Pants are the anchor around which a good suit is structured and if it is badly fitted the whole outfit will amount to nothing even if you are wearing the nattiest of jackets. And because most men bestow very little attention on them, trousers more often than not turn out to be fashion disasters. A pair of slim flat fronted pants worn slightly below the waist will make you look tall and elegant, while an ill-fitting low rise will take inches of your height. More often than not you will find men with nattily cut suits but trousers with legs that bunch up at the ankles. The trouser is a style minefield and it is important that you tread carefully to get every aspect of it right. Here are some tips to keep in mind when buying your formal pants.
The waist size is measured by placing a tape measure around the midsection, slightly above the hips, below the belly button. But even if you know what you think is your right waist size it is always better to try sizes that are one size smaller or bigger. Whether the waist fits also depends on whether you are wearing a high rise or low rise pants, pleated or flat fronts. In more formal trousers, in addition to the button closure at the middle of the waistband, there is usually an additional tab-and-button closure on the outside that serves to distribute the weight across the waist. In flat fronted trousers you may have the French fly with an inside button tab that extends from the zip area. Its function is to keep the fly flat and smooth.
The rise is the length between the waistband and the crotch seam. It decides where your pants will sit on your body, and consequently where your perceived waistline will be. A regular rise, now known as mid-rise, is one where the pant sits on the normal waist. A low rise is the one where the pant sits on the hips. A high rise is one where the pant sits slightly above the waist and is meant for very tall men. Some brands also offer `short rise’ pants that are targeted at shorter men. These sit on the natural waist but the rise itself is very short.
The inseam is basically the length of your leg. It is the distance between the crotch to the bottom of the pants. When buying trousers of some brands, especially the international ones, it is the second number on the label (as in 36 waists, 32 inseams). Either a tailor can measure it for you or you can lay your pants on a flat table and measure it yourself.
On dressy pants, you will usually find straight slitted pocket along the sides without much of hemming. It hides the pocket and preserves the integrity of the flat front or pleats, and is less prone to bulging out if the pockets are stuffed. Slanted pockets have a more pronounced hem, and are also found in some formal pants. Horizontal front pockets are meant for jeans only.
Pleats or no pleats
Modern pants are generally flat fronted. Though they are ideally suited for men who are slim and fit, they also create an illusion of slimness for those who are slightly on the bulkier side. Pleats should generally be avoided unless you are very big because they draw attention to the midsection.
Cuffs are still seen in some formal trousers, but are ideal only for tall men, because they make their legs look less lanky. Cuffed pants should ideally be pleated as well, while flat fronts should never be cuffed.
The break is where the legs of the pant meet the shoe. It is an area where most men still get it wrong. They just can’t avoid getting their pants lying bunched up in folds at the ankle. The trouser bottom ideally should rest with a slight break on top of the shoe with the width covering part of the laces. At the back, the hem should reach the top of the sole. In the more modern version, particularly in flat-fronted, narrow bottom pants, the break sits on top of the shoe at the ankle just about covering the socks.