For whom the bells toll -
The changing story of the poor trouser.
June of 2016.
“...and therefore never send to know for whom the bells toll;
it tolls for thee."
- John Donne.
Well, you must have from the subject line (and not getting distracted by the quote) observed that this is no philosophical piece of writing, but of a completely different paradigm not even remotely connected with anything serious or anything of any value whatsoever! I own this blog and therefore I have the right to write...right or wrong.
This was intended to be an odd piece on men’s fashion...yes! but with no well-knit (pun intended) plot or theme, this may rather become a disorganised scribble...if you may. The reader has the right to discard the writing and discontinue the reading, but if you do not...oh, thank you so much, I would rather say a few things on men’s clothing. And the bell I referred to is related to the bell bottom trousers! In the age of less (top less, bottom less ...sense less and the likes), how one may attempt a blog on trouser cut is a moot question. But now since I have had placed a caveat that I am writing just like that, hence I shall make no attempt to defend the motive or the motivation behind such indiscretion as this.
Coming back to the point, one of my friends once told me (and rightly so) that there is nothing called ‘latest fashion’ per se ...and do not care about what others are doing...just go as you like.
I read that fashion in literal sense is defined as a popular style or practice ...and popularity itself is wholly a game of average and of mass. Not necessarily of class ...and certainly less of individuality. Then one may ask what one may dress to stand apart from the banal crowd? (Banal was the very word mentioned to me by a world famous photographer when he revisited India in the recent times after the 1970s and found that the Indian dressing has been largely replaced by common place western outfits thus making the scenario a lot less Indian in essence). And he missed the old uniqueness. The ‘latest fashion’ had spoilt the scene.
Coming back to the question of being unique and more individual ...so what one may attempt - dress up weirdly? Wear loud colours? Less-than-conventional-combinations? Odd cuts and fits...try something akin to that clichéd ‘different’...I mean what’s the secret?? The answer is why should someone want to look different in clothing? Is that what personality, gait and confidence have stooped down to!? I believe no. Unless of course one makes a business or career out of show business or has an obligation to impress any one or an audience by his or her outfits. Then it is a different story.
My humble take is we look best in a dress in which we love to see ourselves in front of the mirror! And of course without offending the sense and sensibilities in doing so. The definition again is largely subjective and I have no obligation to define it better as this is no dictionary page.
In all these preludes, we forgot the humble trouser to whom this blog is dedicated to. When I say trouser, it is not to be mistaken with a 'legging' and which does not serve as a pair socks on the bottom end! If you observe the latest fashion, you will appreciate why I made my point explicit.
I remember one of my friends went to a reputed tailor (of considerable pedigree) with his slippers on and they politely asked him to come back wearing a pair of formal boots /shoes so that the ‘fall’ of the trouser can be rightly calibrated. And that fall has largely vanished in the recent times in the race for slimmer cuts and skinny affairs.
(All these images depict the classic flares and bell-bottomed boot-cuts.)
When I asked the rationale of the shrinking matter to a few – one of them (an engineer) told me that the bottom end of the trouser is like the sinusoidal curve – historically it has increased and decreased in cycles and now we are at the bottom of the curve – we shall go up, soon. Another person (a business man) told me that the clothing companies actually reduce the cloth consumption in making tight, skin fit trousers, thus improving their bottom-line while affecting the poor trousers’ bottom line. And then there were practical people who worried on the difficulty of changing skinny trousers at the time of dire emergency. God save the modern men.
And what about the density of the cloth material? Off late I have also observed the chinos and shirts and other outfits have become increasingly and perceivably thinner and lighter ...is it for the torrid, tropical weather which is to be blamed to make the differentiating line between trousers and pyjamas thinner? My business-man friend again came to my rescue and opined that it is again for the business bottom line. And advertising flimsy, thin cloth materials as ‘fine’ will woo the buyer - that was planned. It did.
(If some of the cuts are termed as ‘comfort fit’ ; Can we assume the slims are of ‘discomfort fit’ ?)
(The impeccable cuts and fits of yester-years)
So in all these games the big brands play in wrapping us up, how do we choose a right material (assuming we want to remain dressed) and fit when the department stores are stacked-up with over-priced, largely unimpressive stocks of limited cuts and fits? Well, there is no panacea or a full-proof answer. One may opt more for tailored dresses ...and for me – being a old fashioned man with an instinct of a collector and taking some pride in my ability to research – I hunted at the factory outlets and old stocks! And just akin to cutting a long cloth short - to cut a long story short without further prolong, I list here the cuts /fits of three most popular jeans brands which I found ‘classic’ and graceful as in the good, old times. If this odd article rings a ‘bell’ in you and invoke any degree of longing for gracious trouser cuts 'falling' nicely on your boots ...you may try these on:
Lee – Chicago.
Wrangler – Texas.
Levis – L503 (Boot-cut).
My recent correspondences and liaison with some of the popular brands evoked mixed response. Some of them said they have discontinued the straight, parallel, wide fits...some of them offered no assurance to bring the boot-cuts back ...while a brand confirmed they will revive the classic trouser cuts in a years’ time!
While some of you enjoy your skinny legging in the hallucination of a men’s trouser or fume in frustration, just carry the measuring tape with you during your next visit to the apparel store. If the bottom end of the trouser is anything less than 9 inches on one side, your are preparing for a slim and trim matter - or a conceited cut (except for slim fit suits). The fun starts from 9 and goes to anything beyond 10, 11 or more. If you ever had owned a boot-cut, flared or a bell-bottomed trouser, you will know exactly what I mean...and cheers to that golden age of the 70s and 80s. The essence was rightly ‘tight on top and loose on bottom’ – so there were those big collars that made us look more confident, the tight shirts made us look slimmer at the right place...and the trouser was of firm grip – again at the right place, sometimes of ‘high-rise’ that added to the smartness and playability ...and which finally fell gracefully to blend with the boots!
It is that classic age of fashion which ‘flared’ with flamboyance and for whom the bells toll.