To me, finding pants that fit and actually look good, let alone great, are an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Standing before a Great Wall of Pants, a virtual sea of neutral color (khakis, olives, blacks and navys), I feel waves of nausea wash over me. Pleat or flat front? Cuff or no cuff? Waist? Inseam? Color? Performance? All I’m looking for is something comfortable. Something that I can wear a lot…with a lot of things. Something that fits. If it makes me look like a bigger, slightly more athletic John Hamm, that’s an added bonus. So, I did some research. Little did I know that “pleat vs. flat front” is a historic rivalry that matches the likes of Red Sox vs. Yankees, Coke vs. Pepsi or Leno vs. Letterman. The challenge is to figure out which works best for you – because if you’re wearing the wrong style, all fashion hell breaks loose and you’re left looking like a clueless mess.
Pleats to Meet You
Pleats have gotten a bad rap recently, but don’t let that sway your decision. Pleated styles tend to be more comfortable – not only are they forgiving but they offer more freedom of movement. This style can have a slightly dressier look and, when worn correctly (higher up on the waist), they can even be slimming. Score! Word to the wise, check yourself before you wreck yourself with fit. You don’t want too much extra fabric around the top – and make sure the pleats are not ballooning open. Fashion suicide, as the ladies say. Try to stick to two pleats max; more the merrier is not applicable here, especially if you are on the shorter side. If your hipster buddies are giving you a hard time, tell them that pleats are not out of style. It’s just that flat fronts are more popular thanks to the 60’s era popularity boom in recent years. It’s a horse race, and flat fronts are ahead by a nose.
Flat front pants have more of a modern feel than pleats and are much more versatile because they can easily be dressed up or down. You won’t be rocking a broken-in tee with sneakers and pleated pants… hopefully. Flat fronts have a smooth, streamlined look and better complement body proportions. Just go for a test drive first – finding the right size is key, especially for us bigger guys. As I warned with pleats, ballooning is also a no-no with flat front pockets. If your pockets are sticking out like ears, they’re too tight, buddy – get back into the fitting room pronto and try again. If you are a die-hard pleat guy, don’t be scared. With the right size and fit, you’ll have a multipurpose pair of pants that also can be a sub for your favorite jeans. Flat front styles are not going away anytime soon so feel free to cruise out to the flat frontier.
Even if you don’t have the body of a pro athlete or the natural charisma of John Hamm, that shouldn’t stop you from looking good or even stylish. Knowing which style works best for your body type is half the battle. The other half is picking the right size and/or knowing a good tailor. Cuffs, color and performance values are all a personal preference, so go with what you like. Once you have this knowledge, confidently set forth – the khaki seas should part and you’ll be smooth sailing for life (or at least in pants). So, tell us, do you pleat?