In October last year, Jude Law walked the red carpet at the premiere of TV drama The Young Pope. The only thing more preposterous than the show he was promoting was his trousers, which were so voluminous he looked like the ‘after’ photo in a Slim-Fast ad.
But then, the not-so-talented-anymore Mr Ripley has been repping windsock strides for a while. And it’s not because he’s secretly invested in a number of textile mills. The wide-leg trouser is ripped straight from the runways, with labels from E.Tautz to Universal Works to Ami pushing a swishier look this season.
At-best slim, at-worst skinny fits have monopolised menswear since the mid-2000s, back when Hedi Slimane sent out rail-thin Dior models in even skinnier jeans. But now, designers, as is their wont, are snapping back in the other direction.
This is not to say that to be fashion-forward, you need make like Law and run a belt through two tents. Yes, the runway end of the trouser fit spectrum just lurched dramatically flappier. But that means that, for those who’ve spent the last decade peeling their trousers off every evening, it’s time to inch up into something roomier.
The graph of fit against physique follows a bell curve. To pull off spray-on-skinny or Jude Law-loose requires a body that would work on a runway. But move to the middle with relaxed and straight cuts and things get more forgiving.
However wide you go, getting the fit right is key. With that much extra material already on show, the world doesn’t need to see your underwear as well. Make sure the trousers or jeans hit near your waist, not hips, or you’ll look like a kid who got dressed out of dad’s wardrobe.
(Related: How To Pick The Perfect Jeans For Your Body Type)
On which note, enter the pleat. Once reserved for men who had more hair coming out of their ears than the top of their head, brands like Burberry and Oliver Spencer have recently rescued them from the bingo hall. This subtle crease down the front of the trouser leg is a godsend to men who fear the full wide fit but are no strangers to the squat rack, as it adds extra fabric around the thigh and seat. Which also means you can breathe easy when the mercury starts rising.
“With a slightly roomier cut, pleated trousers are perfect for relaxed, summer dressing,” says Mr Porter style director Olie Arnold. “Make sure the trousers have a slightly cropped profile, which will ensure they feel current and on trend. Keep the rest of the look simple with a crisp shirt, T-shirt or piece of knitwear, so those well-executed pleats remain the focus.”
Tapering will also help keep lighter fabrics from billowing in every gust of wind. With a straight fit, think heavier materials to keep everything in place. “In winter, try a richer wool fabric like a flannel and in summer a thicker linen,” says Giles Farnham, head of the River Island Style Studio. “Thicker materials also gather well on the shoe.”
As is the case with most looks, the right shoe can make or break this trend. The original baggy boys were students at Oxford in the 1920s, who wore extreme wide-leg trousers over their knickerbockers, which the university had outlawed. While we’d avoid using yours to smuggle contraband underwear, it is worth stealing one move from the OGs; a pair of shoes that don’t get drowned out. “The wider silhouette in the leg is complimented by a wider, round toe like you get on a pair of sneakers,” says Farnham. “Avoid slightly pointier, narrow shoes such as loafers as they will jar with the loose fabric and end up looking like you’ve been taking style tips from Chabuddy G [from BBC Three’s People Just Do Nothing].” (Related: The 5 Most Versatile Leather Shoes A Man Can Own) Unlike skinny jeans, which can make it seem as if your torso is teetering on a pair of cricket stumps, relaxed-fit trousers add some heft to the lower part of the body. Just don’t make the mistake of echoing that up top. “The main mistake people make with wide-leg trousers, is going wide everywhere else,” says Farnham. “If wearing relaxed trousers, everything else should be fitted, otherwise you look like you’re wearing a big brother’s hand-me-downs. Wide trousers worn with a fitted shirt looks considered. Wide trousers and a baggy shirt just looks scruffy.” If in doubt, tuck. And discover how wider trousers create a waistline far faster than sit-ups. For those new to the relaxed-leg fit, casual looks are the easiest way to experiment. “Start off with a classic colour or fabric, such as navy or black in cotton or a wool-blend,” says Arnold. “Denim is also an easy way into the trend.” To balance out all that extra down below, think simple, says Farnham. “Wear with a well-fitting crew-neck T-shirt or Henley. Many wider trousers have traditional front pleats and a higher waist; tuck the top in to highlight this feature.” It’s a move approved by Jude Law, back in his Dickie Greenleaf days. When wearing a blazer with relaxed-fit trousers, mirror the extra fabric in the jacket’s hem; the more material around your legs, the less your jacket should drop, to balance it out. You can also alleviate the impact by rolling the hems, so the trousers swing, rather than puddle. “Try a pair of cropped wide-leg trousers with chunky boots, a button-down white shirt and unstructured navy blazer,” says Farnham. Loose-fit trousers can work in business-casual offices, but make up for the more relaxed fit by dialling up the styling. “A well-cut pair of pleated trousers can bring a rakish touch to a formal look by pairing with a deconstructed blazer, a crisp shirt and some polished Derby shoes,” says Arnold. “Wide-leg trousers represent a contemporary approach to formal dressing, and a well-tailored pair in black […] can be ideal for the office when worn with a tucked in slim shirt, to balance the voluminous shape.” (Related: How To Not Look Boring At Work – Business-Casual Edition)