Statement jackets and the latest sneakers are always going to be top of men’s lust lists, but don’t let high-wattage clobber blind you to the essentials. The right pair of men’s trousers can be the most quietly powerful item you wear, but get it wrong and you’ll instantly dull the shine of the trending pieces you spent so long chasing.
Yes, it’s easy to simply plump for your tried-and-tested slim-fit black jeans for the umpteenth time, but there’s a whole wardrobe full of top-notch trews that’ll look just as slick given half the chance. Here are some of the unsung types of pants for men that you might not have considered, but definitely should.
1. Corduroy Trousers
Once strictly the preserve of fictional (and real) inhabitants of academia, corduroy is one of the most underutilised materials in men’s style and, if worn correctly, can make for an indispensable pair of trousers. There’s a 1970s revival going on in menswear , too, so there’s never been a better time to cover your legs in cord.
Cord is a textile composed of woven, twisted cotton or wool, resulting in parallel lines (called ‘wales’). Wool corduroy is the most durable type and wears particularly well. So, as well as bestowing a bit of superficial intelligence, cord trousers will withstand a fair bit of rough and tumble. The Indiana Jones of legwear, if you will. They can get a bit warm, though, so it’s best to save them for when the cold really starts to bite.
Contrary to its sometimes stuffy connotations, corduroy is brilliant when dressed down and worn casually. Try teaming a pair of dark corduroy trousers with a sweatshirt and practical leather sneakers to signpost that you’re not actually a fellow at Oxbridge.
This stripey fabric also does an excellent job of adding a touch of personality to more formal attire. A slim-cut corduroy suit will make an excellent companion for a light-gauge roll neck and monk-strap shoes come party season. Swerve the shirt and tie, though – Doctor Who has rendered that combo unwearable everywhere outside of Comic Con.
2. Wool Trousers
A firm favourite of fashion bloggers (the kind who don’t dress like anime astronauts, that is) and art directors the world over, wool men’s trousers offer a throwback to the days when jeans weren’t the de facto king of legwear.
Perfect both for styling with other tailored separates or smartening a casual getup, the wool trouser has been a mainstay amongst industry insiders for years – and their popularity isn’t showing any signs of waning.
While you’ll often see them dressed down with a pair of sneakers by arbiters of cool hanging outside loft offices leisurely puffing on roll-ups, this type of pants work just as well styled in a more traditional way. For inspiration, cast your eye to Pitti Uomo where they’re often grounded with a pair of brogues, Derbies or double monks.
3. Twill Chinos
A good piece of workwear puts in a shift if you want to assert your old-school masculine credentials. In twill chinos, quality craftsmanship meets reliability and style in a perfect ménage à trews of cool that’s still exceptionally wearable.
Cut from heavyweight cotton, woven to create a surface comprising diagonal parallel ridges, twill is a traditional material that, if invested in, will give excellent cost-per-wear calculations thanks to its hardy nature.
Plus, every scuff on a pair of twill chinos tells a story – even if the only ‘work’ you end up doing in them is loafing about on Twitter. In twill the beleaguered chino also breaks out of the realm of ‘Ibiza lads on tour’ into an altogether more grown-up sense of place and tradition.
The style is still, strictly speaking, a casual trouser so wear them with an easy-going pair of shoes (such as anything with a contrast Vibram sole), a T-shirt or piece of knitwear and top with an overshirt or denim jacket for an effortlessly cool off-duty look.
4. Relaxed-Legged Trousers
The skinny jeans backlash is officially on. Tired of indecently outlined genitalia and trying (and failing) to remove our skinnies with dignity after a night out, relaxed-legged jeans and trousers are looking more and more appealing by the day.
Harking back to 1950s-inspired garments, the Levi’s 501 cut is firmly back on the radar of menswear’s most stylish and the model has brought its mates along for the ride, too.
While they are perfect for providing a platform for a standout piece of footwear, looser-cut chinos and trousers need to break perfectly. Too long and they’ll look like the floor-dragging bootcuts, too high and you’ll look like you’re wearing three-quarter lengths. The main objective is to avoid a pooling situation, so we’d suggest aiming for the hem to fall somewhere between the top of your shoe and its first set of eyelets.
When it comes to styling, contrast the extra fabric below by keeping your top half fitted to avoid any accusations that you’ve been playing dress up in your dad’s wardrobe.
5. Linen Trousers
Not so long ago, linen trousers were sweaty, misshapen bloomers that had no place in a modern man’s style and wardrobe. Thankfully designers have done a lot of work to rehabilitate them in recent years. Gone are the shapeless cuts, replaced by tapered, modern leg-lines that flatter every body shape. And linen blends make them a lot more practical, less prone to impossible creases – while still being as breezy as ever.
Try them as part of a linen suit for a dapper old-timer vibe, but the more modern way to wear them is cropped, with sneakers and a plain T-shirt.
6. Drawstring Trousers
Without wishing to be overdramatic, smart drawstring men’s trousers are the best thing to happen to menswear in a decade. Until recently, drawstrings and elasticated waistbands were confined to sportswear and generally considered to be a sign that you didn’t care. That’s stupid, of course. What a revelation it’s been to sit down for a large plate of pasta and not feel like your trousers might slice you in half by the meal’s end.
These days, drawstring trousers come tailored and in a lot more materials than jersey. Wool and linen offer the best options at the smarter end of the spectrum. Once you’ve felt how comfortable your dressed-up wardrobe can be, you’ll never go back.
7. Slimline Joggers
There have been some excellent hybrids over the years: the shacket, the snood, er, Kimye, but none boast as much staying power as athleisure, which is a rare example of fashion and function joining forces for the greater good.
The sports-luxe movement is still a draw Stateside, and while UK labels took slightly longer to catch up, young Brits have taken the look to their hearts. Combining the “it feels like I’m wearing nothing at all” comfort of joggers with the slim-fit of a more contemporary work trouser, they’re equally at home in the pub or the gym.
While there could be an argument made for the right jogger matched with the right overshirt, we’d suggest keeping the streetwear vibe going with a logo T-shirt from the likes of Palace, Stussy or Undefeated, a low-profile lifestyle runner on the foot and a slightly smarter bomber jacket.
If you’re not on a streetwear flex, step into some box-fresh white lace-up trainers and stick on an (impeccably ironed) Oxford shirt to inject some sharpness into the look.
8. Cropped Trousers
Ankle swingers, as some want to call them, are here to stay – and with good reason. Allowing your ankles to breathe in summer while still giving airtime to your footwear in cooler months, cropped trousers are a great way to spice up what can be a tired formal outfit. Disclaimer: by cropped trousers, we mean shorter than your average, displaying a sliver of ankle or sock, not to be mistaken with pantaloons.
In addition to giving your footwear a platform to shine, a precise crop accentuates the line of your trews – because there’s nothing worse than puddling material at the bottom of your ankle. Getting the length right is crucial, though. Unless they fit perfectly off-the-peg, go to a tailor and take their advice, but if you’re feeling braver, anything up to three or four inches above the ankle is a safe bet.
Cropped trousers lend themselves well to both formal and off-duty settings, though you’re undoubtedly in safer territory with the former. Cropped chinos in a sand colour will work well with a simple white shirt, premium suede bomber and white sports-luxe trainers on the weekend. Meanwhile, for more formal occasions, black cropped trousers worn with a grey blazer, charcoal roll neck and oxblood dress shoes is ideal for a relaxed business-casual office.
9. Cargo Pants
Cargo trousers have enjoyed something of a potted history, going from army essential to early noughties oversized monstrosity. Now, enough time has passed that things have calmed down a bit and they’re back in a big (and much more stylish) way.
The key to getting cargo men’s trousers right is ensuring that they hit the middle ground between slim and spacious, so think tailored. Sure, you can technically fill their big ol’ pockets to the brim, but in this case clean lines trump practicality, so leave them empty.
Standard-issue khaki green pairs well with just about anything in navy so consider an overshirt (another workwear workhorse) for a weekend look that grafts. Meanwhile, if light layers aren’t an option, a pair of contemporary black cargo trousers can be recruited alongside a white Oxford shirt, grey sweatshirt, navy overcoat for a look that passes inspection.
10. High-Waisted Trousers
Using your nipples as a marker to align the waistband of your trousers to used to be a dead giveaway that you were either A: 90+ years of age, or B: Simon Cowell. Today, however, it’s much more likely to signify that you’re the type of gent who frequents Pitti Uomo and owns more than one set of cufflinks. High-waisted trousers are quite literally on the rise. And while a well-styled pair can be a one way ticket to sartorial nirvana, get them wrong and you’ll look like a kid playing dress up in his dad’s suit.
The key to hitting the sweet spot lies in nailing the length and the cut. If you’re going for a wide-leg style a cropped fit ensures you’re not drowning in fabric. Conversely, if mankles aren’t your thing, a tapered cut will allow the leg openings of the trousers to sit nicely with your chosen footwear.
High-waisted trousers may be tailoring technically speaking, but they’re still super relaxed and the rest of your style should follow ‘suit’. Up top, opt for either a fitted polo or a loose T-shirt, tucked into the waistband. You can layer this with a matching unstructured jacket and even a wool overcoat when the mercury plummets. Footwear-wise, try mixing things up a bit with a canvas high-top or a suede desert boot.
11. Pleated Trousers
As trousers make their way way back up to men’s natural waistlines once again, a long-forgotten tailoring detail is being thrust back into the fashion spotlight. The pleat was not long ago a mens style detail reserved for your grandad. A quirk chosen for its comfort rather than its aesthetics and frowned upon by those in the know. However, here in this age of smart joggers and oversized tailoring, comfort is no longer a dirty word. Pleated pants are back in men’s style and now is the time to introduce them to your wardrobe.
When you’ve spent the last 10 years forcing your legs into jeans akin to sausage casing, the idea of playing with less fitted silhouettes can seem a bit daunting. The trick here is to strike that balance between fitted and airy. Your trousers should be breezy and comfortable, but you shouldn’t have clown-style pools of fabric obscuring your shoes. Opt for a tapered cut for best results and selecting a cropped style is never a bad idea either.
In terms of styling, stick to relaxed tailoring in the jacket department, layered over a white tee. A tucked-in Cuban collar shirt can work nicely too. For the footwear stick to Derby boots, brogues or, if you’re feeling adventurous, white canvas trainers.
12. Tracksuit Bottoms
When sporty slacks first began making their way off the running track and onto the runway, the long-time suited and booted menswear crowd shared a quiet sigh of relief. Finally there was a way to look put together in something that offered a level of comfort comparable to pyjamas. It was the break everyone had been looking for and couldn’t have been more welcome.
There’s a wealth of variety when it comes to tracksuit bottoms. You can opt for a side-stripe trouser style and pair them with tailoring. Or alternatively, you can go full nylon and go for that 90s, head-to-toe vibe. Whichever you pick, go for a slim cut and if the cuffs aren’t elasticated then opt for a slightly cropped leg.
Tracksuit bottoms have always been best off paired with sportswear. To wear a pair with brogues would’ve been a mens style crime of unspeakable proportions. Today, however, things are different. A cropped side-stripe men’s trouser can be paired with a smarter shoe just as effectively as it can with a luxe trainer. Throw on a plain tee and a bomber and you’re good to go.
If you want to keep things more street then go for the full nylon tracksuit and wear it with chunky trainers and a dad cap.