I can’t think of any aspect of men’s clothing more widely criticized than pleats. There are many “influencers” out there that vehemently oppose pleats in every situation, acting as if they are some remnant of an era where no good style decisions were made. Heck, hating pleats has become a defacto stance for when a numbered list of points on “how to buy a suit” needs one more entry, it seems. Using pleats as a scapegoat for a lack of general tailoring knowledge is a weak excuse, but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone.
In order to make an educated decision regarding pleats, I think it’s important to understand what they do. In my opinion, it’s the following:
- Add more fullness to the seat and thigh to increase comfort and range of movement
- Break up the expanse of fabric around the waist
- Extend the line of the crease up to the waistband
Personally, I’ve been curious about pleats for a while now; although my bird-like legs have no need for them from a fit perspective, I like they visual interest they provide. I opted for single pleats on this suit from Beckett & Robb, and am thoroughly enjoying the result. I think they go great with heartier fabrics like this mid-weight flannel; I’ll probably stay flat-fronted with my worsted wool suits for the time being, but old school materials and hefty cuffs seem like a perfect pairing for pleats.
If you’re considering pleats, here are the factors that I would take into account:
- Pair them with a higher rise – pleats should sit at your waist, not hips (otherwise they’ll splay out).
- Consider going with cuffs and/or suspenders – both styles complement pleats well.
- Single pleats are the safest – double pleats are probably not best for testing the waters.
Beyond that, I think it’s just a matter of taste. Both pleated and flat front trousers can look great, although the selection of the former is generally limited so going custom might be the easiest bet. That said, pleats are becoming more widely available – heck, even J. Crew has a small selection of pleated trousers these days.
All told, I doubt these will be my last pair of trousers that have a shallow single pleat, and I don’t think I’m the only one that feels this way. When I was helping out at Beckett & Robb early last year, I was trying to convince the others of the merits of going pleated. At that time, not a single one of them owned any pleated trousers; one quick scroll though their instagram shows that they’ve come around on them too. Does this mean I’m a trendsetter, or an #influencer, perhaps? Probably not, but it’s good to know that the predominant pleated prejudice may soon be a part of the past.