Dress pants are so often overlooked. It’s easy to buy $2500 sport coats and not worry about decent slacks, thinking the jacket will do the talking. It’s easy to say that since your slacks will almost always be neutral and simple, you don’t need anything outrageous or absurdly fashion forward, and hence, you don’t need them to be of particularly good quality. False. We agree that pants should generally be pretty simple in color and pattern so that you can build off of a relatively neutral backdrop and explore more with jackets, shirts, and shoes. But if these pants are your jumping off point, a canvas of sorts, you need to do them right. Trust us: good pants, if anything, seal the deal. They round out your outfit. Your sleek jacket is nothing without sleek fitting pants. Your John Lobb shoes do nothing if the cuff of your pants awkwardly drapes over. So here’s a guide on how to identify good pants, what to spend, what pairs we like, and the most important trick of all — how they should fit.
1. Know your materials.
These days, we’ve got all sorts of fabrics in front of us. But we’ll keep it simple: go with wool. It wrinkles the least, it’s usually the highest quality, and all those fabric blends usually have some wool in them. So if you see that wool is in the pants, that’s a good sign. Avoid cotton, as it wrinkles and is far more casual.
2. Look for a few signs that it’s well made
A button fly is increasingly preferable to a zipper as it inhibits bunching in the crotch.
A french fly is a fly that has a second button on the inside of the waist. This makes the waist flatter and offers a better fit.
Look for an English split waistband, often referred to as a V-split. This is a sign of a truly superb pair of pants. The waistband in the back curves slightly up and in the center, right above the butt-crack, is split to form a V. This allows one to fasten braces in the rear. It ensures the shirt never comes out (since your trousers are further up). That said, a lot of truly high quality pants with belt loops altogether do away with the V-split for practicality’s sake.
Look for lining in the crotch area. This is a good sign: it makes the pants last longer. Little tidbit: dress pants used to have lining all the way down to the knees but innovations in fabrics have allowed for taking this away for increased comfort.
Look on the tag and see the length of the yarn. You will see “Super” followed by a number like “100” or “120.” This is the length that one woolen yarn can be stretched in centimeters. The longer the better and the more lightweight.
Look for extra fabric at the back of the waistband. It’s a sign that this good pant-maker is making a product that allows for future alterations.
Look for a curtained waistband. This means that the inner side of the waistband is lined with another fabric for protection and overall comfort.
3. Know your brands
The best brands for dress pants are Oxxford, Kiton, Zegna, and Incotex. But you don’t have to spend absurd amounts of money. Sure, you will be losing some quality. But be aware of what the cheaper brands can do for you.
The great thing about companies like H & M is that while their quality sucks, they are good at just manufacturing an array of stylized looks. They don’t spend money on things like English split waistbands, but they do spend money making their products fit in an array of unique ways.
Because they are able to mass produce at such a cheap price, these companies are fearless in putting out tons of different fits that will offend some buyers and attract others. Super slim fitting pants are rare from middle-range quality pant-makers like J. Crew because they deter their type of customer. But for customers frequenting Uniqlo and H & M, it’s not the same: these companies aren’t afraid to offer up progressive and modern looks. Also consider Topman. It is a British brand that has recently hit the States. We love their slim fitting trousers.
4. Obey these rules
No pleats. Please no pleats. Pleats create a parachute effect and they look bad. End of story.
Cuffs are cool and coming back into style. Consider them — especially a really bold cuff. It can be a subtle yet strong statement.
Band of Outsiders did a great job with a pair of their grey wool dress pants: no pleats and huge cuffs. Totally cool. Check it out right below, and notice how perfectly tailored they are to sit right above the shoe.
5. Know how to get the right fit before you get them altered
Keep it slim. They don’t have to squeeze your legs, but they should hug fairly close on your thighs. Get a straight leg look. And then, know some of these rules:
People talk about a drop. A drop is the difference in size between jacket and pants. Typically the drop is 6″ so a 42 jacket should go with a 36 waist. But this just isn’t true. Get what fits you!
Know the rise that you need. The rise is the length from the crotch seam to the top of the waistband. Most stores stock regular rises (11″) but if you are real tall, you need a long rise (11 1/4″). A short rise (10 1/2″) will accentuate your crotch.
6. Know how to get the perfect fit through an alteration
You can and should get your pants altered, no matter how cheap they were. See how baller the Tom Ford models look?
It’s not just that Mr. Ford perfectly designed every article of clothing. The alterations are perfect. Those pants: the way they sit right above the shoe. We’re tired of pants that touch the shoe too much, where they fold over. It looks bad. We’ll tolerate a little bit of the pant cuff kissing the heel of your shoe, but especially in front, you want a straight look from waist to ankle, and you don’t want a fold in your pants at the feet. That said, if you are in a hyper conservative work environment, you might then, and only then, consider tolerating the traditional pants over the shoe look.
7. Rules of pattern and color
Grey pants will always be your most versatile. But you should have black, blue, and khaki.
As for pattern, glen plaids are great. Especially Loden Dager’s pair with a windowpane check over the glen plaid. We’re also okay with a very subtle stripe on dress pants, but not much else.
Wild colors are tough to pull off. Green is doable if done right.
8. Consider these affordable pairs of slacks.
Below is a grey version of Topman’s slim trousers. They’re rolled up, but you get the gist of how good they look around the thighs and knees.
Get the Topman trousers here.
You can’t get Uniqlo off the web. Otherwise we’d tell you where to find them!