The WSJ On Pleats

October 17, 2012

The WSJ on Pleats

The Wall Street Journal published a piece last week about the possibility of pleats coming back in fashion. Author Ray Smith writes:

“They’re pushing pleats – again. It took years, numerous tries and sometimes, coaxing from girlfriends and wives, to get men to part from their pleated pants and squeeze into flat front pants. Now, just as men have finally gotten comfortable wearing the style, many menswear designers are bringing back pleated pants.”

Smith then goes on to write about the various eras when pleats have been fashionable (and likewise, unfashionable), and suggests that because of what we’ve seen on designer runways and in high-end boutiques, perhaps pleats are coming back in style.

I genuinely have no problem with fashion or even trends. Even classic men’s style is a lot less timeless than many of its adherents believe. But articles like this make me think that menswear too often adopts one extreme before it swings towards the other, declaring everything else before it bad. Like how slim flat fronts have long been said to be the only kind of trouser every man should wear, you can imagine pleats one day becoming such the rage that deep folds will be put on every trouser in every store. At that point, some writer will then pen an article declaring, “flat fronts are coming back in fashion again.” And the cycle starts over.

Pleats serve very specific, useful functions. For heavy men, they can accommodate the natural widening of the hips and seat when the wearer is sitting down. They can also help the trouser line drape cleaner and more sharply, and as Mark and Ethan at The Armoury noted, if a man likes to wear higher-waisted pants, they can help visually break up the expanse of cloth that takes up one’s lap. For these reasons, heavier men will actually look slimmer in pleats, while men with washboard stomachs can go either way. What one should choose depends on one’s proportions; the kind of trousers at hand; how much one values that cleaner, sharper leg line; the types of suits and sport coats one likes to wear; and one’s own sense of personal style.

Unfortunately, too many fashion writers have written off pleats, rehashing that terrible advice that slim, flat fronted trousers are the only kind of trousers men should wear, regardless of who they are. That has left a lot of men who aren’t even that large look heavier than they are. Beware of such advice. Neither flat fronted nor pleated trousers are “the thing” every man should own this season. It depends on what flatters you the most and your own sense of personal style. Obviously the latter partly depends on fashion and trends, but don’t ignore what you look like in the mirror in favor for what you’ve read in magazines.