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

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Adam Jones

Overall I think the outfit works on you here, its not too dandyish buy with a higher waist maybe a little too much. I don’t think they are something I would wear my self but apart from the front the overall colour, cloth and cut is lovely.
On a side note Tommaso seems to be an example breaking the “rules” yes still managing to make it work. Black shoes with heavily faded denim yet still manages to pull it off – (I know not everyone will agree)

Patrick

Those pleats are as sharp as a knife and thaaaat drape!! I just can’t believe that is linen. What a cut! However, I don’t know how to feel about that waistband. Certainly an odd design. Quoting a great dandy: “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
(Although to be fair, the person who said that, liked walking around barefoot and had an unhealthy relationship with jewelry)
Love the outift!!

Bradley

Beautiful trousers. I agree on the rise–it needs to be higher. The only other change I would make is to the inseam. I think a trouser in this style needs some break at the cuff. It suits the wider leg and over-all style.

Jay

Hi Simon,

Who do you recommend in (or visiting) New York for similar Hollywood-top high-rise fishtail trousers (to wear with braces)? Their ballpark price points would also be very useful to know.

Thanks,

Jay

Thanks Simon. I apologize. I was asking about the visiting tailors. Any idea about their price points or do you recommend contacting each directly?

Patrick

Well… Huntsman just opened a pied-a-Terre in New York City.
The resident cutter, Ralph, was trained by Carey himself. In the words of Rusty Ryan “Hey! You could ask him!”
Although, I’m sure there must be many accomplished tailors in NY. I’m not sure if Rory Duffy is still there?

Nick Inkster

Look up Len Logsdsil in NYC. They don’t come much better

reuven lax

Among with other tailors, Sexton regularly visits NYC (every two months I believe).

Kev Fidler

Overall very nice looking trousers and the cloth looks especially good. My concern is with the top primarily and that part above the belt. The absence of a heavy waistband is appealing though so would that style be drastically altered if the loops and inner band were put at the top? And how much of a wider cut is this compared to your usual leg widths, Simon. (The overshirt looks great, by the way. Presumably a Drakes’ one? Got one in the khaki green and love it, such a versatile thing to have.)

Kev Fidler

Not a huge difference then? I’m tempted to have some slightly wider trousers for warm weather but because of my skinny legs I don’t like lots of material flapping about the hems.

Walter Sickinger

1300 GBP for a pair of linen trousers? Perhaps if they were cut from the Shroud of Turin and handsewn by the Madonna using thread spun from the eyelashes of angels but not a pair made by a mere mortal tailor.

Sigurd

The shirt jacket you are wearing looks terrific. Care to share what make it is?

James

Looks great Simon, and nice to see you wearing a bit of colour again. Details on the overshirt? I have one myself in a dark forest green that I picked up from Mr. Porter and have found it to be quite useful over the summer.

Morten

Very very nice.

Only drawbackis the price. Anyone know of someone doing this style RTW so its possible to experiment more cheaply?

Anonymous

Very elegant – though see what you mean re on the dandyish side of things. Seems a bit of a trend for trousers on that score with the Pitti types (billowing pleats, wider legs, gurkha and other complex fastenings). One query – had thought pleats work best on high waisted trousers. Was wondering if this is true and why you didn’t go the whole hog with a high waist on this?

Anon

I think Walter Sickinger makes a fair point although possibly not in the most tasteful way.

Isn’t the price, this time, simple profiteering ?
After all this is something we discuss a fair bit with regards bespoke and the usual response we settle at is “the cost is high as most of it has gone on into the product”.

I think in this case that response is wanting.

P.S. aside from that very nice trousers ……remind me of the very distinct Rubinacci ‘belting’ on the waist. Would love this type of thing on RTW and MTM at a affordable price.

David

It is really nice to see some great tailoring that refreshes a classic look. I love the cut and the cloth.
They look good on Simon and the points he makes about blending them with a more relaxed top is astute. As a suit or with a more formal jacket they would be too dandyish.
I also think he is correct on the waist height – he should have followed Edward’s advice.
I also think that this cut would not be for the short and portly.

John

Hi Simon,
Regardless of your critical points, this is a well cut piece that looks very suitable for the Summer!
Two remarks:
1) For readers it would have been more instructive if these trousers had been cut without any alteration to the style as Sexton would have made them;
2) I wonder whether side adjustors wouldn’t have worked too.
As to the zoot suit, it’s really amazing how tastes and styles evolve over time!
John

andy

Nice trousers and something different but very hard to pull off unless trim wasted, as you are. They wouldn’t suit or fit anyone with a beer gut.

john

Hello Simon
I don’t think that side adjusters would work with these particular trousers. Perhaps its just my experience but I have found the softer the cut the less effective adjusters are. They tend to bunch rather than gather – if that makes any sense at all.
I like the Drake overshirt but it reminded me of the safari style shirt you had made at Budd, which I thought was one of the nicest shirts you have shown on the site and you don’t seem to wear as often as I anticipated. It would have worked very well with the colour match you were wearing that day.
I don’t think most of your readers would have found “Walters” comments about the price out of place; I thought it very amusing and have to say it matched my thoughts about paying £1,300 for a pair of trousers. Though I was taken to lunch last week to a steak house and the guy with the expense account paid £2,200 for a bottle of wine – and American wine at that ! That makes the trousers seem positively a bargain.

David

I have to say, I also found Walter’s remark very amusing.
That said, there is a serious point behind it – at what point does the price point become vulgar ?
If folk are charging £1300 for a pair of bespoke linen on the Row, thank God it’s not A&S. Last time they charged me £900 and I only swallowed that because it was part of a suit.
That said, the vulgarity of a price is always in behalf of the beholder.
When it comes to cars I’ll happily pay £78K for a Range Rover but not a £160K for a Bentley. The latter wouldn’t bankrupt me but I just don’t see the added value and I think the Range Rover is a better car. This therefore, in my eyes, renders the Bentley vulgar.
Others may think differently.
The way I look at this site is, in no small part, that Simon goes out and makes our mistakes for us. That way, we can learn at his – or the vendor’s expense.
Good things come out of it – at £600 for RTW, I’ll drop round to Sexton’s and if they don’t make me look like a tub of lard, I’ll probably buy a pair.

Peter K

I also enjoyed Walter’s comment. It could be used as advertising copy for one of those hideous $800 t-shirts you can find on Mr. Porter!

I enjoy Permanent Style very much and have learned a great deal from it but the price of bespoke in Italy and the UK is well beyond my means.

Keep experimenting Simon. It has helped me narrow down what I really like in tailoring without making as many expensive mistakes as I would on my own.

Ben

Interesting tailoring idea that gets me thinking about the function of the waistband.

Even if the design mandates belt deployment, fabrics bunched by an over-cinched belt does not make for a pleasing waistline. So precise tailoring is arguably more important on the Hollywood—as is repeated tailoring. I’d imagine that fabric shrinkage and stretching affect fit to a greater extent without the band (I’d be interested in how the trousers do after a few wears/washes), adding to weight fluctuation as a reason to resize.

The idea also repudiates the recent (passing?) trend of sharp lines and tight fits not only in its evocation of the oversized zoot silhouette and generous pleating but also in its demand for the belt or brace, fixtures that I’ve been seeing less and less of.

Bob Andrews

Can you tell us more about the jacket you were wearing in these pictures?

Anonymous

Congratulations on giving this a go but the design needs a little more work. Taking the waist and pleats of the Hollywood/Zoot but then transplanting it onto a modern silhouette from the hips down doesn’t quite gel. It would be interesting to know more about ES’ original design – the higher waist would probably have better effect. I also think they should have been fuller in the waist/thigh with greater reduction into the ankle. The length of the Drake jacket suits the silhuoette but to compliment the look properly the upper elements need to be fuller in cut (think 80s shirts). I made a similar point re. the Stoffa jacket (fuller trousers req. to match the cut). Worth bearing in mind for future commissions – how will it pair with other items in your wardrobe – if trying to transplant an historic cut or shape it will require, in some way, some subtle support (cut of trouser, shirt, jacket etc.) to compliment the difference in the silhouette (without it descending into costume). Having said all this they look good and I love the cloth.

The Lining Company

Great tailoring idea and always good to see a classic style reappear with a modern twist.

Thomas Brown

“The *infamous* zoot suit”? One fears this description may be misinterpreted as casually racist. Zoot suits were obviously fashion rather than timeless style so a claim of infamy on the grounds that they didn’t conform to classical rules is moot.

M.

Looks like B&Tailor are advertising something very similar (if not identical)

http://bntailor.tumblr.com/post/163926353643/btailor-trousers-with-belt

John

Hi Simon,
I’m been considering about getting a DB grey flannel MTM suit by Edward Sexton, for I’m a big fan of his iconic style.
Since you’ve mentioned in your previous article that MTM is really not much different from RTW, I don’t know now if I should rather wait for their RTW version later this year? Also I’ve read that MTM suits by Edward Sexton are cut in-house but manufactured in China, would it then be worth to pay for £2000 for one of these?
Thank you

reuven lax

John, for specific details on the MTM program, I would recommend contacting the good folks at Edward Sexton. I have purchased MTM from Edward Sexton as well as full bespoke from a number of other tailors. The quality of the Sexton MTM is very close, and the fit is on par with what I’ve had from other tailors. Definitely style should be part of the decision here, and there may be certain things that they will not want to do MTM (usually items that they believe will require multiple fittings). While their MTM is still quite pricy, I will say that there are RTW suits that cost even more and which will be inferior both in terms of quality and fit.

Joel

Hi Simon

Are you able to recommend anywhere to buy wider leg trousers? (I’m way too old for skinny leg trousers/jeans as I’m 37).

I bought a pair advertised as wool/cashmere blend and made in a England from 20th Century Chap and when they arrived they were a wool/poly mix.

Thanks

Joel

Joel

Any advice on working out whether a material is wool or poly?

I heard there was a burn test that could be done.

Ed

A surprise that no one has enquired after the fit of the belt, despite the evident interest in these trousers…

Simon, what is the width of that belt please? And what is your usual waist size, versus the size (length) of that belt?

I believe these are crucial questions for people who are seriously considering imitating your style. Myself included of course…

Anonymous

Do you always wear such a narrow belt?

By the way, how wide are the legs on these trousers? 8 inches at the cuff?

Anonymous

I’ve always requested my trousers to be 7.5 inches. But seeing how beautifully yours drape, I’m tempted to revise my judgment…

Anonymous

Hello Simon,
What shirt are you wearing in these pictures?

shem

Hey simon what size is your drake’s overskirt and what is your actual chest measurement if I may ask?

George

Thanks for the helpful description and analysis . It’s made me decided against them (category one of new fashion innovations – discard).

Stan

I’m considering getting one of those, but afraid won’t wear it too much and the storage space is precious.

Simon – just out of curiosity how many times you wore those trousers?

Anonymous

If you had to pick one lightweight summer casual overshirt (either MTO or bespoke) what would it be? What fabric, color, weight, and style of pockets and collar?

Are these types of overshirts worth getting made bespoke?

Another q: I find it difficult to like safari jackets because they look too structured and military. The pockets also look too busy, especially on shorter people like myself. Is there a design that looks smart yet isn’t hyper stylized or slouchy?

Anonymous

Is your Drake’s cut like a shirt or a jacket? Does it have any lining or structure?

Anonymous

What should the weight of the linen be? I’m curious as to what factors make it distinctively an overshirt. I want to make this MTM bc of my measurements, but i’m worried the tailors might make it like a saggy linen shirt.

Shane Considine

Hi Simon, just wondering about sizing on the Drakes linen overshirts. My memory was that they tended to run quite big. I take a 36 in their tailoring and knitwear and am wondering if the small is going to be the right size or too big. Did you stay relatively true to size ? Thanks !

Rupesh

Hi Simon,

The fabric looks beautiful and colour seems very versatile, would you be able to wear a white linen shirt with these trousers?

Thanks

Rupesh

Rupesh

Hi Simon,

When you mentioned that the colour would a better than white or cream linen, I am assuming you referring to the trousers?

Thanks

Rupesh

David

Hi Simon, are these lined? I had a similar pair made in a slightly lighter (13oz) white linen, and unlined, but the pockets show through. Have you ever had that problem, and if so, how do you suggest dealing with it?

George Kwok

Hi Simon, I have a very crucial question.

I really like to wear single breasted suit because I lived in Canton, a very hot city. However, when I wear the suit wih my jacket open, the conventional suit trouser waistband are horizontal, it works ok with solids, but with pinstripte suit, most of the time, the stripes are horizontal on the waistband area, I want a more streamline look with stripes being vertical everywhere on the suit. I see hollywood top trouser being a fine alternative to conventional suit trousers, but I don’t like belt either.

Does hollywood top trouser work fine with a suspender without belt and side adjustor?

Thanks Simon

James

I’m a bit late on this, but it looks like there are a couple sizes remaining. Would you say this fits a bit looser than the Drake’s version?