Pleated Trousers and their Various Styles: Forward, Reverse and More

For men like me, pleats are fantastic.

Pleats on pants in general are great. They give the eye something to look at in the fronting of the trouser, and have excellent practical use in giving your upper legs more room to move and extra comfort in the waist area.

For someone with me who deals with excess abdominal skin after weight loss, they’re a godsend.

The debate over forward or reverse pleats looking best is largely a debate of aesthetic preference, with some people swearing by the forward pleat and others swearing by the reverse pleat. Below, I’ll touch on the pros and cons of both pleat types and you can decide for yourself as to which you prefer.

The reverse pleat (also known as forward sideseam) is much more common than its forward compatriot, and seems to have a more vocal following.
Standard pleat depth on most pleated pants is 2.5cm, which I think is usually a little too skimpy.
If buying off the rack, you’re stuck with that, however if buying custom it’s good to go for something between 3.2cm to 3.8cm.

How deep your trouser pleats should be

The reverse pleat is common in ready-to-wear pleated pants. It’s easier to get the fit right, and commonly found in double pleated configurations off the rack.
The second pleat serves a mostly aesthetic purpose, but also provides a further expansion on the amount of room for movement.

The reverse pleat is also a popular choice because it’s easier to look good in it. If the pleat pulls open a bit, it’s less noticeable because compared to a forward pleat the fabric fold is more hidden from a front-on view.

Forward pleats (also known as forward inseam) are not as commonly found on ready-to-wear trousers, as they are more dependent on the measurements being accurate. They’re more commonly found on made to measure and bespoke trousers, but are often found on RTW models such as the below pictured from Polo Ralph Lauren.

Forward pleat pant trouser style example

Forward pleats tend to provide the best drape, and the sharpest crease.
However, they are harder to shop for. There’s a risk with forward pleats; if your trousers are too tight and the pleats pull open, it’s in full glaring view. This is the point where reverse pleats win, they’re slightly more forgiving when it comes to fit.
You can avoid the issue of pulling pleats with a more casual pant like a cotton chino or gurkha pant simply by not pressing a crease down the legs of your pant.
I do this with my mostly thrifted casual chinos where forward pleats are concerned.

This being said, you should be trying your best to nail your fit; it’s the most important thing about your clothing.

If you’re wanting to try a forward pleat on a budget, hit eBay and find vintage Ralph Lauren pants. Most of the pleated ones are forward pleats.

In the end, both types of pleats serve a similar purpose. They’re there to make things more comfortable for you, and serve as a vertical line to help lengthen your figure while increasing the potential for drape in your trousers.

I think pleats are absolutely worth a shot, regardless of your body type. They can be flattering on the slimmest and the strongest built bodies.

And if you’re a flat front fan, you try pleats and you’re still in preference of a flat front pant? Wear a flat front and rock it.
It’s all up to you, choose what fits your personal style best.

More 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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