This post was written by Lindy Shopper.
I recently went to see The Great Gatsby (2013) and the thing that bothered me more than the horribly anachronistic female costuming and the inflatable zebras were the men’s pants. They were obviously out of place – poorly tailored stove pipes that wrinkled/puddled around the ankles and calves, much in the way that a pair of skinny jeans would on a hipster. David Lochner tells me they used Brooks Brothers’ Milano Fit Trouser, their “slimmest fitting trouser with a lower rise and a plain front.” Something about this description seems like the antithesis of 1920’s menswear. That the film would sacrifice historical accuracy for a modern marketing opportunity is no surprise, but it got me thinking about high waist pants. Is this really the best they can do? When I search for high waist pants, what are retailers offering these days?
The pre-qual to these questions is how we got out of the fashion of wearing high waisted pants in the first place. Whenever I wear modern pants while I am dancing, they slowly inch their way downward or pull unnecessarily on my legs when I wear a belt. Doesn’t it make sense that our bottom garments would be better served by being secured at the narrowest point on our body? As someone with an extremely short inseam, why would I want to make my legs look shorter?
So many questions…in my initial search online for men’s high waist pants I found this great article by Cator Sparks for the Huffington Post called “Rise Up, Men, to the Glorious High-Waisted Pant!” which seemed to address several questions:
Quoting Nick Wooster of Bergdorf Goodman, “men have become so comfortable with low rise that it’s like bringing back the pleated pant; it took years to get men out of them and now we are showing men how good they can look in them. He sighed, “Men are creatures of repetition and when they get conditioned to like something it takes a very long time to change that.”
Quoting Robert Bryan, stylist, “Nothing looks worse than a long torso with short legs, a look created by pants that rise only to the hips, or these days, considerably lower,” he demurred. “Furthermore, it seems only natural that trousers should rise at least to the natural waist where they can rest for support on the hips and drape from there,”
In closing, “So, men, it is up to you daredevils that want to look tall, erect and sophisticated to bring back this iconic staple to our wardrobes.”
Support and drape sounds beautiful and practical for dancing…so where do we find these high-waisted pants?
Well, a lower rise appears to have overtaken all modern retailers – I asked two of my favorite male sartorialists, Bobby White and the aforementioned Mr. Lochner, about where they find high-waisted trousers with modern retailers and it is just as I feared: nowhere. Sure, you can find waists that are higher in comparison to low-rise pants, but not pairs, for example, like the ones Marlon Brando is sporting in the photo to the left. Mr. Lochner added, “Even the old men’s section at Macy’s lowered the rise.” Your options are to order something made for you, seek vintage sources, or spend countless hours searching for that one elusive pair in a shop and buy every pair they have in your size.
There are some online custom trouser purveyors: Revamp Vintage has several reproduction options, like their 1920’s Elliot trousers and their 1930’s Felix trousers.
I found a nice selection of high waisted 1950’s pants at the Rusty Zipper, including some sweet looking Army slacks.
A Google search of “men’s high waisted pants” revealed a few, perhaps, not-quite-so-high-but-higher-than-low-rise options:
Cator Sparks says he picked up a pair of Levi’s 517’s, which he says are the pants the cowboys wear. Aside from describing the seemingly endless zipper, I love that Mr. Sparks talks about how he hasn’t felt this comfortable in a pair of pants since he bought a pair of custom made tuxedo pants.
Emporio Armani has this pair, but they don’t look particularly high-waisted to me, rather somewhere just above a low rise.
Dickies, classic purveyors of work-wear, offers this trouser – added bonus: hidden expandable waist and extra pocket on the leg.
And there you have it – with the passing of generations that wore high-waisted pants and the wearing-down of the waistline, so to speak, to more low-rise trousers being en vogue in subsequent generations, we have run out of a resource. If you have resources for high-waisted pants, please feel free to share them here in the comments section below. I know others will thank you for it!
Note: I have heard protests from “larger” gentleman about high-waisted pants not being a fathomable or flattering option for them. There is a great discussion at the Fedora Lounge on this topic. I would also recommend that you find Austin, TX dancer Victor Celania and pick his brain about this topic.
Also: Some more thoughts on the benefits of high-waisted trousers.
And this: On getting the right fit with high-waisted trousers.
Silliness: This pair from Wal-Mart.