The internet has been warning us for some time.
About a week ago this image popped up on my Tumblr feed. I don’t usually take notice of press photography from retail stores, but the chinos in the picture caught my attention. Having sustained an incredible homogeneity on the matter of fit for almost ten years, it appears that we may be seeing either a pendulum swing in another direction, or at least a blossom of variety in the landscape of #menswear.
Of course there are those who don’t partake in trends, such as the skinny khaki, but this is a boon for them, too. The wider leg, higher rise, and other attendant details of a classic pair of chinos had become so scarce that, like the sack coat, there were scarcely a handful of options and even fewer worth the spend. Now there’s at least one popular retailer offering a pretty good product at an average price-point.
The Rugby University Slim chino has been a favorite of mine for some time. With only 3-4 exceptions they account for the totality of my chino collection. The fit is flattering, the material is nicely textured and has a sturdy hand, and the hardware is a cut above (I can’t tolerate the plastic buttons that are the same color as the chino material). So for about 6-7 years (since I started actively dressing up) I’ve worn mostly slimmer fits. In fact, the overall attention to my silhouette has been the fundamental driver in getting my wardrobe put together. Here are some pictures of the University Slim in the type of outfit I wear most days:
Generally I’ve found the pants comfortable and have liked the way they fit and look. However, there have always been a few details that I’d change if possible. While the slim leg is flattering in certain ways, it can’t maintain a good leg line. Whenever I see photos of men in slim pants (chinos especially) that are not in some way popped or crumpled at the knee my assumption is that they have yet to sit or kneel in any way that day. Only standing perfectly erect can you avoid the inevitable knee pops clearly visible in the top two photos. Now they don’t bother me, and the few deep-brain itches I’ve suffered over the years have been fleeting and easily alleviated. After all, I like the way they taper and fall on the shoe and cope with my challenging physique.
So while I can’t foresee a wholesale move from slim to generous, I’m interested to put a few pair in the wardrobe. I had a pair of Bill’s M2 a few years back and despite liking the quality I just couldn’t figure out how to integrate them except for the occasional sweater day (they compliment a Shaggy Dog with aplomb). But as I’ve spent more time and money on the way I dress I’ve also become more of an enthusiast of clothing in general and have become more comfortable with the idea of outliers in the wardrobe even if they only come out a few times a year.
So when the purveyor of my current chino of choice decided to bring out an historically (mostly) accurate pair of wide leg chinos I figured they were worth a try. When I first saw pictures it appeared that they’d widened up the leg, but what I couldn’t have foreseen were the few additional details that Rugby added. The first thing that I noticed was the fabric and hardware. I have yet to be able to find a concise way of describing what I like in a good khaki material, but it’s something to do with a rough sturdy feel, a coloring that has character and will wear nicely, and a drape that’s unique to khakis (simultaneously soft and stiff?).
It’s also a button-fly, which I have a soft spot for. Someone else can speak to the historical significance or lack thereof. The buttons, as usual, are a higher quality than similar priced chinos. You can also see in the above picture that they have an excess of material and look much friendlier to tailoring than any other sub-$100 chinos I’ve seen. In fact, most, including Land’s End, are just stitched together in a rear seam. A nice detail, but not one that will immediately jump out to most buyers.
The fit remains compelling, but I’m keeping the tags on them for another few days.
Of course a wide leg isn’t unique. There are plenty of options from Dockers to Bill’s that feature a wide leg, but what makes these fundamentally different (to my knowledge at least) is that they’re a mainstream chino with a very high rise. In the first picture in the above series the waist band is running right across my navel and the leg drapes from there. Most of the wider leg chinos, including L.L.Bean, J.Crew, & Lands End are all lower rise, if not as low as their slimmer counterparts.
So the jury is still out on these pants and a leg this wide in general. I think it’s safe to say, however, that once some branch of the Ralph Lauren empire begins to push an agenda it will see fairly wide adoption in short order.