Two big red flags about most modern pleated trousers (and how to negate them)

Pleated pants are in the midst of a menswear renaissance.

A feature on pants that cyclically makes an appearance as trends come and go, I’ve made no secret of liking them.
Regardless of whether they’re ‘in’.
Not just an aesthetic thing, they can have plenty of functional benefits too.

More room for movement, added comfort, sharper creases and better drape are some of those.
However, sometimes pleats are useless from a practicality standpoint, only serving as a fashion item.

This is all in how the pleat is made, and unfortunately there are two things that render many modern pleated pants into the useless category.

Shallow pleat depth is the primary red flag I see in many modern pleated trousers, both in ready to wear and made to measure options.
The standard pleat depth for many manufacturers is 2.5cm, which serves very little in helping the trouser drape.
It also allows much less room for error with the fit, as sporting a trouser the smallest bit too tight in the hips will see those pleats pull wide open.
Not a nice spectacle.
If you’re like me and carry excess skin around the abdomen as a result of weight loss, a shallow pleat will often look an utter mess, especially if coupled with a tighter fit in the seat.

Forward pleats will tend to suffer more than those which face the side seams.
Smooth, formal worsted fabrics will also look more ill-at-ease with this issue compared to casual fabrics like linen.

Example of issues stemming from shallow trouser pleats
An example of issues with a shallow pleat on an RTW pant.

As made to measure garments are still made in a manufacturing facility, the pleat depth will often be the standard of 2.5cm unless the firm you’re commissioning through has specified a deeper pleat as part of the house style.
This is the case at my place of work, as I believe the deeper pleat has both functional value and greater aesthetic value.
Our standard pleat depth is 3.8cm.

If you are commissioning through a made to measure firm that uses the standard pleat depth, you can also specify a deeper pleat as a customer.

How deep your trouser pleats should be
A deeper pleat carries a smoother, sharper line.

While the depth plays a large part in whether your trouser pleats are going to cut the shape you desire, the height of your rise is also important.
I’m personally an advocate of a high rise pant, owing both to my unique fit issue mentioned above and an appreciation for the Apparel Arts silhouette of dress.
However, I understand that one rise doesn’t necessarily fit all.
There is no case where everybody will want to wear the same proportion of rise as I do.

The caveat with pleats, in my view, is that the rise does need to be higher.
Somewhere between mid rise and high rise, but always higher than mid, will yield best results.
If you’re not sure where you should wear yours, I suggest you read Alan Flusser’s Dressing The Man for his charts concerning proportions.

If pleats are worn with a lower rise, the pleat itself starts closer to your hips, which from the lower rise pleated pants I’ve seen often tends to lead to the pleats pulling further open than is desired.
It won’t be the end of the world if you’re wearing pants of that description, but they’ll always look like something is a little off.

If you do have pants that suffer these issues, you can still wear and enjoy them without anything looking amiss.
I have some that have shallow pleats, and still wear them regularly.
For me, it’s a simple matter of wearing them more casually, without a crease running the length of the leg.

If a pant has issues and you try to make it look prim and proper, the look can suffer.
However, if you lean into a more casual aesthetic, it can be fine.

Chinos are a good example for me, or my gurkha pants.
I wear them without a crease, in a more casual attitude, and the pleats are there purely for functional ease.

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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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