Why I No Longer Buy Pants With Stretch Fabric

Once upon a time, I used to be a big advocate of stretch fabrics. Especially when it came to buying jeans. It’s something I used to rely on when I first started my journey; however I’ve since done an about face on my stance regarding stretch fabrics.

I won’t spend another cent on them. Why?

I’ve realised that stretch fabrics are simply a consequence of trying to address a poor fit on the manufacturer’s end. A manufacturer wants their product to fit the most possible bodies with a stock size, and what better way to enlarge that sample size than by adding some stretch to the fabric so a certain amount of legs that were once too big are now a ‘fit’?

Causing fit issues:

Stretch fabrics just don’t seem to have the capacity to drape that a well fitted non-stretch fabric provides. They cling to your body in weird ways that distort the lines created by the garment, and put it out of balance. It’s not a thing that would bother most people, but once you begin to acquire an eye for the finer details it begins to bother you.

Let’s look at an example:

These grey chinos are cut in a ‘straight fit’ which is what I usually go for. They fit pretty well, and they don’t feel like they’re particularly hugging any part of my leg. However, when you look at the knee area; do you see how the fabric appears to cling to my knee and mess up the line of the trouser?

That’s the elastane fabric doing its thing. It has a weird way of clinging to things that a non-stretch fabric wouldn’t. This is exacerbated by my legs having knock knees, but nevertheless a pure cotton in a similar cut seems to avoid the issue.

See an example below:

There are a couple of folds, yes, but there is no noticeable grabbing at any point. The cuts are similar between this pair of pants and the grey ones shown above, but these ones aren’t causing issues. They’re draping how they should.

Related reading: What I’ve Learned About the Ideal Fit for Pants

Durability comparisons:

They also don’t last as long as their 100% cotton/linen/wool/whatever counterparts, because that elastane wears out eventually. The end result doesn’t look good. Bagging at the knees and sagging all along the side seams is to be expected; the tighter the fit, the quicker this happens.

How this has affected my shopping habits:

I’ve found that given the prevalence of stretch fabrics in use by most RTW menswear manufacturers, it’s become much harder to walk into a store and buy cotton pants off the rack. Though, this isn’t 100% due to the fabrics:

It’s almost impossible to find cotton pants or jeans with a straight or fuller cut in the stores:

As a result, I’ve taken to buying more vintage; particularly Polo Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers cuts.

My shopping habits for slacks/dress trousers hasn’t changed at all, as I never liked the idea of a stretch wool fabric to begin with.

That’s all for today!

What’s your favourite RTW trouser, and the style of cut?

Continue reading…

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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