Dress pants, dress slacks, “things to cover the lower half of my body during weddings and business meetings”, whatever you may call them, there are just some occasions when you need to dress up your legs.
Instead of giving you the “right” answer here, I’ll just tell you what I’ve found, in my experience, to be the most flattering to most guys.
Dress Trousers should be slimmer than casual pants: Waist at the hips, slim through the thigh and butt with a tapered leg.
Since I’ve already shown you my current favorite pair of trousers, let me just say, that what it considered “good fit” for pants has varied pretty substantially throughout history. From the overly baggy zoot suit, to modern day tight and short, the fit of trousers has run the gamut.
The fit of dress trousers has, like most dress clothing in the US, been loose. It’s almost like buying a size or two larger than you should have. This look originated from the elongation of breeches, which tended to be full cut with extra fabric.
Over the past two months, I’ve really started to buckle down on working out regularly. I was finally fed up with saying, “I need to get in shape”, and never following through, so I just did it. Let’s say my pants are fitting more loosely than before, my belt is on the smallest hole, and I’m starting to run into my own waist-fit trouble.
You want the waist of your trousers to sit right at your hips. Too high and you risk looking like a grandfather with a belt around your lower ribs, and too low…well, pants are for preventing you from being naked , right?
The waist of the trousers should sit flat against your skin all around, and you should be able to easily zip and button the fly. If the button is pulling heavily, or you can see horizontal lines at or within about 3 inches of your belt line, then the pants are too small. Please do yourself a favor and size up.
Most guys can tell when something is too small, so they overcompensate and give plenty of room in the waist, probably too much. Many guys that I’ve talked to have made the excuse, “I’ll be wearing a belt, so if they’re a little big, no worries!” I’ll just say it:
A belt is just there for show. Your pants should hold themselves up.
There are several reasons for this, but the simplest is that it just looks best. If there is more material around your waist than is require for simple 1:1 coverage, your belt will bunch the material creating awkward folds that carry down further into your pants.
The other reason that I’ve heard for buying pants a little too big is that they will “grow into them”. This thinking probably originated from your mother, when, as a kid, you were growing at the rate of a new waist size per month, and she was sick of shopping for you. Now, I always wanted to be 6’3“ (I’m 6’1”), but it turns out, that will never happen for me. Once you hit about the age of twenty, almost all men have stopped growing. Sorry to crush your dreams, but if you are leaving yourself room “to grow”, you are in essence encouraging yourself to grow your waistline outwards! Americans struggle enough with obesity as it is. Let’s not encourage it.
The primary function of pants is to cover your butt. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could make it look good too? Like the waist, the pants should sit smoothly against your skin without noticeable pulling or wrinkling. If there are taught horizontal lines across your butt, then the pants are too small. Try the next size up, or, of the waist fits, try something with a fuller cut. If there is extra fabric at the base of your butt, or vertical lines of loose fabric, then the pants are too big. Try a size down, or a slimmer cut.
You want the fabric to hug your legs, but not choke them. What you want here, is the ability to move around comfortably without looking like you’re wearing MC Hammer’s pants. It’s also good to remember that:
Your legs get slimmer from hip to ankle, and so should your pants.
I’ve been very guilty of forgetting this in the past. As a child of the JNCO era, I used to swear by boot cut pants of all types, even opting for wider leg openings in my dress trousers because I thought that they were more comfortable and roomy. They were definitely more roomy, but not in a flattering way. After wearing pants that fit my legs all the way through my ankles, it feels like boot cut pants are small flags attached to my legs.
Hopefully, by now, you’ve figured out how your dress trousers should look. If you don’t have them, yet, that’s fine. This is your chance to get it right next time.