The most interesting part of Spike Jonze’s latest film Her, is not the introspective main character, Theodore Twombly (played deftly by Joaquin Phoenix), nor is it Scarlett Johansson’s sultry-voiced computerized companion, in fact the thing that sticks out to me most is not a character at all. It’s a pair of pants. From the moment the trailer for Her hit the internet a handful of months ago, there was already talk of Phoenix’s startling high-waisted trousers, but I don’t think that anyone was ready for the sheer volume of near-nipple high pants in the film. Just about every publication from Esquire, to Entertainment Weekly, to The Guardian, to the damn Today Show, has covered costume designer Casey Storm’s decision to clothe the film’s male ensemble in pants that hit well above the navel.
On the surface, Storm’s choice is curious, after all high trousers have been on a steady decline since the mid-twentieth century, and most pants on the market today are meant to sit around your hips, well below your “natural waist.” To me, the key to understanding Storm’s direction lies in another movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey. For 2001, (as I wrote in this earlier piece) designer Hardy Amies crafted costumes that were more classically tuned, and in doing so framed the future as this familiar, yet foreign place. I would argue that Storm is using this same strategy in Her. Instead of relying on the ridiculous shapes, or absurd silhouettes that many movies set in the future use, Storm is recognizing the cyclical nature of clothing, by bringing back these higher waisted. They are clearly not of the present, but they are not so alien as to throw off the viewer.
The truth is though, pants such as this are no longer as novel as they were even five years ago. With the recent rush of bespoke and made to measure/made to order businesses in menswear, waist lines have been heading north once again. The longstanding myth that a lower trouser is a better feeling trouser has been squelched as of late thanks to the rise (no pun intended) of custom tailors and haberdashers that are working to bring back the high waisted-trousers. Why you might ask? Because quite frankly a higher waisted pant is just more comfortable in every way. It’s for this reason that tailors such as the esteemed pants maker Salvatore Ambrosi, and stores such as The Armoury favor this more thoughtful higher stance. Some might say that these higher end establishment are only raising the waist line for those fortunate enough to afford it, but through Her Storm and Jonze have planted the flag for high-waisted pants for the everyman. After all, as Jonze himself has said, “These feel good! They feel kinda like you’re being hugged,” and if that isn’t a glowing recommendation, I don’t know what is.