Pleat It Forward


George Carlin had his famous “seven dirty words,” but in menswear we really have just one: pleats. At a time when even sweatpants have become stylish, nothing says, “I’ve given up” quite like a pair of pleated pants. They’re the uniform for the uninformed, pants for men who dress literally and figuratively in the dark.

During the “great menswear enlightenment” of the mid-aughts, pleats came to represent all that was wrong with the average male wardrobe. Flat fronted pants weren’t just a more streamlined option, they were the only option for those that were in the know. Men that wore pleats didn’t realize, or worse didn’t care, that that their bloated trousers looked terrible. The general assumption became that if you wore pleated pants, you just didn’t get it. And no man ever wants to be accused of that.


Well, we’re here to say that that’s a bunch of baloney. Sure, the average pleated pants that you find at your local Walmart do probably look quite unflattering, but that’s no reason to swear off pleats altogether. Imagine if that logic was applied to a shirt – just because one button down doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean that all button downs wouldn’t either. It’s all about the purpose of the pleats. When most people think of pleated pants, they think of billowy khakis with generous waists, designed to accommodate the wearer’s ever-increasing beer gut. The pleated pants that we’re talking about though have emerged in response to the over-tight trousers which have been ubiquitous over the past few years. Some men (for reasons that should be obvious) might just need a little bit more room, and for the first time in a years progressive, and for that matter high-quality labels, have begun to offer pleats again. So damn their uncool connotations and go ahead and get some pleats. Just don’t get ’em from your local Walmart.





Comments on “Pleat It Forward

    Dirk on March 17, 2015 10:13 AM:

    Why promote pleats with photos of Fred Astaire or Gary Cooper? When those men were born the American Civil War was a living memory. The automobile was a new invention. Few people had telephones in their homes. The Great Gatsby hadn’t been written yet. Those images are distant and irrelevant. Why not just promote frock coats ant top hats with a photo of Theodore Roosevelt? White suits with a photo of Mark Twain?

    Andhika Diskartes on March 17, 2015 11:41 AM:

    front pleat..umm,, unfortunately I am not a big fan of this..

    Dave on March 17, 2015 12:31 PM:

    Pleats done right are fine. I think the rebellion against pleats came from the cheesy 90’s suits that had 2 or 3 pleats and the stupid double breasted jacket where you button the bottom button.

    That, and Dockers.

    Kirk on March 17, 2015 12:36 PM:

    A swing and a miss.

    Jojoandthecats on March 17, 2015 12:46 PM:

    I find the first comment almost beyond reply. Almost. It isn’t clear exactly why “Dirk” thinks anyone born before a certain date to be an irrelevant model but he should probably be told that among elegant men, such pre-1950s references are common and appreciated.

    Norman4Law on March 17, 2015 1:26 PM:

    I think the point is if “progressive, and for that matter high-quality labels, have begun to offer pleats again,” why not show pictures of models wearing those current pleated pants instead of pictures that are 70 years old.

    Matthew Pike on March 17, 2015 1:38 PM:

    It takes a certain bloke to make them look good. Anything that’s a change from ball squeezers can only be a good thing.

    Michael Williams on March 17, 2015 1:44 PM:

    I get what you guys are saying, but we can do what we like. That’s why this is our corner of the internet.

    Steve E on March 17, 2015 7:14 PM:

    I agree with posting some current adaptations of the style would help. I would say mostly the British and Italians single pleats well. I’ve very much transform my personal style to be more Italian, then my American prep phase so articles like this interest me. Thanks Michael.

    Patrick Cavanaugh on March 17, 2015 7:23 PM:

    Criticisms seems a little harsh. I think it’s a little short sighted to consider fashion from 70 years ago irrelevant. I truly believe men’s fashion, as we know it, was established in the 1930s. Read Alan Flusser. If you don’t know the origins of modern men’s fashion how can you really understand it?

    Jeff on March 18, 2015 8:49 AM:

    I’m old enough to have worn pleats before they became passé. Back then, they were viewed as more elegant than the flat fronts and narrow lapels from the early 60’s. History may be repeating itself, though probably in a somewhat different direction. Dismiss pleats at your peril.

    R. Biggs on March 18, 2015 9:09 AM:

    No need to besmirch Walmart and Dockers. I think it boils down to where you set the waist of your trousers. Pleated trousers are meant to be worn at the natural waist, and it has become fashionable to wear pants closer to the hip. When one wears pleater trousers at the hip, the pleats fall mid-thigh and it looks terrible.

    Mak on March 18, 2015 6:08 PM:

    May I just observe, as a point of complete pedantry, re the writing in this post, that as my father instructed me oh so long ago … people are ‘who’ and objects are ‘that’. So we really wish to speak of people who wear pleats, rather than people that do.

    Bill on March 18, 2015 6:39 PM:

    What I find most amusing is the current skinny look in men’s fashion. You may well look back on this time and realize you’ve been dressing like Pee-wee Herman.

    bert on March 18, 2015 11:49 PM:

    Skinny man, pleats okay

    Fat man, pleats not okay.

    jordan on March 19, 2015 5:56 PM:

    Serious question: how come in the old days the waist was so much higher? when did the waist line, and our pants, sink so low?

    Mark R on March 20, 2015 1:46 PM:

    The pants were originally designed with a higher waist because at the time before it was assumed one wore a vest/waistcoat over it.

    DB1 on March 20, 2015 7:32 PM:

    Pleats are really sharp. Sharp, that is, on wool trousers being worn very, very, very high (the navel securely covered) by a very, very, very slim/slight man. That’s it. Try finding an Astaire-sized grown man these days!

    Peter on March 24, 2015 5:47 AM:

    I think the real question is waist…high-waisted pants — that sit above the hip bone — NEED pleats, or they’d have to balloon out over your hips like an A-line skirt. Pants that sit on the hipbone or below it don’t work well with pleats, because the pleats only make your hips look big.

    But…I have a feeling that high-waisted pants — and by extension significant pleats — are not coming back any time soon. You’d need to see the revival of the suit and vest, er, waistcoat, first.

    That said, a small single pleat can add a bit of comfort to a suit. I have a nice charcoal Armani from the early 2000s with almost invisible single forward pleats, and it’s really comfortable.

    Ariel on March 24, 2015 4:03 PM:

    Why have the photographs of those classic guys…because they look fabulous in their pleats! For most women, it does not really matter what a guy looks like as long as he is clean (this even may be optional in certain circumstances), has good personality and character. Fred Astaire just bursted with sweet personality, and he was one smooth fella. There are of course women who are vain, but mostly even those ladies will find some men attractive for their aura, not their bodies, faces, or clothes. Reow, bring back to pants!

    Dave on March 25, 2015 1:19 PM:

    What I find amusing is that most guys who still wear pleated pants are too old to really give a damn what anyone thinks.

    Zach on March 25, 2015 3:29 PM:

    “…you just didn’t get it. And no man ever wants to be accused of that.”

    Unless “it” is something as frivolous as men’s fashion. From Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, describing his father:

    “…his care of his body within bounds and measure, not as one that desired to live long, or over-studious of neatness, and elegancy; and yet not as one that did not regard it: so that through his own care and providence, he seldom needed any inward physic, or outward applications…”

    Men shouldn’t care about their clothing any more than they should care about physical exercise and hygiene: only insofar as it is a practical matter to be addressed. Looking like you don’t care is just as bad as looking like you care too much. This blog as a whole “leans” way towards the latter of the two.

    Chris Phipps on March 25, 2015 3:43 PM:

    Absurd to me how purveyors of fashion advice so adamantly decry the horrors of this style or that. In 20 years, this style will be back and that style will be out, and in 20 more years, it will change again. With each fashion evolution, the fashion police write as if anyone who still wears that clearly knows nothing about what looks good on a man (obviously this). It simply makes the critic look like an ass with no memory and no foresight, living ever in the truth of the right now, which of course will be a different truth in another right now.

    The Rat on March 25, 2015 6:59 PM:

    Regarding Mak’s (admitted) pedantic point, the “who” or “that” debate is not as simple as internet grammarians tend to think. Suffice to say, Mignon Fogarty’s article on the subject should be required reading.

Comments are closed.