Smart Dressing

How to wear pleated trousers

Pleats are in, and they’re easier to wear than you think

Pleated trousers are a funny one. For many men, they’re too adventurous to even consider and, true enough, many high street and mainstream fashion brands don’t sell them.

This, we think, is a shame. Pleats are surprisingly easy to wear – all they need is a little bit of thought. After all, if every style icon from Fred Astaire to Yves Saint Laurent has made them work, they’ve got be worth a try, eh?

The key to getting pleats right is to understand what you’re working with. There are two types to get your head around; the first are reverse facing pleats, which fold outwards towards the wearer’s hips and give the impression of a boxy trouser front. The second are forward facing pleats, which face inwards and flow down over the hips.

“Pleats can work on anyone, you just need to get the proportions right”

Both come from different menswear traditions (forward facing pleats have their roots in British military uniforms and reverse pleats in Neapolitan tailoring) and there are merits to both styles. Reverse pleats are modern, and generally speaking more fashionable, while forward facing pleats are a classically elegant choice designed to give the illusion of an hourglass silhouette.

Both can work on different figures (it’s a myth that short or stout men can’t wear pleats), you just need to get the proportions right. Pleats work best on high-rise trousers that sit atop the hips, and fit snugly in the waist. They’re are designed to give you more room around the thighs and hips – so don’t be afraid to wear your trousers high and snug in the seat.

Below are five pairs that demonstrate the versatility of pleated trousers – proof they don’t have to be stuffy, shapeless or difficult to wear. Here’s hoping you spot a pair that you’d like to road test this season.

blue Boss pleated trousers1. Get comfy – Boss

Here’s our first pleated trouser preconception to break-down for you: pleats don’t have to be formal. This pair of pastel blue trousers from Boss are seriously louche, and couldn’t be more comfortable if they tried. They’re cut in lightweight ‘paper touch’ cotton (Boss’s signature , with a high rise, tapered legs and deep reverse pleats which, lo and behold, are sleek but relaxed. Wear these on the weekends with tan suede sneakers and a simple lightweight navy knit for a look that’s sharp, but understated at the same time.

£169, shop now

E Tautz pleated trousers, style advice2. Go large – E.Tautz

Patrick Grant, owner of quirky British sportswear brand E.Tautz, has been creating oversized trousers since he bought the house in 2009. His wide-leg field trousers and chore trousers are the stuff of cult menswear legend, but these new season tailored trousers are seriously cool, too. They combine a traditional British high-twist, open-weave wool cloth (that breathes in warm weather) with contemporary, generous but tapered legs, which Grant prefers to finish with plain hems. If you’re into retro tailoring, go all-in and pair with the matching suit jacket, or, let your checked trews do the talking and pair with a simple chambray or boxy camp collar shirt. Finish with a dark brown woven leather belt and chocolate suede loafers.

£300, shop now

Mr Porter, pleated trousers, white3. Crop up – Albam

I mentioned earlier that trousers with exaggerated cropped hems are in, and with good reason. Whether you’re into ankle boots in autumn or ‘mankling’ in spring, wearing trousers with a shortened length is youthful, relaxed and gives a formal style a casual edge. Albam’s new pleated trouser model is perfect for this, cut in light, smooth cotton canvas with forward facing pleats and trim turn-ups. In off-white, they couldn’t feel more summery to wear if they tried. I’d style this just as seen here, with a Breton striped t-shirt and dark navy overshirt in canvas or denim (nice one Mr Porter). Take note, the waist’s nice and high (as it should be), so tuck your top in for a retro look, or leave loose for something more contemporary.

£120, shop now

Kent & Curwen pleated trousers4. Stay neutral – Kent & Curwen

If in doubt, you really can’t go wrong with tan. It’s a classic smart-casual colour that pairs easily with navy, charcoal and other earthy tones – olive or rusty browns, for example. For spring/summer ’18, Kent & Curwen has cut their own take on a classic utility trouser in heavy washed cotton drill. It’s garment dyed for a vintage feel, and the combined belt loops and side-adjusters on these (although not strictly necessary) are a sharp choice. A deliberately rugged design, these are best layered up with jersey tees and military-inspired overshirts. If you want to go for the full ‘vintage Kent & Curwen’ vibe, you could even pull a washed jersey rugby shirt over the top. I’d be sure to roll the hems up, too – a utilitarian design like this needs to be worn with attitude.

£215, coming soon

Rubinacci pleated trousers5. Strap in – Rubinacci

These lightweight flannels are a Rubinacci signature. The Neapolitan tailoring house has long championed the ‘Gurkha waistband’, so called because it was originally created for the Gurkhas’ military uniform. It’s thick but unstructured, so it doesn’t feel constricting and features two interlacing straps that buckle above the hips. They’re striking to look at and yet easy to wear, plus, the straps are easily loosened if you have yourself a big dinner (trust me, this comes in handy). The legs are gently tapered and cut with forward facing pleats that create a smooth shape through the hips. Put simply, they look trim on the body but are surprisingly roomy. Pair with a navy blazer or suede bomber and soft camel crewneck – and embrace the Gurkha waistband. 

£380, shop now