Work It! is a series focusing on workplace wardrobe and fashion. Each week, we will feature a new blogger offering their advice and answering your questions. This week, it’s Jessica Hansen, who started LovelyUndergrad.com when her dorm room decor began to stress her out. She also works in menswear, so she she’s here to help you, fellas.
Working in the Men’s Department of a major department store, I assist many young college-aged men with selecting interview and job attire. When helping a customer find a pair of good-fitting pants, I often ask whether he prefers pleated or flat-front trousers. If he’s in his thirties or older, he usually spouts off his preference without hesitation. If he’s with his mom, she immediately answers for him. But if he’s the typical college-aged male shopping without experience or the guidance of a mother, the responses range from a “Does it matter?” to “What’s the difference?” The most common response being a simple, “I don’t know.”
Yes, it does matter. Secondly, the difference is in the fit and shape of the pants. And if you don’t know, don’t worry. You’ll learn a lot from this brief explanation and a good salesperson should be ready and willing to help you find that perfect pair.
The Difference – Pleated pants have creases at the front of the pant along the waist. The creases have been created by folding the fabric and sewing it down before attaching a waistband. Flat-front pants, on the other hand, have a contouring feature called a dart that allows for the pant fabric to lie flat against the body. What pant looks best on you depends on your body type. Generally, slim men should stick to the flat-front while larger men and athletic men benefit from pleat pants’ extra room.
History – Flat-front pants were the go-to trousers of the 1950s and 60s. Men’s suit and pant silhouettes were slim, smooth and tailored. In the 1970s and 80s, looser fashions came into play. The pleated pant came into fashion not only because of its on-trend loose silhouette, but also because of its comfort and increased freedom of movement. In the 90s, flat-front pants came onto the scene again. And with the recent popularity of all things Mid-Century Modern (Mad Men, anyone?), the tailored flat-front trousers are enjoying another revival. While the flat-front look goes in and out of fashion, the pleated pant has remained a steady and traditional option because of the comfortable, roomier fit.
Flat-Front – Flat-front pants are slimming, snugger-fitting and since they go in and out of fashion, are generally better suited for the style-conscious. Since there are no pleats, the silhouette is more smooth and straight, accentuating slimmer figures. These pants should be well tailored, a bit loose around the waist, and worn just on or below the hipbones. It’s important to keep in mind that flat-front pants are an unforgiving cut. On larger men, this style may be too tight and uncomfortable around the waist, belly and thighs. Flat-front pants will not only accentuate a slim figure, but also emphasize a belly.
Pleated – Pleated pants are more generous around the middle, allowing for comfort and ease of movement. Because of this, pleats are a constant option and don’t go in and out of fashion. The pleated style helps to make a larger man’s front look flatter. Pleats are also ideal for men with a large back-side or athletes with large thighs. Men who have physically active jobs or lifestyles also find that pleated pants are roomier and easier to move in. Pleated pants should be worn just above the hipbones at the natural waist. Slender men, especially if tall, should avoid pleated pants because there will be too much extra room and the silhouette will appear sloppy.
Worn with a Suit – Sometimes certain suits have either flat-front or pleated pants, not both. Pleated pants are the most common suit pant. Although slimmer men generally should not wear pleated pants, it is okay when worn as a suit. The suit jacket will cover up any of the extra fabric or bunching created when a slender man wears pleated pants. For slender men, flat front pants look great with or without a suit jacket. Pleated pants will not look smooth and slimming without a suit jacket overtop. Larger men should stick to pleated pants in both cases for both comfort and ease of movement.
Ensuring a Good Fit – Don’t underestimate the power of pleats, but don’t get overwhelmed by the issue. When selecting a pair of pants, take your time trying the different styles. Walk around, move around, sit down and stand up to be sure that a pair of pants fits comfortable and allows for you to move. The last thing you want is discomfort during an interview or internship. Look over yourself in a full-length mirror to ensure a good-looking fit. Don’t be afraid to ask the sales associate for assistance when deciding between a pleated or a flat-front style. And take into consideration that to obtain that perfect fit, you may have to have alterations made to the waist or leg of the pants. It will cost a little extra, but it’s totally worth it for a tailored fit and added confidence.
Guys – Jessica will be back with more advice for you, so keep a look out for her posts on Tuesdays. Leave any questions for her in the comments below. Can’t wait? She’s also on Twitter.