One of the questions we frequently get in our inboxes is: “where can I find a slim legged, higher rise trouser?” It’s not easy. The market is mostly bifurcated with low rise, slim legged pants on one side, and high rise, fuller leg models on the other. There aren’t a lot of options in between.
If you’re OK with a mid-rise, I really like Howard Yount (specifically the made-in-the-USA stuff, as the Italian line is a little too slim for me). They’re competitively priced and come in a wide range of colors and materials. Dapper Classics and Epaulet are also worth a look. If you’re able to pay a little more money, check out Panta, Ring Jacket, and Rota. All three are exceptional.
If you’re dead set on a high-rise, however, then there’s Brooks Brothers Black Fleece. I find the seat to be a little full, but if you have a little more going on in the … ahem .. trunk, then you may find that they work for you. They come with a somewhat silly-looking locker loop at the back, but you can have a tailor remove it for not too much money.
Ralph Lauren also used to have something called their Preston cut, which used to be my favorite model. The company switched factories last year, however, and then revamped their entire trouser line. I don’t know what the styles are like now, but you may want to stop in for a look. Just remember that you can always slim a pair of pants from the knee down – so just get something that fits well in the thighs.
There are also two projects in the works. One is being organized by Christian over at Ivy Style. Details are still to be determined, but you can imagine them being inspired by the sort of flat front pants American men used to wear with soft shouldered tweeds. The first run will be done in a khaki cotton, although Christian hints at the possibility of custom in his post.
The Knottery is also releasing a couple of chinos this month – one in navy, the other in khaki. Made in the USA, these feature adjustable side tabs and flat fronts (the company tells me they’re working on a single-pleat version for fall). Price will be $150.
For guys who like a longer leg line, there’s hope around the corner.
The endurance of the silhouette and styling of the letterman/varsity jacket is a little surprising to me. Trying to remember when I bought mine (red body, gray arms, above) I found a thread on Styleforum asking if varsity jackets were “back”…in 2007. Seven years later and the varsity shape is still in the game: Hedi Slimane made it a centerpiece of his comeback men’s collection for Saint Laurent in 2013. For a jacket that seems so bound by its origins–color-matched casual wear earned by team sports players for athletic accomplishments, i.e., FOR JOCKS–the varsity is maybe surprisingly versatile, even potentially subversive.
A Long Way from the Locker Room
For a long time, the “right” varsity jacket was the one you earned. A uniform for school athletes from the middle of the century on, it became pop culture shorthand for jock, whether that meant bullying jerk (Ogre in Revenge of the Nerds) or apparently harmless good guy (Michael Jackson, in human form, in Thriller). In the 1980s straightedge subculture kids adopted the hoodie-and-varsity ensemble as a symbol of fraternal, occasionally militant clean living. After a brief 1990s resurgence in washed denim we didn’t see a lot of varsities until the late aughts, when the classic Americana trend took hold. High fashion versions, like Slimane’s, take advantage of both the masculine connotations of athletics and the kitsch of throwback, Kodachrome America. Today you could call the varsity an ivy style or streetwear classic, and you wouldn’t be wrong in either case.
With so many companies making jackets for so long, varsities saturate the vintage market. If you’re cool with wearing someone else’s letters (or using a seam ripper to de-letter), you have your pick at nearly any thrift store. Some good American makers to look for on jacket tags are Centralia Knitting Mills/Skookum, Golden Bear, and Maple–their jackets will generally be better made than no-name and imported vintage pieces. Centralia and Golden Bear still make jackets–Rakuten searches often reveal interesting Skookum models. Golden Bear has been the manufacturer of choice for Engineered Garments, Union Made, and many others who use a general varsity shape. Keep in mind that jackets made for school clients are usually limited to school-style colors, and often use plastick-y leather for the sleeves. The co-branded jackets tend to use custom materials or shapes that you won’t find on pieces made for a high school band. Epaulet made a very refined, modern looking varsity-styled jacket, seen in the first picture on this post, unfortunately sold out for the season. Like many other symbols of mid-century America, the jacket has been obsessively recreated by Japan-based companies like Flat Head. As with military jackets, you can really spend as little or as much on a varsity jacket as you want.