Are Pleats Actually Coming Back Into Fashion?
|Sean Connery's James Bond is one of the most prominent wearers of the forward pleat style, made by Anthony Sinclair here.|
GQ posted an interesting article back in February about the supposed return of pleated trousers. Which ironically highlighted just how fickle fashion, and their coverage of it, can be! I haven't seen much evidence of their return just yet outside a few token offerings from a couple of fashion brands. After all, they posted a similar article two years previously. I also recall Ralph Lauren trying, in vain, to bring back wide lapels years ago in the form of their "Garrison" jacket.
But, I say it's about time. Even in the periods where pleats were popular, flat front enthusiasts could still find their preferred style at many stores. It seems like this is the opposite currently. One of my friends suspects this is because of cost. The more you narrow the fit, lapels, shorten jackets, and take off extra fabric in general, including pesky pleats, the more yardage you can get from a fabric bolt at the factory. Which is a shame given that most people, particularly Americans, are not actually skinny enough to fit into these fashions and pleats have the benefit of giving some ease when sitting and moving around. Not sure if I'll buy into a Zoolander-level conspiracy theory about this just yet, but it wouldn't surprise me that mid-to-low end fashion brands are taking advantage of the trend and playing it out as long as possible out of convenience. Sure, you can still find pleats now, but many who used to make them no longer do. If you do find them around town, they will likely be from a rather unstylish brand such as Eddie Bauer or Chaps and have the American standard, double reverse pleats complete with a rather generous cut. You may have to special order or go online to get something that won't look dumpy. The last time I saw pleats on mall brand clothing was around 2006 or 2007.
That's all good and well, but please answer the burning question. Should I wear pleats?Uh, yeah! You always should have if you wanted to, regardless of whether fashion says it's hip. The problem is that publications like GQ barely scratch the surface in what to actually look for besides "slimmer", in spite of that being the article's title premise. But they are certainly right that after a decade, they look fresh again. Not to mention comfortable after over a decade of low rise, often tight fitting trousers. The biggest benefit, aside from offering some visual interest, is that
So, what should I look for?
|Forward pleats are the cleanest and most "formal" looking.|
Wait, there are more than one type?There are! Reverse pleats are the current standard in the United States and a little more forgiving, since they can still look good if opened up slightly. Italians seem to have always preferred this style over the forward pleat. The one downside is that they throw some fullness to the sides, which may be a concern if you have wider hips or a larger seat like yours truly. Thus, they generally have a looser and more relaxed look than forward pleats. This may be why so many American retailers went from having both forward and reverse pleated trousers half a century ago, depending on brand, to having just reverse pleats. This has also started happening in the UK, where even Charles Tyrwhitt had forward pleats available just a decade ago but now relegate them to morning wear only. Epaulet, however, has some of the most stylish reverse pleated trousers I've seen.
How many pleats should I have?
|If you must get reverse pleats, a single pleat looks best.|
Contrary to what GQ asserts, however, you don't need a belt with pleats. Some of the most traditional examples of pleated trousers are held up with braces, side tabs, or both. So if you already go beltless in some way with flat front trousers, good on you. Keep doing that.
Yeah, okay, but what do I wear them on?Anything! Dress and casual trousers, business suits, dinner suits, full evening dress. There's really no rule about it. Heck, you can even get shorts with pleats, though most of the retail offerings look pretty bad to be honest. So... maybe just stay away from those unless they have forward pleats.
All types of pleats can be stitched down a half to a full inch in order to keep them looking cleaner, like the Sean Connery and Epaulet examples shown previously.
I still don't know.
|The box pleats here are just a little much.|
It also bears mentioning that cuffs (turn-ups) can be worn with any trouser front style you prefer. Contrary to what you may have been told, there's no real hard and fast rule about pleats and cuffs needing to be on the same pant, nor conversely flat front and plain hem.
I hope this has been enlightening for those who want to try out pleats or were on the fence, but were not sure what styles they should search for. What kind of trousers do you prefer and why?