Statement jackets and the latest kicks 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 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 styles that you might not have considered, but definitely should.
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.
A firm favourite of fashion bloggers (the kind who don’t dress like anime astronauts, that is) and art directors the world over, wool 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, wool trousers have 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, they 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.
A good piece of workwear puts in a shift if you’re asserting your old-school masculine credentials. In twill chinos, quality craftsmanship meets reliability and style in a perfect ménage à trois 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 please leave them empty.
The standard-issue khaki green shade 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.