Trends. The shepherds of western culture that drive fashion-conscious humans and a sizable chunk of the economy. Trends, which I prefer to call styles, have their own individual origins and exist for different reasons. Some styles are attractive and flatter more people, and some are not and flatter few.
Many men have spoken to me about modern menswear and wonder why clothes have become so tight. I tell them that like everything else in clothing history, when a trend – ignited by a king’s, actor’s, or musician’s taste, or a style worn in a popular movie or TV show (Mad Men, I’m looking at you) – takes hold, it moves into the extreme before morphing into something else.
We’re nearing the end of the tight, close-cut suit/trouser style cycle, and waiting for the next change in slow-moving menswear silhouettes. For men who have not been interested in, or are indeed incapable of squeezing themselves into the razor-sharp skinny suits that we’ve seen over the last few years, this is good news. Good news in the shape of pleats. Pleats add space to pant legs that some men will find more comfortable to wear than the current skinny cuts.
Yes, pleats shall return, but not pleats like the pleats of the recent past – i.e. the horrible double-pleated pant style leftover from the 80s that plagued the 90s and early 2000s, that were often made of beige, too-thick, un-drapable cotton twill. You know the ones.
Depending on the thickness of the fabric, pleats will add bulk to a man’s frame because a pleat is measured by its depth – i.e. a 1″ pleat is really 2″added into the front leg of the trouser (1″ folded over another 1″) and 2″ added to the back leg, which loosens the fit but adds visual weight to the frame. So all of those men who wore and unfortunately, continue to wear puffy, double-pleated, cotton twill Dockers, are only adding false weight to themselves by wearing these excessively clothy things.
Modern pleats in the men’s trousers that I’ve seen, are single pleats in thinner fabrics that take a good press and drape nicely but don’t add bulk. Modern pleats will be more body conscious.
Illustrated here, the Dolce & Grabbana Fall Winter 2017 collection features a whisper of a single pleat in this trim trouser with a roomier thigh, among the chatter of flat-front, close-cut trousers that dominate their collection.
Now, I’m not saying that pleats are the bomb just yet – there is much to be said about a gent in a neat, flat-front trouser, but flat-fronts tend to be trimmer in cut which may not suit every man’s build. That’s the thing about fashion – most of the time, the designs are cut with a certain body type in mind – often not ours! – but the styles eventually make their way into the mainstream to cater to men of different builds, though menswear travels at a slow pace.
Humans are curiously fickle when it comes to fashion. They strenuously jump on the trend bandwagon, milk it for all it’s worth, then, when the clothing style invariably turns to another shape, people poo-poo what they were so adamant about adopting in the first place, and turn to the next big thing.
One day, pleated trousers will eclipse the once-fresh, skinny cuts that were so warmly welcomed when they made their appearance several years ago, and will influence the cuts of suits and sports jackets. We’re already ankle-deep in the new cycle, so there’s no turning back.