Fit Makes the Man: Below the Waist
Posted on November 27, 2012
Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.
How pants should fit is a surprisingly involved affair. I say surprisingly because it appears 98% of men have no idea what they’re doing when it comes to pants fit. Remember when I was talking about shoulder fit repeatedly in hopes that you would take me seriously? Well, basically everything about pants you need to listen to because most men are a FEMA sized disaster at buying pants that fit. We’re going to start at the waist and work our way down.
The waist of your pants should be snug enough not to fall off but not so tight that it causes a muffin top. My theory is that men buy pants that fit their waist and aren’t too short and then call it a day. I think the fit of your waist is intuitive so we’ll leave it at that.
There are three pant rises. Pant rise refers to the amount of fabric between your crotch and the top of your pants. It is intentionally cut to give you more fabric in the back of your pants than the front to accommodate your seat. When talking about rise, we are only talking about the front of your pants. You want to select your rise based on what you find comfortable and what fits your body without ballooning or bunching around your crotch. It is also important that the crotch of your pants doesn’t sag. You don’t want more than an inch or two of fabric below your genitals.
When you stand up straight and bend to the side keeping your torso on a straight plain (an oblique crunch) you will form a crease between your ribcage and hips. That crease is called your natural waist. A high-rise pant will sit on your natural waist.
A high-rise pant is tricky to pull off. It is the only rise that I think pleats look good on but it’s an early twentieth century style for a man to wear high-rise pleated pants and I wouldn’t recommend it to any one. If you’re stylish enough to pull off high-rise pleated pants, you don’t need my advice.
2. Mid-rise. A mid-rise pant falls about an inch or two below your natural waist and is the most common fit for pants. It’s the safest choice. If you own dress pants, the are probably mid-rise.
Low-rise pants sit on your hips. I really like a man in low-rise pants because I think man hips are sexy but they’re difficult to wear because they are the main cause of plumber’s ass. Low-rise pants don’t often have enough fabric to fully cover your seat when you crouch down.
There was a woman on Kickstarter who was trying to peddle her magic invention of pants that don’t reveal your underpants when you sit down…you know, mid-rise pants. Jeans are more often low-rise than a dressier pant for this reason.
To Pleat or Not to Pleat
Pleats allow a wearer to have some flexibility when he sits down. A single pleat, a single fold in the fabric on each side of the button, is the most attractive pleat style because it’s unobtrusive. The more pleats you have in the pant, the more flexible it will be. However, the more like a circus tent it also looks.
A single pleat:
I deeply prefer flat-front pants. It’s a cleaner look to pants but men with some junk in their trunk are going to find it difficult to get away with a flat-front pant. So if you’re going to wear pleats make sure they are closed when you are standing up and that the hips of your pants do not flare out due to excessive pleats. You don’t want a fabric bubble around your pelvis. If the pleats are not closed when you are standing, your pants are too small.
Every body is different and you have to find a pant that fits yours. This is where pants buying becomes a real pain in the ass because of body variation. Men’s pants should taper so that the fabric follows the shape of their body all the way down. You want your pants to be slim enough so that when you pinch the excess fabric on your thigh it is no more than half an inch. Yes, half an inch. No, I’m right on this one. Then your pants are too big for you. Well then what you like is wrong.
Depending on your body type it is going to be difficult to find pants that fit your waist and are snug enough through the seat and thigh. Since men’s pants typically aren’t flared it’s a safe bet to rely on the thigh fit.
Length, Break, and Cuff
The length of your pant is dependent on what you want for your break and cuff. The break of your pant has to do with how much fabric pools at the top of your shoe. If you have more than one fold of fabric on the top of your shoe, you have too much break. Here’s an illustration:
There are two reasons to cuff your pants. 1) To add weight to the bottom of your pants so they lay flatter or 2) to make your pants higher so you can show off your shoes (boots). It is highly recommended that if you wear pleats, you have a cuff to weight down the bottom and pull your pants straight. If you have a light-weight fabric, a cuff will serve the same function.
I like a gentleman in either a zero break cuffed pant that shows off his shoes or a half-break non-cuffed pant. The half to full break non-cuffed pant is the classic standard for men’s pants. If you have more than a full break at the bottom of your pants you need to take them to a tailor. You have made a huge mistake.
Shorter men need to especially make sure that they do not have too much break. It makes them look awful.
How heavy the fabric you choose is going to determine how the pants hang on your body.
A light-weight fabric has the opportunity to balloon out or ride up your leg in unattractive ways. Light-weight fabric also wrinkles more easily and blows around in the wind in ways that aren’t flattering. But gawddam, is it comfortable. These linen pants are an example of lightweight fabric:
A heavy weight is going to be uncomfortable in the summer. It will be stiffer but it will always look great. Stiff heavy fabric lays exactly how you want it even when you’re moving around a lot. That is why fall fashion is so dashing. The heavier fabric looks better on everyone. These wool pants are an example of heavy weight fabric:
The weight of the fabric is something you’re going to have to determine what you like with each pair of pants you buy but it’s something you should be aware of because it has the ability to ruin an otherwise perfectly fitted pair of pants.
You can’t stuff loose boxers into well-fitted pants. They’ll bunch and stick out of the top in unattractive ways. You have three options: briefs, boxer-briefs, or commando. I guess you could wear a thong, too. Your call.
Everyone of these topics on fit could be discussed more in-depth but I thought I’d give you the fast and dirty fit guide. Hopefully, all my male readers will have better fitting pants the next time they go shopping because I can’t give you any fashion advice if you don’t know how your clothes should fit you.