As I perused this month’s issue of Esquire I was horrified to see several of the big designers are bringing back pleats for men. And not just a well-tailored single pleat; we’re talking “two yard of extra material zoot suit-legged mega pants”. Calvin Klein had a two page spread highlighting an outfit that only MC Hammer could appreciate. Armani featured an ad with a suit with so much extra material in the crotch that you could wear a tool belt under your pants and nobody would notice.
Pleats tend to come and go on a decade by decade basis. Since the demise of the kilt, and lack of acceptance from men for male capri pants and “man skirts”, it’s seems to be the only way designers can get men to buy new trousers.
At my age I have participated in a several pleat periods, and I will admit that sometimes I really enjoyed having an extra yard of material around my lower mid-section. During the 70’s and 80’s pleat periods I was a young man with an excess of hormones. I enjoyed the extra roominess in the crotch, since at that age one never knew when nature might take over on a date and your true intentions for the night could be embarassingly revealed.
That was followed by the 90’s pleat period. By that time I was more worried about my expanding mid-section. Pleats are a wonderful way to hide the expanding gut, as your stomach always looks smaller when you have ballooning material below it.
But since losing some weight a few years ago, I have been wearing trim trousers as almost a badge of honor; a testiment to the fact that you can enter middle age without gaining the requisite thirty pounds.
For many men pleats never went away. Stores like The Men’s Wearhouse and the husky section in Nordstroms have always carried them. And usually these men buy them for comfort and maximum gut camouflauge. I worked my way through school selling men’s clothing, and we used to carry a brand of pants called Sansabelt, which was the ultimate comfy pant for golfers and fat guys. The pants not only had pleats, but they had a hidden expanding waist band that would stretch out a couple extra inches when needed. They looked ridiculous, but on an evening when you wanted to drink five or six scotches followed by a big rib dinner and some cheesecake, they couldn’t be beat! And since they were made from some indestructable awful-looking polyester normally only used in car covers, you could also drop cigarette butts and barbecue sauce on them and not worry about doing any damage.
And then there is the other kind of pleats guy. They wear them primarily for financial reasons; because they believe in only replacing their pants during odd-numbered decades. They’ve given up the fashion fight a long time ago, occassionally taking in their Sansabelts to have the waists taken out.
Perhaps I hate to see pleats coming back in because it might be a little too convenient; a terrible temptation to throw in the fashion and fitness towel and luxuriate in big boy trousers.