Friday, June 12, 2009

Esquire: "A Compendium of Pants." April 1962

August 2008

Quoted in Esquire's Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men's Fashion
I thought this might be of historical interest (on Don Draper's coffee table as we speak), and still very useful for today. Definitive.

Cuffs. The rule here depends on several things: suit style, fabric and –when yome right down to it – preference. British-oriented tweed or a soft flannel looks better cuffed; hard-finished worsteds can take a razor-sharp crease that one may not want to break with a cuff. “Weighting” lightweight summer trousers with cuffs helps them retain their shape. Narrower bottomed trousers are more apt to go cuffless, while the true natural-shoulder traditionalist would never dream of decuffing his trousers. Leaving off cuffs lengthens the line of trousers, helps make a short man look taller. Degree of dressiness is no criterion – sport slacks can go cuffless (why have dirt catchers on the golf course or picnic grounds?) About the only general statement that can be made is that softer and heavier goods look better cuffed; whether or not you choose that more advanced look of cufflessness for your smooth-finished fabrics depends, of course, upon your own taste.
Pleats Trouser fronts are either plain-fronted or single- or double-pleated; the double-pleat is, for the most part, limited to tradition preserving custom tailors. While the single-pleat is still, by far, the most popular, the trimmer look of pleatless trousers is continually gaining favor and is de rigueur for the younger man and the natural shoulder enthusiast. Sport slacks, especially are going the way of no pleats (though the less-confining pleated models are preferred by many active sportsmen: e.g. golfers). While pleats – contrary to popular conceptions- will not hide a “pot,” they will give a heavier-set man more room through the front. The choice, therefore, depends on comfort and the “look” a man wishes to achieve.
Rise. The rise of a man’s trousers is that space from the crotch seam to the top of the waistband. In the past few years, slacks with a dungaree-type low rise, usually featuring an extension waist band and side tabs, have found enthusiastic popularity, especially with younger men. These trousers, naturally, fit lower at the waistline, resting on the hips. A slim man who likes the casual effect of such sport slacks, can wear them; a heavier man should avoid a low-rise trouser since a stomach bulging over the top of one’s trousers looks most unflattering.
Taper. With the whittling down of clothing to trimmer proportions, all trousers have begun to be more emphatically tapered (decreased gradually in width from top to bottom): from a 23”-19” knee-to-bottom ratio of not too many seasons ago, the average pair of trousers today measures 21”-18”. Some sport slacks and young men’s suit trousers measure 17” – and even narrower – at the bottom. Esquire feels that the extreme taper of pipestem trousers deserve no more place in the wardrobe of the well dressed man than the baggy look of yesteryear. Trousers must also be proportioned to a man’s build – more taper will help a shorter man look taller but will only exaggerate the height of a tall, slim man.
Length. Proper length for trousers follows an absolute rule: they should just touch the tops of the shoe – with only the barest suggestion of a break if at all. (There should certainly be no break at all at the time of the fitting, since trousers will inevitably sag a bit.) The very-high fashiontrend of ankle length trousers is a skimpy look that goes along with tight pants – the tight pants that are worn by many young men, but which are no more advisable for the well dressed man than the too-long trousers that slop over the shoes (April, 1962, pp. 94-95).

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