We’ve long worried that spray-on strides do no favour for our health. Although it seems our fertility concerns have been trumped by news from Down Under of one poor aussie who, helping a friend move house in skintight jeans, wound up with nerve and muscle damage that meant the offending trousers had to be sliced off. Call the fashion police. And ambulance.
Slim silhouettes have dominated men’s fashion for the last decade. Those drainpipe jeans cutting off blood to the extremities of Russell Brand and Pete Doherty have migrated to tailoring. From the figure-hugging cuts favoured by Tom Ford to Hedi Slimane’s skinny rockers sporting even skinnier suits at Saint Laurent, slim is in.
“A lot of guys go for that spray-on look,” says Phil Green, private client executive at Farfetch. Or they just refuse to believe that they’re wearing the wrong size. “I’d offer them a size up and they’d say, ‘No, I’m a 32, I’ve always been a 32.’ It’s a pride thing.”
Partly, this comes down to wanting a slim fit through the calf and thinking the only way to achieve it is to equally tight up top. But as with a jacket, which you know doesn’t come off the rack finished, a canny tailor can tweak your trousers to the perfect fit. “You can adjust the waist, the seat, the fork,” says Green. “It’s not just about getting the length altered.”
Convinced you’re wearing the right fit? Just as your jacket puckers at the lapels if you’re squeezing in, creases across yor trousers’ crotch where the fabric’s tugging, or pockets that flare like Gary Lineker’s ears, are indications you need to size up. “If your trousers are too tight they’ll start to rise up your leg,” says Green. The fabric sticking to your skin creeps north when you sit down, then doesn’t have the give for gravity to pull it back down. If you’re flashing some unintended calf hair, you need something with a more sympathetic thigh.
Fortunately, designers have started steering away from the super-slim towards something more, well, practical. “After years of encouraging us to squeeze in to form-hugging jeans and stretch tailoring, designers have let up and put a new, roomier fit of trousers on the fashion agenda,” says Mr Porterbuying director Toby Bateman. “Over the past couple of seasons a wider leg has dominated the catwalks and it’s finally starting to infiltrate the mainstream.”
The runways have, of course, taken this to the extreme, with Christopher Raeburn and Rory Parnell-Mooney especially showcasing styles with MC Hammer-rivalling quantities of fabric. But the middle ground, such as Jil Sander’s typically understated take, offers a more forgiving thigh and seat without drowning your pins in fabric. You’ll be especially grateful for that extra room if you’ve not been skipping your squats.
Key to pulling off the wider style is proportion. “It’s like how you’d match your tie and lapel width,” says Green. A relaxed lower half should be echoed in your upper-body, so steer towards a more generous lapel and even the unstructured, looser-fitting shoulder of an Oliver Spencer jacket. Be careful of pairing super-wide strides and this season’s trend for oversized outerwear. “It takes a certain kind of man to pull that look off,” warns Green.
If you’re heading to the more drastic end, balance it with something more fitted up top, says Bateman. Wooyoungmi’s super-loose wool trousers will pair better with a tailored (not figure-hugging) jacket than an oversized cardigan or long-line tee. “It balances the proportions of your outfit.” And stops you looking like a kid who got into his dad’s wardrobe.
The recent resurgence of the pleat, from designers from E Tautz to Carven, offers generously-thighed men summer comfort without swamping their legs in material. Previously more associated with your granddad than the front row set, this fold of fabric between pocket and fly offers more room where you need it without making your legs billow.
Drop the swelter stakes further by opting for summer-suitable fabrics like cotton and linen, says Green, which will not only aid airflow but also hang better when there’s more material to weigh them down. A turn-up works especially well with pleated suiting as it help weigh the legs down and keeps the extra fabric in place.
Beware of tapering too drastically below the knee. Skinny styles tend to come to an ankle-wrapping point, but if you’ve got bigger thighs then this accentuates your top-heavy legs, Green says. Better is a straight drop below the knee, as with E Tautz’s SS15 take on the chino, finished with a minimal break on your shoes. It balances out broad or muscular thighs, says Bateman, drawing the eye downward and lengthening your legs rather than focusing attention where you’re biggest.
As with most developments in menswear, this shift to looser fits isn’t a sea change, but rather recognition of the need for practicality and comfort in the way we dress. Even Thom Browne, that paradigm of the shrunken suit, tailors his trouser legs straight, not slim, Green points out. So ditch the spray-on and embrace a more relaxed fit. It means your wardrobe is no longer your excuse to skip legs day.