The Hollywood-top trouser – from Edward Sexton

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Monday, July 31st 2017
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*UPDATE: Edward Sexton have just confirmed they will producing a ready-to-wear version this Autumn/Winter, probably in flannel, price around £600*

One of the more unusual bespoke commissions I made over the past six months was these linen trousers, made by Edward Sexton.

Known as a Hollywood waistband, or Hollywood top, the design was fairly popular in the 1940s and into the 1950s in the US. The infamous zoot suit frequently featured it.

The central aspect of the design is that there is no waistband. Instead, the cloth of the leg continues uninterrupted to the top of the trouser, before turning over.

A canvas interlining is still often used inside, to reinforce the top. However, it is often lighter in weight and this, combined with the lack of the waistband itself, makes the top softer and perhaps more comfortable.

This waistband-less construction is used on trousers designed to be worn with braces or with a belt.

With braces, it has the advantage that any waistcoat does not have to be long enough to cover the waistband and then some trouser below it. It just needs to cover the top of the trouser, and can therefore be shorter if desired.

With a belt, the loops are usually dropped an inch or so, and the style is therefore sometimes known as a dropped-loop trouser.  

In this case, there will be strip of canvas around the line of the belt, but nothing above it. The trouser is also cut so that its narrowest point is at the belt line, before expanding slightly above it.

You can see the canvas at the belt line in the first image of the making of my trousers, below. 

It is this latter, dropped-loop design that Edward Sexton has been making for bespoke clients for the past few months.

They have been popular, particularly in the summer when the lack of waistband and wider leg (a common but not required part of the design) can make them comfortable in the heat.

Anyone with an awareness of women’s fashion will have seen this design around recently - often, in that case, with a self-fabric belt tied loosely in place of a belt.

But it’s nice to see it resurrected for men - dug up from a time when tailoring was more creative than we give it credit for (particularly as pieces were being made for leisure and sport, rather than just business and formalwear).

My fear with the trouser, as I’m sure readers would anticipate, was that they would appear too dandyish and perhaps anachronistic.

But actually I have found them quite wearable. The exposed, pale-coloured cloth above the belt does not stand out as much as you might think, partly because the shirt rolls out of the trouser a little during the day, and covers some of it.

You can see that clearly in the image below of me in the Sartoria Vestrucci atelier in Florence, with Tommaso Capozzoli and Loris Vestrucci.

You can also see the lovely line of the trouser, just sitting neatly on top of my Baudoin & Lange Sagans (in my Bark Grey colour).

From the front, the unusual top of the trouser is more noticeable, and I find it’s a nice point of focus between the fronts of a jacket.

However, I would always wear it with fairly subdued combination elsewhere; if combined with other unusual elements, this could become too dandyish.

I also find that the exaggerated trouser style is nicer with overshirts or knitwear, rather than a tailored jacket.

(As a reader pointed out perceptively in last Monday’s post.)

The belt, by the way, is an alligator piece from Brunello Cucinelli - a gift from Brunello when I visited him in Solomeo.

A nice colour, deliberately aged, and the over-long design is nice doubled up through these loops.

The alligator is unfortunately cut halfway round, but then if it wasn’t the belt would be a lot more expensive.

The only issue I had with the trousers was that the front tended to drop slightly under my stomach.

This effect was accentuated by the fact that the belt narrows towards the front, suggesting an even greater downward slope.

This is partly down to my request to have the trousers cut lower than Edward’s normal design. Normally the trouser is high-waisted, with the belt sitting on the natural waist rather than the hip bone.

I wanted to have the belt at my normal, hip height, but use the cloth above the belt to extend the leg line.

This hasn’t quite worked, and I am going in in a couple of weeks’ time to have the waist altered.

The trouser is traditionally a little loose in the waist too, so the belt actually cinches the material. But I think it is harder for this to work on the lower rise I opted for.

The linen, from Solbiati, is lovely. I would usually go with an Irish linen for a trouser like this, but this has both body and drape. It is cloth number S01046, from the Linen 5 bunch, weight 430 grammes.

Edward is exploring making these trousers available ready-to-wear as well, using the overseas workshop that makes their made to measure.

That could be a nice option, as Edward would then be able to alter them in-house for the waist and length, and they would be considerably cheaper than the £1,300 the bespoke costs.

Always easier to experiment with something unusual when it’s a little bit cheaper.

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man