Although I have been called all sorts of derogatory names by the dandy underworld – ‘sloppy sartorialist’ was one of the kinder monikers – the rest of humankind thinks of me as some kind of faddish perfectionist.
One of their favourite curiosities? My liking for pleated trousers.
When it comes to suits, my feeling is that the cut and style of the trouser is at least as important as the jacket. I’m sure many will agree with this.
However, one of the problems I have with men is that they wear suit trousers – or at least attempt to wear them – as though they were a pair of denim jeans. They wear them on their hips, with an appallingly low rise, and permit them excessive length, letting down any crisp cut of jacket, any natty accessory or speck of invention. The mis-wearing of suit trousers is one of the most irritating scandals of modern times.
Not only this, they also insist that suit trousers have as plain a front as their chinos and jeans. When I asked a tailor whether pleats are coming back he scoffed audibly; “Nah, s’all flat-front now.”
It has taken me some time to appreciate how marvellous pleats are. My father always recommended me to them and taught me how to wear trousers properly and for this I am thankful. The reality is that despite the fact that flat-front trousers are ‘perfectly acceptable’ and simply ‘of a modern style’, they appear to me to be utterly wrong with the likes of a wool flannel double-breasted or a pinstripe three-piece. Here’s why.
Pleats help to define the ‘prow’ of the trouser. That little fold of material helps retain the crease and keep that rigid, lozenge structure that looks so at home with formal clothing. Flat fronted trousers become ‘creaseless’ near the waist and down across the thigh, even if you affect to apply them with an iron and a bucket of starch (please don’t, it’s not a good idea). They flatten out and the trouser loses sharpness.
This is why I cannot understand why so many opt for flat-fronted trousers in morning dress. It is arguably the most formal outfit left in a gentleman’s wardrobe and absolutely demands pleats.
Some have made the point before that pleats are ‘useless’ if you wear your trousers on your hips. However, the point is not to wear trousers that don’t have pleats – the point is to wear your trousers on your waist, where they should be.