I’m currently considering making a series of posts on fashion trends that have lasted for too long. It won’t necessarily be a consecutive series, though. I’ll try to give each trend an ample amount of attention, instead of forcing myself to publish them weekly.
Why do this, you ask? As I’ve said before, fashion is not equal to style. Fashion is temporary, nuanced and vulnerable to change. Style is enduring, versatile and reliable. From a perspective of long-term value, style is always the better investment.
When you invest in style, you build up something that will not become useless as fads come and go. There would be no need to buy new clothes to replace your old ones just because they’re no longer trendy. Style will help you wear a carefully selected range of clothing types without looking baduy, even if your clothes don’t belong to the latest trend. Style can be your foundation for dressing well through the course of your lifetime.
There are, of course, quite a number of stubborn trends and fads that refuse to bow out and that remain to hog the spotlight. These trends share one thing in common, among other things: they serve no logical purpose, other than to provide variety for variety’s sake.
I consider it part of my mission to help people (mostly my fellow men, since I’m in no position to speak about style for women) understand why these trends have to go away. And I plan to start with one of the biggest hindrances to comfortable and flattering clothing, a trend which used to have a great influence on me.
The first target of this commentary series is skinny-fit trousers.
Yes, there are fewer men today who wear skinny jeans or the like compared to, say, a decade before. This is thanks to the reality that skinny-fit trousers belong to a trend, and like all trends it is temporary. But the fact remains that there are still far too many men who wear them, most of whom will benefit from trying alternative trouser cuts.
The male populace’s interest in wearing skinny-fit trousers is composed of many different factors, the most fundamental of which are that it is comfy and that it creates a slim, flattering silhouette. Let’s try to see how logical these two points are.
While it’s true that skinny-fits can create a slim silhouette, this only applies to people who have slim and straight legs to begin with. Most of what makes a trouser silhouette slim is how few the curves are, in other words how unbroken the straight line is from the thighs to the ankles. And not all men’s legs are equal in this aspect.
Some are bow-legged, and some are the opposite. Some have bigger thighs that make skinny trousers bulge, and some don’t. And then there are many different forms that largely depend on the angle that the lower leg transitions from the knee. All of these are reflected in the silhouette of form-fitting skinny trousers, and the straight line effect is ruined.
The other main rationale for skinny-fit trousers is that they are supposedly more comfortable, following the wearer’s skin whether stationary or in motion. I’d argue, however, that this presents a couple of problems.
First, you run the risk of the trousers becoming too tight with slight fluctuations in your weight. Indulged your appetite more often lately? Watch those skinny jeans strain to go over your thighs and close at the waist just a few days later. There’s virtually no margin for anything other than a strict diet.
You could argue that wearing skinny trousers with stretchable material mixed in will take care of this, but those are likely to contain a larger percentage of synthetic textiles. No matter how advanced synthetics technology becomes, they will never be as comfortable as natural fabrics. They are also more likely to be shiny, and to date I’ve never met another guy who gave me even the slightest impression that he’d want to wear glossy trousers.
Second, all trousers (even ones with stretch) have a breaking point. Push that too far, and they will eventually rip or tear in a few places and would need to be repaired or even replaced, which is costly. Wearing trousers skinny will accelerate that wear and tear, given that your body is always putting strain on them whether you’re at rest or moving. This goes against the principle of getting clothes that will last, that will give you a considerable return of investment.
With all these disadvantages, what can men who wear skinny-fit trousers do?
Earlier on, I mentioned that most men today who stubbornly cling to skinny trousers will benefit from wearing alternative trouser cuts. These alternative cuts will provide a much more flattering silhouette, visually creating an impression of straight, sturdy and well-balanced legs that can support your weight no matter what shape you’re in. They’ll also give you a more relaxed fit, which creates a genuine feeling of comfort. And we all know how easy it is to tell when a person is comfortable in their clothes or not.
Leaving skinny trousers behind doesn’t mean you have to wear “old man pants”. There exists a functional medium range between skinny-fits and the kinds of trousers our grandfathers used to wear. Within this medium range, there are several types of fit that specifically match different leg shapes and sizes. To make things simpler, I’ll focus on the two most common of these.
For men who have relatively ordinary thigh-to-leg ratios, the straight cut is your friend. Straight cut trousers, also commonly known as regular fit trousers, reflect the way that your legs stay almost the same size from your thighs down to your lower legs. Most straight cuts also have enough room in the knees to mask their shape.
For active guys with muscular thighs, or men who otherwise have thighs significantly bigger than their lower legs, the athletic fit is a trouser cut that has recently become more popular. Athletic fit trousers are made to accommodate larger thighs, while still keeping a relatively subtle taper down to the lower leg. Like straight cuts, athletic fit trousers also help to mostly hide the shape of the knee.
After all that’s been said, I’ll leave you with a personal anecdote that I hope would help get my argument across.
I still remember how my struggles with skinny-fit trousers years ago. I was young, vulnerable to suggestion, and hadn’t the slight idea how to gauge the fit of my trousers. I took almost every pair I owned to local alterations shops, trying to turn them into skinny trousers. I remember being so puzzled and frustrated when they came back too tight for me.
Looking back with everything that I’ve learned through reading and experience alike, I can only shake my head. Back then I was one of the people who, despite hearing arguments for freedom of movement and comfort, would still defend skinny trousers. “You must sometimes suffer for your style”, I might have said. Not any more. Many years after those unfortunate misadventures, I’ve come to the conclusion that anyone who puts on skinny trousers suffers not for style, but for fashion.
Because true style never necessitates suffering.