A Case for Pleated Trousers

Credit: thesuitsofjamesbond.com

Although I have been called all sorts of derogatory names by the dandy underworld – ‘sloppy sartorialist’ was one of the kinder monikers – the rest of humankind thinks of me as some kind of faddish perfectionist.

One of their favourite curiosities? My liking for pleated trousers.

When it comes to suits, my feeling is that the cut and style of the trouser is at least as important as the jacket. I’m sure many will agree with this.

However, one of the problems I have with men is that they wear suit trousers – or at least attempt to wear them – as though they were a pair of denim jeans. They wear them on their hips, with an appallingly low rise, and permit them excessive length, letting down any crisp cut of jacket, any natty accessory or speck of invention. The mis-wearing of suit trousers is one of the most irritating scandals of modern times.

Not only this, they also insist that suit trousers have as plain a front as their chinos and jeans. When I asked a tailor whether pleats are coming back he scoffed audibly; “Nah, s’all flat-front now.”

It has taken me some time to appreciate how marvellous pleats are. My father always recommended me to them and taught me how to wear trousers properly and for this I am thankful. The reality is that despite the fact that flat-front trousers are ‘perfectly acceptable’ and simply ‘of a modern style’, they appear to me to be utterly wrong with the likes of a wool flannel double-breasted or a pinstripe three-piece. Here’s why.

Pleats help to define the ‘prow’ of the trouser. That little fold of material helps retain the crease and keep that rigid, lozenge structure that looks so at home with formal clothing. Flat fronted trousers become ‘creaseless’ near the waist and down across the thigh, even if you affect to apply them with an iron and a bucket of starch (please don’t, it’s not a good idea). They flatten out and the trouser loses sharpness.

This is why I cannot understand why so many opt for flat-fronted trousers in morning dress. It is arguably the most formal outfit left in a gentleman’s wardrobe and absolutely demands pleats.

Some have made the point before that pleats are ‘useless’ if you wear your trousers on your hips. However, the point is not to wear trousers that don’t have pleats – the point is to wear your trousers on your waist, where they should be.


  1. anand said:

    question for you … where can you buy trousers (grey flannel/worsted) with pleats from these days? seems most menswear shops only do flat fronts .. not sure if its the customer or the retailer driving the trend but its a vicious circle now …

    is going mtm/bespoke for trousers a smart option in your view?


    April 15, 2013
  2. Paul said:

    M&S has had pleated trousers in its Autumn/Winter ranges for the last couple of years, including flannels and even cords. While I’m sure the weights aren’t a patch on those of days gone by they also seem to be of heavier cloths than those of many other high street shops.

    I can’t vouch for M&S having pleats on their suit trousers though, it’s just odd pairs I noticed.

    April 15, 2013
  3. DaveMinella said:

    Although I can’t say I’m a “fan” of pleats, I have heard that cuffs are for pleated pants and straight legs are for flat-front pants due to the geographical origins of both styles. I love cuffs, and so I do own two suits with pleated pants. however, as the previous poster stated, flat fronts are the norm in most shops today.

    April 16, 2013
  4. Ray Frensham said:

    Also, looking at things on a purely practical level: As we get older our waist expands and we look for places to let the trousers out. First option is to let out the seat of the pants (hopefully you will add an extra one or two inches to your girth). After that, where do you go?

    Well, if you have a good tailor, he can take out the pleats in the front and add up to another two inches (if there is enough material elsewhere on the garment to create that little bit of extra waistband).

    …and that is why I always prefer pleats.

    April 16, 2013
  5. Jano said:

    I will have to disagree. Never been a fan of pleated trousers and hope they never come back. Sorry but pleats have always looked awkward and out of place. Same goes for high rise pants that sit on your waist. For years I would take my pants in to have them sit at the waist, so I am very happy to see that manufactures are opting for this better look. Unless the person is short and wide, waist high pants excessively elongate the legs and give you a short torso.

    April 16, 2013
  6. China said:

    Pleats….inverted pleats all the way!!

    April 19, 2013

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