Last week, a friend made the mistake of asking me what I find most depressing of all the unfashionable sights I see on the streets of this great and diverse city. It was a brave question, as it cracked open the lid of my own personal Pandora’s Box. No, it’s not neon jackets – although the current neon trend is bizarre at best and offensive at worst – and it’s not purposefully ripped jeans, either.
No, what really gets my goat is the sheer quantity of ostensibly well-dressed men who seem content to wear spray-on low-rise chinos that sit around their hips and only just around their bum – when the whole ‘flat front, skinny fit’ trouser movement died a death going on five years ago. You’ve seen them, in fact you probably even know a couple of guys in your office who perpetrate this very crime – knackered navy blazer, washed-out open collar shirt, too-tight beige chinos and scuffed shoes.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a flattering look. The point is, in London today there are so many superb brands doing interesting things with menswear; whether it’s unstructured tailoring, wide-leg trousers, boxy work jackets, or handmade jeans, that to play it safe and opt for a pair of uninspired slim-fit chinos is tantamount to choosing the Madras again, without so much as a by-your-leave for the house special dhansak.
Take a brand like E Tautz, which has in large part masterminded the resurgence in high-rise, pleated cords and flannels; or even a maker like Blackhorse Lane Ateliers, which creates absolutely stunning jeans out of a workshop in Walthamstow, with plenty of handsome wide-leg and tapered fits to choose from. Moreover, men’s silhouettes have fundamentally changed in the past few years. Now, generously cut suits, boxy bomber jackets and wide-leg, pleated trousers are de rigueur. And while pleated or wide-leg trousers can seem scary to try at first, I promise you they’re the kind of thing that you’ll experiment with once and never look back; they’re more comfortable, more grown up and more flattering than slim-fit designs. Full stop.
I should also say that I’ve got nothing against chinos per se – they’re a time-honoured wardrobe staple – but they are seldom at their best when they’re manufactured without a high rise or even with pleats. In fact, pleated chinos are having a moment. Polo Ralph Lauren, Universal Works, Albam and even Japanese cult brands like Camoshita and Beams Plus are all offering versions that will flatter your figure without looking like they’ve been sprayed on.
Sadly, this advice (or should I say, tirade?) came too late for my friend, who revealed shortly before asking his vexing question he’d been to Bicester Village in Oxfordshire that very day and snapped up no less than six pairs of skinny chinos. Heed my words and don’t make the same mistake.
Aleks Cvetkovic is The Jackal’s style columnist and advocate of flattering trousers