I struggle to decide on what style of trousers to wear since there are so many options today such as cuffed or not cuffed at the bottom, fuller-cut or slim fit, high-waisted or low? Is there a certain code or rule to follow and is it different if it’s a suit or a blazer?
To understand how and why trousers are the way they are today, it would first help to know how they were initially and how they evolved into the modern-day trousers. During the 19th century, dandies like Beau Brummell had their trousers strapped to the bottom of their feet with a stirrup to maintain the long vertical lines even when in mid-stride. Modern-day trousers, however, are descended from military uniforms and, in the early 20th century, were worn very close to the legs and complemented by slim, sharp-toed ankle boots.
It was only the result of servicemen returning from the two World Wars that trouser style began to evolve. As early as the 1930s, men’s trousers began to take on larger proportions and came with the mobility of pleats for men on the move. The sleek suits of 1960s, replete with blade thin lapels, compelled the return of slimmer trousers. During the 1970s, fashion brands lowered the waist line and shrank the fit through the thighs and flared them out through the calves to align the cut of trousers with those of jeans. In the 80s, they revived the volumes and pleats from the 30s, but in the late 90s, and early 21st century, they shrank it back to rail thin dimensions. It is only recently that trousers are reverting to their more classic silhouette.
So what trousers should you be wearing today? The decision will be dictated to the style of coat you have chosen. Remember that the trousers do more than just clothe the legs in isolation. Rather, they extend and finish all the styling cues of the coat.
A super sleek-cut coat is best complemented by similarly slim, uncuffed trousers ending in relatively narrow hems that just kiss your sleek lace-up shoes. Conversely, a more structured coat can continue into fuller-cut trousers, possibly with pleats and substantial two-inch cuffs that break over wingtips or brogues.
So when you decide on the style of your trousers, ask yourself these questions: How structured are the shoulders of your coat? How many bulk-building elements, are there such as pocket flaps, ticket pockets and turn-back cuffs are there? How wide and volumetric are the lapels? What is the diameter of the sleeves?
If you tend towards items that create volume on top, it would certainly make sense that you’d require fuller-cut trousers in order to balance the proportions below and the same rule would apply in the other way around if you tend towards slim and sleek coats or blazers.
Pawan and Ashish Ishwar are tailors at Knights and Lords, a bespoke tailoring house in Dubai