The matter of just an inch can make the difference between trousers that function – are comfortable, stay up, retain shirting – and those that do not. Some casual-trouser manufacturers have got this right, but precious few. And with formal trousers, retaining a good fit can be achieved through a slightly different buckle position.
In this discussion, let us first rule out the possibility of braces. Readers have been treated to my experiences and therefore opinions on that topic before, and a quick search on this site will enlighten newcomers.
Without the benefit of braces, trousers have to hang from the hips rather than the shoulders. This means they have to find a narrow area to hang onto to prevent from falling – or else be secured very tightly indeed. One such area is a man’s natural waist, roundabout the belly button and above the hip bone. Few today wear there trousers there unless they favour braces, and I agree – as soon as you shed your jacket you look very disproportionate.
The other area is halfway down the hip bone, where it curves inwards. This coincides with the small of your back and is the narrowest point on your torso other than your natural waist (assuming you are not obese). Men gladly wore their trousers at that point for many years. But recently, waistbands have been sliding further down, until they are cut to sit on the bottom of the hips, just skirting one’s rump.
This is impractical for many reasons. With less grip on your hips, the trousers slide down when you bend. The tail of your shirt is less restrained, encouraging it to billow out at the waist – particularly at the sides and back. And the trousers’ greater movement simply makes them less comfortable. A shifting waistband, like socks that won’t stay up, just irritates.
Trousers, without braces, should be worn higher on the hips. We’re not talking granddad height here, just an inch more than you’re used to. You’ll be amazed how comfortable it is. In a recent interview for Permanent Style, Albam-founder James Shaw told me about how he first designed the jeans and chinos for his fledgling British brand. “We went to a trouser cutter, a tailor, and got him to create the pattern. Those guys really know how a pair of trousers should fit to be comfortable yet stylish,” he said.
As a result, Albam’s trousers fit slightly higher than most casual pairs on the market, and taper in a little more at the top as well, with some clever darting. They are the most comfortable chinos I have ever worn. Anyone that has a relatively large bottom or thighs and slim waist (like me) will have felt this shortcoming with regular trousers particularly keenly.
And while bespoke trousers will always fit a customer well, being darted and proportioned to their exact body size, I do recommend watching out for the height of the waistband here as well. Trousers have been slipping among modern tailors. It only leads to the wearing of chunky, ugly belts and the ruin of a sleek suit.
Instead, suggest to your tailor that the trousers be cut an inch higher, with a slit in the waistband at the back (this will provide additional comfort, and is something jeans or chinos cannot easily include). Then, most importantly, have side buckles or fasteners that sit on the seam between waistband and trouser, rather than the waistband itself. The buckled seam will naturally slip into your hip bone and the trousers will be appreciably higher and more comfortable.
Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.