Which do you side with? 3-10-2011

Front and center.

The Pleated vs. Plain-front debate.

Yankees vs. Red Sox. Harvard vs. Yale. Pleated vs. Plain-front. Okay, it’s not quite that serious, but as far as pants go, most guys are one or the other. And if you’re wearing the wrong one, it’s going to negatively affect your entire look. Right now, plain-fronts are riding a wave of popularity, and pushing the pleated pant out of the spotlight, but it won’t always be this way. So now’s the time to figure out if you’re wearing the right pair.

War and pleats.

The pleated vs. plain debate began during World War Two when the pleated pant, and the extra fabric it requires, fell victim to the U.S. Government rationing fabric during the war. Since then, pleated pants have been considered something of a luxury item more suitable for formal occasions. Plain-fronts went on to be seen as more practical, all-around pants, good for everything from the Kennedy’s touch football games on their front lawn to Kerouac hitting the road.

Pants personality profiles.

For a dressier look, go pleated. They’re worn higher up on the waist than plain-front pants with the pleats helping the fabric to fall more naturally. To wear them correctly, you need to have them higher up than you might think. Not mom jeans high. But if you’re standing and the pleats are ballooning open, you need to pull them up.

For a slicker, more modern look, pull on the plain-fronts. In recent years, plain-fronts have come to dominate most wardrobes because of their versatility. They’re worn lower than pleated pants, at the hips, and can be dressed up or down. For proper fit, look in the mirror to see if your side pockets are bulging out like ears. If they resemble an elephant in any way, even a baby one, your pants are too tight.

Put your pants on.

Here’s where the pant meets the man. Even though we all wish we had the physique of a professional athlete, most of us fall short. But that shouldn’t stop you from looking good—even great. Know what fits you well and complements your body type. Wearing shapeless, baggy pants doesn’t do anyone any favors, including you. It’s the difference between being seen as a guy who’s got it together instead of a disheveled rube.

On the short side.

If you’re a short guy, a Tobey Maguire-type, pleats are tricky. The extra fabric that comes with too many pleats can give you a round, Humpty Dumpty look. Which is something you don’t want—trust us. However, the verticality of a well-placed pleat will make you appear taller. Which is never a bad thing. Pleats can be your friend, but it’s about moderation. They’re like Taco Bell burritos—any more than two and you’re asking for trouble.

Tall order.

If you’re tall and thin, look at plain-fronts first. They’ll give you better proportions. So instead of looking like Chuck Nevitt, the prototypical NBA stick man, you’ll look more like LeBron James, the prototypical NBA tall guy with great proportions. Beware the pleated pant. It can balloon around your waist like a child’s pool toy. If you still want to venture onto pleated waters, try ones with just a single pleat.

Bigger than most.

If you’re a bigger guy, like a Mario Batali, your stomach has most likely become a prominent part of your profile. In that case, wear pleated pants. Their extra room provides extra comfort. And when you’re sitting down to dinner at your favorite restaurant, that’s a great thing to have. Plus, because they’re worn slightly higher, they’ll impart a slimming effect to your profile. Which is particularly beneficial when you stand up after that meal.

Average Joe.

And if you’re in the normal or average body type category, then congratulations, you can take your pick. Feel free to experiment with pleated or plain fronts in different fabrics as the fabric weight may affect how the pants hang on you. Being an average body type is no excuse to settle for looking average. You think George Clooney’s good looks can overcome hitting the red carpet in a ratty T-shirt, low-slung baggy jeans, and flip-flops?  The answer is no.

Your pants, perfected.

Regardless of which style you prefer, spend the extra time and money by taking them to a tailor. It’s worth it. The most expensive pair of pants will only look average if you don’t have them altered to fit you. There’s a big difference between pretty good and perfect. When was the last time you saw George Clooney in something that didn’t fit? You haven’t and you never will.

Now you’re always in the right—pants that is.

So, in the end, choosing between pleated and plain-fronts comes down to a combination of personal style and body type. Pleats are a more polished look and plain-fronts are more easy-going. But how they interact with your build is the key to getting your look right. And now, if a friend asks you why you’re wearing pleated pants when everyone else is in plain-fronts, you can give him the right answer. And if he then asks you what he should be wearing, you can set him straight. Unless, of course, you’re a Red Sox fan and he’s a Yankees fan. In that case, we’ll understand why you wouldn’t.

TAGS: Modern | Pants | Plain-Front | Pleated | Tailor | Traditional

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