to neglect when they pick out a suit, it’s the pants. It’s time to give the sartorial features of pants their due. 

It’s understandable why the anatomy of the suit jacket, with the lapels, the pocket style, and the buttons, among many other features, demands the most attention. But, the pants are crucial to providing balance and definition to the rest of the outfit, and a misstep can throw off the entire look. Trousers also contain various features from top to bottom, waistband to hem, that are important to consider for fit and appearance whether you are buying them as part of a suit or on their own as a pair of casual chinos.

Spezzato Suit Jacket and Matching Vest with Contrasting Yellow Pants and Brown Oxfords

Pants can be the center point of your outfit; here, Sven Raphael Schneider pairs a brown suit jacket with bold yellow pants with a tall cuff.

Features of a Pair of Pants

Tie tucked into waistband

Tie tucked into waistband secured by a metal hook

1. The Waistband

Starting at the top, pants most commonly feature a waistband. The waistband is a thin strip of fabric that wraps around the waist and features the some of the securing mechanisms needed to hold them on the body, namely a button or hooks.

Solaro suit, with waistband, extreme peaked lapels & madder tie

Solaro suit, with a wide waistband, extreme peaked lapels & a madder silk tie

The waistband can vary in terms of width, from thin to wide, though the standard is between 1-2″ wide.

Pants with two inward pleats and a continuous waistband

Pants with two inward pleats and a continuous waistband

Occasionally, especially with MTM or bespoke trousers, you may find a pair without a waistband, which is often referred to as a continuous waistband.

2. Belt Loops

Attached to the waistband are the belt loops, which hold the belt in place around the waist. It is traditionally said that pants with belt loops should always be worn with a belt; otherwise, it looks like you just forgot to put it on. However, going beltless is popular for a casual sprezzatura look.

Belt loops on pants

Pants with belt loops worn without and with a belt

On custom-made or higher-end dress pants you will also find the related prong keeper, a tiny loop of fabric at the front center, that is designed to hold the prong of your belt buckle in place like the keeper on the back of a tie. Its purpose is to keep your buckle centered, preventing your belt from rotating away from the center as you go about your daily activities. Because they’re made of a different material (leather) in a different color than your shirt or pants, they interrupt the vertical flow of your outfit, and leather is a casual material if you are wearing tailoring.

3. Suspender Buttons

Though you will almost never find them off the rack, some pants are tailored with suspenders buttons on the inside of the waistband. These pants tend to be higher in the rise and pleated, as the suspenders help pull the pants upward rather than inward, creating a smooth line down the leg and pleats.

In terms of design, most pants are designed to be used with either a belt or suspenders, but not both. Side adjusters, discussed further below, can be tailored on pants meant to be worn with suspenders because they can help adjust the waist width while not bearing the burden of holding up one’s trousers entirely.

Suspenders Braces pants trousers with inward facing pleats and side adjustersFlannel pants with side adjusters

Neopolitan tailors occasionally will tailor both suspender buttons and belt loops for the sake of sprezzatura, but it is neither a classic look nor all that practical since a pair of pants will look best when tailored for either a belt or suspenders rather than both.

Very Neapolitan - suspenders & belt loops

Very Neapolitan – suspenders & belt loops together

4. Side Adjusters

For reasons of greater formality and uninterrupted lines, some men prefer trousers with side adjusters. These are usually small buckles, one at each hip, attached to cloth tab or strap that enable you to cinch the waist an inch or so on each side.

The adjuster can be placed center of the waistband (as shown above) or lower, on the seam that joins the waistband to the rest of the pants.

Side-adjustable trousers from Pini Parma with bold waistband details

Alternatively, you can find adjusters with buttons rather than buckles though these do not have the same range of possible adjustments–you can select either button one or button two–and are slightly less formal. The adjusters are hidden and the clean expanse of cloth they create at the front waistband makes pants more formal. Thus, side adjusters are found on formal wear and in better suits. Similarly, on bespoke trousers, if anything, side adjusters are used because a belt would suggest that the pants are not properly fitted, which should not be the case if they are custom made for you.  At the opposite extreme, a waistband can also contain a drawstring or elastic band, though these would be reserved for pajamas and exercise pants; don’t be fooled by SuitSupply ads showing men wearing them with sport coats!

A belt also directs the eye to your waistline, so if you have what the Italians call a balconetta there, pants with side adjusters can de-emphasize your belly.

Salvatore Ambrosi and Atte Rytkönen wearing suits with cuffed pleated trousers and no break.

Skipping a belt helps Salvatore Ambrosi elongate his frame

Because the belt acts like a strong dividing line between your top and bottom halves, if you have legs that are short, try side adjusters to create more of a continuous flow, elongating your figure. On the other hand, if you have really long legs, pants with a belt can help balance you out.

5. After-Dinner Split

There are a couple of other useful details at the waistline. One is the charmingly named “after-dinner split.” This is a split in of the material at the center back of the waistband held together by loose slip stitching similar to what you’d see on the back of a tie, sometimes accompanied by a V-shaped notch. The name suggests that it helps accommodate the expansion of your stomach if you eat a large meal. However, its real purpose is to allow more movement of the fabric at the waist, especially when you sit. The effect seems to be subtle, but having one is a hallmark of attention to detail.

After-dinner split

An after-dinner split on a pair of pants from Tailor Made London

6. Waist Curtain

Lastly, on the inside of your waistband, you may have a waist curtain. It’s essentially a strip of lining that runs the full circumference of the waistband. Usually, it’s secured along the top of the waistband but can be lifted up from the bottom to reveal the underlying materials of the waistband construction.

Navy pants with inward pleats worn with suspenders for a smooth look

Navy pants with inward pleats and a continuous waistband worn with suspenders for a smooth look

On its own, its functional purpose is minimal, but it is another sign of quality finishing. When the waistband is rubberized (i.e., it features a narrower glued on rubber strip) there may be a greater effect, which is to help keep your shirt tucked in. The rubber provides friction and grip that helps secure the fabric of your shirt. I have not empirically tested its effectiveness compared to a waist curtain without rubber, but you’re welcome to try and report your results.

High vs. mid-rise pants

Andreas Weinås in high-rise pants and Greg Lellouche wearing a medium rise.

7. The Rise

Below the waistband is the area called the rise, measured from the seam at the bottom of the crotch to the waistband. This may be in the range of 9-13 inches depending on the size of the pants and whether it is low-, mid-, or high-rise.  For a while now, low-rise trousers have been in fashion, meaning the pants sit around your hip area. Rise plays a significant role in determining the visual proportions of your body.

Low-rise pants make your upper body look longer and your legs shorter, as your pants simply do not go up that high on your body. Therefore, a low-rise can help balance out the appearance of men with long legs. In contrast, high-rise trousers sit at your true waist, which is around your belly button. Because there’s more fabric between the waist and crotch, they visually elongate your legs, so high-rise pants are ideal for men with shorter legs. Like pleats (discussed below), a high rise is often ridiculed for their association with granddads wearing their pants hiked up to right below the nipples.

Steve Urkel in high-rise pants

Steve Urkel’s high-rise, outward -facing pleated pants were a wearable caricature of his nerdiness; they do accentuate the length of his legs, however

From my perspective, high-waisted pants look best if you are wearing a suit jacket, blazer or sport coat, especially closed. In this situation, they are ideal because their height prevents either the bottom of your tie or the lower part of your shirt from showing between the lower button of your jacket and the waistband of your pants. Ideally, there should be a clean, uninterrupted transition from the jacket to the pants; a high waist ensures this. On the other hand, if you open your jacket, high-waisted pants risk making your chest look concave or sunken and also shorten your torso. The solution is therefore either to go with a moderately high or mid-rise pair of pants or to keep your jacket closed.

Clark Gable wearing high-rise trousers

Clark Gable wearing high-rise trousers

High-rise trousers create more of a classic or vintage look, and fashion illustrations from the Golden Age of menswear between the 1920s-50s show this as the default. You’ll also notice that neckties were considerably shorter, so if you wear high-rise pants you’ll either need to buy shorter ties or vintage ties, tuck them into your waistband or wear them longer than your waistband, but more in the sprezzatura style than Donald Trump.

8. Pleats (Or a Lack Thereof)

We’ve previously spoken about pleated pants and whether you should wear them in another article, so check that out for a more in-depth discussion. In brief, pleats are folds of fabric in the trouser rise. On flat-front trousers, as the name states, the fabric in this area is smooth. Pleats can either be forward facing, in which the folded fabric points inward, toward the fly of your pants, or reverse—pointing in the direction of the pockets. The British style generally favors inward-facing pleats whereas pants in a more Italian, specifically Neapolitan, style usually face outward. In terms of which is better, forward pleats usually receive less criticism as they tend to remain flat, while outward ones may open and stay open, resulting in ballooning fabric. The number of pleats that you have can vary: usually, one or two, though some men have experimented with three and even four pleats.

Navy pants with inward pleats worn with suspenders for a smooth look

Navy pants with inward pleats worn with suspenders for a smooth look

Pleats add mass and visual impact to the area of the rise. They can provide more comfort than a flat rise, especially if you carry weight in your abdomen, because the extra fabric there expands slightly as you move around, sit down or get up. Pleats also continue the crease that runs up the middle of each pants leg if you have dress pants on, which enhances the sharp and polished look.

9. The Seat

Some of the rear pocket options on custom made-to-measure trousers from Luxire.

Some of the rear pocket options on custom made-to-measure trousers from Luxire.

White Flannel Pants from Merchant Fox

White flannel pants with buttoned, welted pockets

On the opposite side of the rise is your seat, where your rear end is. There isn’t much to say about pants construction here except for the various pocket options. Usually, you have two rear pockets on the seat, though these can either be welt pockets or welts with a single button on each. This gives you a clean rear seat. Any other possibility–flapped or patch pockets–would be present only on casual pants. Whatever the design, these rear pockets are useless for the most part since loading them with anything more than a small piece of paper and perhaps a pen will make it annoying to sit down. On a side note, if you get your waist let out by a tailor to make it larger, there will usually be some cloth in the seat area to let out as well; doing both at the same time helps with comfort and maintaining a clean rear view of your pants.

10. Front Pockets

Continuing the discussion of pockets, you will most likely have two of them on the front of any pair of pants. By far, the most common pocket style on trousers is slant pockets.

David Gandy in Mid Grey Flannel with DB Vest & Navy Pants

David Gandy in mid gray flannel with a DB vest and navy pants with slant pockets

As the name implies, these are cut on an angle, enabling the wearer to slide his hands into them easily.

Sean Connery as James Bond, wearing trousers with vertical pockets.

Sean Connery as James Bond, wearing trousers with vertical pockets and button side adjusters

Other rarer pocket forms are completely vertical and frogmouth pockets. The latter are named for their resemblance to the mouth of a frog. In the sense that these are oriented horizontally across the front of the trouser, they are the opposite of the vertical slit pocket. As such, they also really make the pockets a visible feature of the pants. Frogmouth pockets go with flat-front trousers as they would interfere with pleats.

Frogmouth pockets are rare these days.

Frogmouth pockets are rare these days

If you’ve owned a pair of jeans, you are likely familiar with the coin pocket, a small, seemingly useless pocket that nests inside the larger one on the right front. Originally, it was developed by Levi-Strauss to enable men to carry their pocket watches while wearing denim. Today, in the era of wristwatches, this pocket has become vestigial, something more for a traditional aesthetic than any real function, though some men store things like coins, mints, or a condom in it. Along with the two front and two back pockets, the coin pocket is responsible for the term “five-pocket pants.” However, an added coin pockets can appear in pants that are more formal than jeans too, such as summer chinos.

Coin pocket on a pair of jeans

Coin pocket on a pair of jeans

11. The Fly and Front Closure

In order to get your pants on and off, you need to have a means of opening and closing them. This work is done by the fly and the button closures on the front of the waistband. The default for the latter is a single button, but on higher-end trousers, you’ll find an extended tab that tucks into a loop and is fastened off center. On pants that are meant to be rakish (Neapolitan, of course), you may find an elaborate double tab with two buttons. An equally ornate closure is available in British tailoring too, via the famous Gurkha trouser, a military-inspired garment with a long strap that buckles to close.

Elaborate pants closures

Linen Gurkha trousers at left from Ring Jacket; Pini Parma Neapolitan-style flannels at right

The front zipper is usually a standard and therefore very forgettable detail on a pair of pants. However, more fancy designs can feature a button fly as well as an elaborate system of a flap (sometimes called a French bearer) and inner buttons to fasten up the pants. In some cases, these can seem like overkill in keeping your pants closed and holding in your junk, but they are more a sign of the tailor’s time commitment and effort than a functional necessity.

Button closures on a pair of pants

Multiple button closures on a pair of custom Luxire trousers

12. Pants Leg Cut

The legs on a pair of pants can be straight or tapered, wide or slim. For a sharp appearance, some tapering should occur, meaning the legs should get gradually more narrow as they move toward the bottom. This can happen top to bottom or start closer to the knee, which is an important consideration if you have large thighs. In recent years, slim legs have been in fashion, and, to some extent, they have always been part of the classic Italian style. As a guideline for future purchases, measure the bottom leg opening of a pair of pants that fit you well along with the width at the approximate location of the knee and thigh.

Visible pocket liners with white trousers

Unlined pants can be sheer depending on the color or fabric

13. Lining

Legs may also be lined on the inside, either down to the thigh or fully, especially if the pants are a light color or one that is either sheer or rough–summer fresco cloth is both. The lining prevents your skin and underwear from showing through and also protects your skin from abrasion. The trade-off is that the lining makes you hotter in summer, reducing the cooling effect of the material.

The visible surface of the legs also can give you a strong indication of whether the pants are casual or formal. If there is a sharply defined crease down the center of the leg, the trousers are formal, but if they are flat, they are more casual. The presence of a visible seam down the inside of the leg also is a sign of casual style, seen on chinos and jeans.

Dress pants (left) with a distinct crease; chinos (right) with more evident seam details, no pleat, and a metallic button closure.

Dress pants (left) with a distinct crease; chinos (right) with more evident seam details and no crease.

14. Cuffs or Turn-Ups

If you’re from North America and hear someone mention “turn-ups” in relation to pants, rest assured they’re not talking about vegetables but about the British term for trouser cuffs. Cuffs make a pair of pants less formal, probably because they add more ornamentation, and usually more ornamentation means less formality. Thus, you won’t see cuffs on a tux or even most business suits. For suits that are a bit more casual, like flannels or linen, you can get away with cuffs, usually in conjunction with other casual elements, like patch pockets on the jacket. Cuffs on pants are not a minor detail as they are immediately noticed and lend “weight” to the bottoms of the legs. In this way, they have the effect of visually shortening your legs. So, if you are tall or have long legs and want to balance out your appearance, cuffs may be for you. Shorter men should generally avoid them.

Cuffed trousers at Pitti Uomo

Cuffs can have the effect of shortening your legs, especially when worn with no break and a longer suit jacket.

Cuffs look best with pants that have legs that are wider rather than those with small leg openings. I personally prefer a clean leg and have cuffs on only one pair of pants—summer linens; these are lightweight and, given the nature of linen, are prone to folds and creases and do not cling closely to my legs. All of these are the qualities that make for good air circulation while inviting a cuff to weigh the legs down a bit. A comparable cold weather fabric that works well with cuffs would be a light, soft corduroy, which has a similar potential to billow. When choosing trousers with cuffs, two things are essential. First, the pants should have no break. Wearing cuffs with a pants break appears sloppy, as the heavier cuff fabric pools around your ankles and over your shoes, making you look like a tramp or hobo. Secondly, the cuffs should not be too tall, usually around 1.5-2 inches or a maximum of 5 centimeters high. A side effect of cuffs is that some debris can get trapped in them from daily wear. This is why some cuffs are designed with a hidden button closure that enables you to open and close the cuffs to clean them out.

Cuffed Pants with Loafers at Pitti Uomo 91

Cuffed pants with loafers at Pitti Uomo

If you wear flat-front pants, cuffs are entirely optional. However, if you wear pleats, you would usually go with cuffs to counterbalance the pleats, both visually and in terms of lending actual physical weight to balance the pulling of pleats in the area of the rise.

Conclusion

Clearly, the features that make up a pair of pants are more than an afterthought. Some are practical, like side adjusters, while others, like waist curtain details, are hallmarks of a tailor’s attention. Knowing about them gives you a new appreciation of what goes into the construction of garments, something we often take for granted. You also have the details you need when figuring out what to choose for custom-made trousers. What features are a must-have for you? Share in the Comments section below.


Gentleman’s Gazette

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