Trouser Front Styles

Most men know of only two styles of trouser front -- plain* and pleated. Increasingly they believe that plain front is the best and pleated fronts are for old men. Whatever you choose is up to you alone. There is nothing intrinsically bad about either, it is merely a matter of preference and comfort. I bet anything that pleats will come back into fashion before you know it (because they have gone in and out a few times since their innovation) and the same people who banished them from their wardrobes due to being unfashionable will soon embrace them again. But there's more behind it than meets the eye.

*Also called flat front, but I'm not fond of the term for reasons I can't quite explain.

The original trousers as we know them had no pleats or creases at all and, contrary to some sources, did not come about as a way to ration fabric in World War II. I'm not sure how this story is still circulating since you'll most definitely see them in pictures of men from the 1920s and earlier. Pleats were slowly gaining ground around that time, perhaps because men had been wearing the plain front style for so long. The earliest picture I can find of trouser pleats is on the Prince of Wales (better known as Edward VIII once crowned and then the Duke of Windsor after his controversial abdication) in 1919, paired with the period style high fastening two button jacket.

Call him a cad, deserter, Nazi sympathizer, and all around nasty person if you want, but he did help innovate or popularize menswear details we take for granted now.

The first trouser pleats faced forward (towards the fly), but Americans and Italians were soon making their own versions with the pleats reversed. Why they did this I am not sure and cannot seem to find any information on. It is counter-intuitive to keeping the pleats laying flat when not in use and can makes one's hips look bigger, so I don't why it caught on as well as it did.

The most common trouser pleat style now is double reverse. This is what you'll see on the majority of trousers today -- well, those that still have pleats -- and what most people think of when they put down pleated trousers as looking dumpy and frumpy. To look good, double reverse pleats need to fit very well on one's body. Even then I'd argue double forward pleats are superior. In the UK, a single pleat either forward or reverse is also commonly done. It looks a bit trimmer than double pleats but doesn't expand as much when sitting down.

Besides forward pleats, the second most overlooked trouser style has darts in the front. Yes, darts. The same tailoring feature that shapes the waist of a jacket will also create just enough ease in a trouser, so they are not as binding as plain fronts can be. They mostly seem to be used by bespoke tailors and high end menswear clothiers now (such as Brioni), perhaps because they require more work to make than a true plain front. It's a shame that these are not more popular now, but the low rise slim fit trend is probably the reason.

Darted front trousers as seen on an English Cut MTM suit.

What trouser style do you prefer and why?


  1. The low rise trend is the reason why darts aren't more popular. When the trousers sit are the waist, the darts help the trousers expand from the waist to the larger hips. When the trousers sit around the hips they don't need to expand down so much.

    1. A good point. Though interestingly, a friend of mine just said that a Hugo Boss suit he was looking at had darted front trousers with a low rise. Not a very good combination.

  2. I have never actually seen a pair of forward pleats trousers to be honest. All of my father's suits were cut in the 80's/90's power suit style. So double reverse pleats all the way. I've been meaning to try forward pleats for a while now. Almost asked for them the last time I bought a pair of trousers but in the end opted for frogmouth pockets instead.

    1. Frogmouth pockets are another overlooked style detail now, though one I disincluded from this article due to its focus on how fabric is eased in the front. I haven't owned a pair, but would like to. What do you think of them?

      Pakeman Catto & Carter still offer single forward pleats, for what it's worth. Ralph Lauren used to offer a lot of trousers with double forward pleats, but it's limited to just a couple pairs of chinos and MTM at present.

    2. Oh, so do Ben Silver and O'Connells I nearly forgot.

    3. I quite liked the pockets actually. I'm not heavy but I have relatively large hips. I find frogmouth pockets look cleaner around the hips and they have no risk of flapping open to the sides.
      I'll have a look the next time I'm looking around the Ralph Lauren store for the forward pleats. Unfortunately, I don't think I've seen the other brands you mentioned around where I live. Will have to look around more.


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