The Problem with Pleats
When considering the recent progression within men’s clothing, it is difficult to point out any wrongs. We have reached a hilltop where creative design flourishes at the production of lace button-downs and sheer short sleeves. After decades of showcasing recreations of the standard suit and tie uniform the men’s fashion industry has turned another page. This next chapter dictates a time for extreme experimentation. This moment should be cherished, greatly celebrated and entirely embraced. Some runway trends practically fantastic and others are completely missing the mark, a faux pas. Call it a fashion failure for its misrepresentation; the summer’s faux pas is the pleated pant.
Conservative in nature yet without inhibition for volume control or interest in bespoke, the pleated trouser is a beloved piece that has resurfaced on trend reports and in fashion news. Before then, countless sights of older gentlemen dressed in pleats for the boardroom, a wedding or even on Sunday’s best all reveals its position within the menswear industry. Since the 1940s the pleated pants connoted a stylistic detail to dress pants. Today, most seem to treat the pleated pant as a regular fit.
Herein the modern dilemma lies. Despite the romance felt for its fashion, the functionalism of pleats is entirely ignored; allowing men to dress with misappropriated pants. As a result, when men embrace this particular style, excess fabric tends to typically make men appear larger in proportion than in actuality and I promise, that is not a look anyone would want to fashion. However, as the menswear industry experiments with design, it is without surprise that pleats would influence the process. It was a successful element of style in its hay day. Despite this, lest not forget that pleats have become an art of expression only after deriving from an essence of practicality. Fashion history of the pleat began with a practical need. Initially applied to jackets in order to yield space for comfort, trousers naturally became another illustration of the functionality of pleats within design technique. Now, pleats are a reflection on how womenswear is infiltrating the men’s industry. Men needed pleats; women do not. On skirts and dresses, pleats serve an attention to beauty and aesthetic. When applied to dress pants and trousers, pleats offer bigger and heavier set men a fit for classic styles.
For spring 2016 the pleated pant made a comeback on the creative catwalk of J. W. Anderson, Officene Generale and Canali. Although these collections offer beautiful recreations on how to reintroduce pleats to the fashion community, they have altered the essence of its performance. It is tough to conclude whether all career driven gents can relate. Pleats are designed for a particular body type and they can make shorter guys look boxy and smaller-built men appear stout. Fashion statements aside, this situation is only problematic when efforts of innovation eliminate consumer demographics. This new perspective on the pleated pant has potential to provide a valid wealth of inspiration, but the reward is still in question.
The solution rests in offering men a variety of fits and styles that provide for their needs in addition to educating them on significance of pleats as a fashion statement. As innovation persists, options appear thin: there is small exposure for the styles in between Duckie Brown’s loose fitted pants and Dior Homme’s slim fit. There must be a middle ground between the extremes.
A Regular Fit pant is a plausible alternative. BOSS, HUGO BOSS offers a regular fit pant that suits an average size. It is neither pleated at the waist for extra space nor slimmed down to a tight fit. The regular fit comfortably remains in between.
There are also fashion brands that carry a heritage of a legacy of fits. Brooks Brothers and J Crew are key examples. Regent, Madison and Fitzgerald are terms Brooks Brothers uses to define fit. The Regent, a pleated pant, offers the largest room at the waist. It leaves the Fitzgerald and Madison to differentiate slimmer styles. The Fitzgerald is a simple flat front pant and the Madison, an equivalent to the Regular fit, is the widest cut offered without pleats.
J Crew is another brand that carries attention to an assortment of fits. Aside from offering their Small and Tall Shop, J Crew defines and then classifies their fits. Pants are deciphered into Slim and Classic. The Slims arranged by title: The Bowery Slim and the Ludlow. The Classics are The Bowery Classic and the Crosby. The Bowery Classic is a simple straight leg cut and the Crosby offers more space at the rear and in the leg.
Gentlemen, instinct is your best asset. It always has been. So let it be your resource at a time when styles run from one extreme to another and options appear too wide or too slim. Regular fit and flat fronts are major alternatives. There is nothing inherently wrong with pleated pant, just in how it is fashioned. Right now, high fashion resurrected the pleated pant as a fashion statement: high-waisted and exaggerated. As the menswear industry develops through innovation, its purpose and success depends on the interest of the customer’s needs. In the end, men should understand that feeling good and looking good is one in the same. After all, this is the beauty of the menswear business: simplicity trims off complicated approach.