This is the latest in our Guide to Cloth series – setting out the basics for what makes a good trouser, and the material options. The Guide has more in-depth articles on summer trousers, flannel, and other cloth basics. Available in the menu under ‘Guides’ and here.

 

Pale-grey high-twist trousers

What makes a good trouser? Why do some cloths work well, and others not?

And from a style point of view, which of the different ‘types’ are more and less formal?

When readers start to move from suits towards separate jackets and trousers, these quickly become questions that bother them. Particularly if they’ve paid hundreds of pounds to have trousers made, and they’re not quite right. 

 

Grey high-twist trousers from Ambrosi

The key attribute of trousers is that they hang well. 

Trousers are not shaped around the shoulders or the chest. They’re largely just cut for the hips or waist, and left to hang. 

So they need to drape cleanly and consistently, throwing a nice sharp line and retaining it when bent and stretched, as the user walks, stretches and sits. 

Technicians sometimes divide this into three attributes: crease resistance, shape resistance (not bagging at the knees, despite pressure), and some natural stretch (which allows the cloth to return to its shape after that pressure). 

 

Corduroy. Generally not great for shape resistance

This usually comes from a cloth that is denser, with more of the yarn woven tightly into every inch. This is the advantage of weaves such as twill, for example, which are naturally denser. 

Cloths created for womenswear often noticeably lack this. They’re loosely woven, to flow and sometimes shape around the body, but lose their shape under pressure. 

There are exceptions. For example, if the yarn is particularly strong, the weave doesn’t have to be so dense. This is the case with linens and with high-twist wools. The strength of the yarn means they can use a looser, plain weave, which still retains drape with the bonus of allowing air to pass through. 

And fabrics can be too dense. If there’s too much fibre in there, they can feel stiff and ‘dead’. Technicians talk about holding the cloth in the hand, squeezing and releasing it to see how it reacts – how much ‘life’ there is. 

 

Fresco (high twist) wool trousers

But density is still a good rule of thumb. That’s why you often find bunches of high-twist wools divided into ones for trousers and suits, and others for jackets. 

Those made specifically for sports jackets are usually softer, looser and have a more open weave. You can hold it between two hands, move each up and down, and feel the movement the cloth has. It would not make good trousers. 

The same goes for a lot of wool/silk/linen cloths. They’re a little too open and loose. Over the course of a day they’ll lose their shape, and over the course of a year will wear through. Or the seam in the seat will tear open.

Trousers are worn a lot more heavily than jackets. 

 

Cream cavalry twill (our collaboration, with Fox Brothers)

A final point is pilling. Cloths that are looser and not suited to trousers are more likely to pill. 

A little trick to test this is to take the cloth between your finger and thumb, gently rub it in circles 10 times, and see if a little fluff comes off, in a messy way. 

This is a good indicator that the material will pill later, particularly where there is most abrasion, for example between the legs. 

 

Covert cloth

So, with all this in mind, here are the key types of trousers.

The most noticeable absence is hard-finished worsted wool (standard suit cloth). This might hang well, but style wise is usually too shiny and hard-finished to look like a separate trouser. 

Whipcord

A particularly dense wool twill. (In general, you can tell the density by how vertical the diagonal twill line is.)

Great body and shape, the only downside being a tendency to look a little old fashioned, and therefore often better in darker, formal colours. Feels thick, with body, rather than thinner and harder like gabardine. 

Covert

A version of whipcord more commonly used for coats, but also good for trousers. Partly defined by country colours – brown, tan, green – and different yarn colours (often visible between the twill lines). Has a tendency to be shiny; matte versions often better, more casual and versatile. 

 

Cavalry twill (double twill line)

Cavalry twill 

Whipcord with twill lines running in pairs. Often a little more matte in texture as well. 

Serge

French for twill, and a phrase not often used because it became rather broad. Generally, refers to a wool twill that has a slightly woolier finish without being milled. 

Bedford cord

A hard-wearing cloth with the appearance of the same vertical ridges as corduroy. It’s woven differently, however, and looks different for the spaces between the ridges and faint lines running between them. A good, denser alternative to corduroy.

 

Serge (note the fluffier finish)

High twists

Cloth that uses a yarn that is twisted to give it strength and crease resistance. Usually the default for formal trousers in warm weather. The summer equivalent of flannel, though a little smarter. 

Flannel

The universal favourite for separate trousers, because it nestles so nicely between formal and casual. Fine with a sweater, a tweed jacket or a navy blazer. Defined by its milled finish, which explodes the fibres and causes a fluffy appearance. 

Gabardine 

A warp-faced fabric with a high density. Traditionally in lots of yarns and finishes, but today generally in a fine yarn and hard finish, which makes it sleeker and shinier, similar to suitings. It is usually too formal for me as a result. Most plain cottons used for tailoring are gabardines, however. 

 

Wool gabardine, with its hard finish

Corduroy 

The distinctive weave (actually a type of velvet) with vertical ridges. Nearly always cotton, but also wool. In a good weight, with no cotton or elastane, makes good trousers. But perhaps more subject to the vagaries of fashion than the wool twills. 

Moleskin

A cotton twill with a brushed finish. Warmer and cosier, and therefore mostly used for winter. Again, subject to fashions: often seems a little old-fashioned today. 

Chinos

Not a cloth at all, but a style of cotton trouser. Usually uses a cotton twill, but otherwise varies hugely as to how the cotton is woven. Can be stiff and sharp, even shiny; or can be soft and washed. In the latter case (most common in high-street shops), largely gives up the ideals of drape and body. 

Denim

A cotton best defined by its 3-by-1 twill and indigo colour. But can be in a huge variety of weights and colours, even weave structures. Denims used for tailoring are generally finer and denser, in order to achieve a bit of that drape. Which is why they look nothing like jeans. 

 

Coarser chinos, associated with workwear. Very different from tailored chinos, or washed ones associated with shops eg Gap or Incotex

As ever with describing cloths, there are the original, narrow definitions and then there are modern uses. 

Often the definition describes only one part of the process (such as weave or finish) but it takes on other aspects over time (eg is a worsted flannel really a flannel?). And then there are cultural associations (such as with serge). 

I find the key thing to remember is – when you visit a tailor – to know the kind of cloth you want (heavy/light, dense/loose, casual/smart) as well as the name. There will always be variations and exceptions.  

 

Edward Sexton flannel trousers
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Anonymous

Where are those workwear chinos from?

Darryl

This is very usefull, but, and please excuse my ignorance here, but you didn’t mention tweed. Is this already covered under one of the other headings? Thanks.

Michael Munzinger

Hello Simon,

very interesting post. I have a further question on tweed trousers: Is the problem with the loose weaving that the trousers can become baggy at the knees? I wonder what this means for tweed suits with normal trousers (as opposed to plus fours, where this would perhaps be no problem), e.g. from Cordings: Will the trousers change their form over time? This would be a pity as I like this combination.
Thanks, Michael

Chris

Genuinely useful post. Especially as I go to have a pair of trousers made for me this afternoon. Have a feeling this is going to become something of a big legacy post for the site. Thankyou Simon!

Phil

Simon, apologies if my memory is awry, but I think I remember a very, very early PS post where you wrote that trousers were one of the least worthwhile items to get made bespoke, considering the cost compared to getting a good pair of RTW adjusted. That was years ago. I wonder if you still think this?

Tommy

Do you think this advice on altered RTW still applies if you are something of an odd shape (I’m 36” waist, but only 30” leg)

Bryan

Hi Simon,

What do you think of wool-mohair blends for trousers? Are they a good durable option?

Best,
Bryan

Rups

from my experience be careful with mohair, I’ve heard it described as the ‘diamond fibre’ and such like glowing praise. however as Simon says, its very very crisp so looks ultra formal, more so than even a worsted, that makes it difficult to wear more casually if you had say a sport jacket or trousers made from it. also what people dont discuss so much is that while it is hard therefore has strength in this respect its ‘hair’ and therefore can it can stretch and bag so in a jacket you may need reinforcement in the making, and trousers could I imagine be an issue around the crotch.

GEEZER

I have a pair of a pair of wool mohair trousers. I think the fabric is Vitale and they are very nice. Little sheen, but keep a nice crease and are lovely in the Spinrg/Summer.

Chancellor

Very useful, thank you.

1. Under corduroy, after noting it is typically made of cotton, you write that it is best “with no cotton”. Was that a typo and you meant to write something else? I’m assuming you aren’t against cotton corduroys.

2. When you discuss the density of cloth to ensure good drape, is that largely about the set, or is it also about the density/weight of the yarns themselves?

Jordan Healey

I wish there was more wool corduroy, I’ve seen it in RTW but rarely ever in cloth for mtm/bespoke

Adam

Simon you would actually be wrong on the elastane or similar point. Pretty much all the cord coming from the big houses has a very small element built in.

Anonymous

Hello Simon,
another really nice post indeed.
Question (that could make it in its own post): How much fabric does one need for different tailored garments?
Let’s say a pant, a jacket, a waistcoat, a suit (both 2 and 3 pieces), a full length overcoat and a pea coat (each taken individually)?
How much influence is there in the person’s measurement there? What’d be the difference between a 5’3″ tall / 38″ chest and a 6’4″ tall / 52″ chest man?
The question comes as I recently was in a cloth store, and realised I have no clue what I need for myself, or a friend of mine for that matter.

Norman

When and who changed the trousers tomorrow leg width or skinny .
Now all my dress slacks are out of fashion

Luke

Hi Simon,

Thanks for a great article. I wonder whether you have any experience with side adjusters working better or worse with different trouser fabrics. On a pair of lighter woolen trousers, the adjuster simply don’t catch, and are essentially purely decorative. Is it a case of getting better adjusters? Or are there adjuster types that work better on some cloths and not others?

Luke

Thanks! You don’t happen to know where I might source some replacement adjusters that are sure to fit the bill?

Paul

Hi Simon
I was interested in your recent article in the Robb Report in which you referred to the pleasure of wearing linen trousers in warm weather and recommended going for 11 ounce material. I notice that Anglo Italian offer 7 ounce trousers and Drakes 12 ounce. In the context of your article today what would the experience of both clothes be ? How often would you bother to get such trousers pressed ?
Thanks
Paul

Jan

I think you aren’t a huge fan of cotton trousers, but what weight (and weave) should I look for in a 3ish season wool fabric for trousers?

Noel

Hi Simon,

Enlightening post.

Based on your previous comment about trousers not made of tweed but of tweed coloured wool twill, I wonder what are tweed suits made of? Are they made of “real tweed” or wool twill made to look like tweed? If they are made of real tweed, are they effectively rather fragile and likely to last far less than the jacket?

Simon Miles

Great article, thank you. Any suggestions for chinos formal enough to work with tailored jackets?

Jordan Healey

Even though linen is mentioned in some of the subtext, it might be an idea to add it as a bolded option as well, I think that’s a more obvious fabric missing than regular wool suiting.

Carl

I am looking for a pair of tougher workwear chinos and would like something like the (discontined) army chinos from the Armoury. Do you have any recommendation for something similar?

rups

“And then there are cultural associations (such as with serge)”

what did you mean by this Simon? Serge is associated with what exactly?

Rups

yes but what did you mean by ‘cultural associations’ of serge? A certain group wears them? Older crowd or something?

John

Hi Simon,
Thanks for this very useful post. Eventually, an opportunity for me to ask you a question about serge. Which are the mills that produce its heavy version? Up to now I’ve googled with no success.
Thanks in advance for your help.
John

zohair

Simon, on your homepage there is a photo right at the top titled ‘the sagan loafer’. What trousers are you wearing there? are they the same as ‘pale grey high twist’ in the first photo in this blog post?

Zaidoon Abdulwahab

Thank you for the useful information. In the same fashion of the article above, could you elaborate on ties, pocket squares, shirts, socks etc. , I trust it would be as much useful and fun to read as the above.
Best,

John

Just a thought but maybe a capsule collection post on trousers and some tips when commissioning them specifically could be useful.

Anonymous

Simon, I’m not sure I get that right: do navy trousers work with an odd jacket depending on their cloth (a serge like you have here, or a donegal, cotton or other more casual cloth) , or should it generally be avoided?

Edward

Simon, as usual a very informative article. I’ve one question out of my own experience. I’ve had several trousers made with side fasteners, i.e. no belt. After wearing a few times a crease builds on the waistband at the front, where this gets folded when sitting. Is this normal, or do some tailors add some kind of an insert in the waistband to prevent this happening?

David

Hi Simon,
Would you have any recommendations for covert or whipcord bunches?

Bryan

Hi Simon, I just wanted to know more about wool-mohair blends and if they make for good separate trousers. I’m looking for something not too light and will be crease resistant. Would be great to hear your thoughts!

Karol

Simon, would you help me with identyfing a particular trouser material? Yesterday, during a secondhand clearance I managed to get something unusual. A pair of dark tan 100 cotton trousers. Flat front, crease, 3 button tab waistband, 5 pocket cut. The material is fairly thick and heavy, it seems to hang well. The weave is big and visible, but it does not look like the usual chino twill – the ribs don’t line up. It looks more like plain weave. For sure it is not corduroy, but the material seems pleasant and soft. Could it be moleskin? I’ve never had any, so I can’t compare, but then you said it is also a twill.

Anonymous

Hi Simon, what are the advantages and disadvantages of fully, half and unlined trousers?

Anonymous

Excluding denim and cotton chinos, what 5 pants would you wear for fall/winter? I’d be interested to know the color and material you’d choose. Thanks

Anonymous

Thanks good to know.
what if you’re aiming for #4/5 in ‘Which Office Are You?’
and # 2/3 in ‘Which Sports Jacket Office Are You?’
knitwear is also possible.

Anonymous

Do you have a olive green corduroy fabric to recommend?

Anonymous

What weight would you recommend for Winter cord?

Nick

Hi Simon,

I have noticed Fox Brothers have produced a cavalry twill in dark green. I happen to have the ecru version which I enjoy, so am thinking of perhaps getting this as well, as you always talk about dark green being very useful. My question is, should I go for the cavalry twill or perhaps go for a flannel dark green?

Nick

Ben

Given it’s not easy to find an ideal balance of rise/thigh width/leg openings, do you think it’s a great idea to commission a bespoke “workwear chino” if cost is not a concerned?

And what in your view is the best fabric for workwear Chino?

Thank you Simon

Ben

Your insight is greatly appreciated Simon!!

Ben

Great insight! Just one more follow up question – for the cream denim and the rusty corduroy trousers that you suggested once in your other posts, do you think commissioning bespoke for them is alright?

Carl

I just bought a pair of MTM chinos in garment washed cotton from Saman Amel. I am very happy with them.

Carl

In some kind of cotton, I am not sure about the technical term for the weave. Maybe a twill. It feels like a garment washed chino from Incotex but better detailing and of course much better fit. I think they said that it was made in another workshop than the one they use for tailoring.

It is quite new for the season. The structuew

Carl

And yes, they are garment washed and you can throw them in the washing machine. I guess that Saman or Dag can give you the details.

Ehsan

Hey Simon, wanted a little advice on separates if I’m going for a fresco mid-weight trousers what kind of fabric jacket can I pair them up with

CMW

Hi Simon. I hope you are having a nice weekend. I will be getting a corduroy suit in a navy color. When I want to use the jacket as a separate, is flannel a good choice for trousers? In a light grey? What other types of trouser fabrics go well with a corduroy jacket?

Ayush

Hi Simon,
Love your post! Just wanted to ask what type of trousers would you recommend for a person living in ‘India’ which is neither casual not very formal?
Posted this question because it does not get very cold over here and therefore flannel would not be a very good choice

Nick

Hi Simon, I am always putt-off the idea of vintage jeans, as I feel like they have been worn in by someone else and therefore moulded to someone else’s body. What is your experience of finding vintage jeans that fit? Did you get them altered?

Hugh

Simon,

I’m looking for your advice regarding flannel and bespoke fit. I recently blew out the crotch on a RTW flannel (my only pair, so no previous personal points of reference). I’ve got large thighs and butt relative to my waist. How much do you think the blowout was a result of RTW fit, or of flannel’s delicacy as a material? Do you think a bespoke fit would prevent this; would heavier wooly fabric be the way to go; or should I just go with high-twist from her on out?

Thanks

hugh

Thanks, Simon. I think sweat was the issue. I tried a patch, but the fabric was by then too flimsy and it re-tore along the stitch line.

When W&S start travelling again, I will discuss with them. I might also ask about a grey cavalry twill (flannels are less ubiquitous generally here in the midwest US)

Phillip

Hi Simon,

I’m looking at getting some odd trousers, and I’ve a grey, high twist, 60/40 summer kid mohair & super 100’s from Taylor and Lodge in mind. Might the natural lustre/sheen of the mohair make these difficult to pair well with odd jackets or a blouson?

Zy

Simon, I am wondering if you have a preference between mid and light grey flannels? I realise this is a very general question. But, all other things being equal, which would you say offers more versatility?

CMW

Hi Simon. I hope you are doing well. For trouser waistbands, do you prefer hook and bar or button? Does it depend on the type of trousers? Or both options are good for most types, just a matter of personal preference?
I am having grey flannel trousers and also stone colored cavalry twills made. My tailor asked which type I wanted. It was actually something I never really thought about before, so I wanted to ask for your opinion on it. Thanks in advance!

Johannes D

Hello Mr. Crompton,

I need a bit of advice:
I am looking to expand my collection of odd trousers. Collection is actually a bit of an overstatement (so far I have a Charcoal Flannel, as well as a Beige and a brown High Twist. Next I have my eyes set on a Cream pair of Cavalry Twill, preferably to be worn year round.
Now my question:
Should I go with a cotton or a woollen Cavalry Twill?`

Thanks in advance!

Aaron

In regards to corduroys being best with no elastane, do you feel differently when it comes to chinos? I notice you mention Incotex a lot, but when I’ve looked they all seem to have about 3% elastane. A lot of other brand seem to have 2% elastane too, it seems quite difficult to find 100% cotton ones.

Aaron

Fair enough, I’m still a fairly new reader and I read a lot of articles without looking at the date! Are there any places you’d recommend for RTW chinos? From my searching I found that Cordings do quite a wide colour selection.

MB

Anglo Italian (the garment washed line) and Drakes seem nice.

Personally, I still like Incotex chinos but I would classify them as a smarter alternative to jeans rather than a more casual alternative to tailored trousers (if that makes sense).

Aaron

They are nice indeed, unfortunately I’m not yet at the level of income where I am willing to spend quite that much on OTR cotton trousers.

Teddy Ndlovu

What is the price range? That is the information we need as potential customers. I have been trying to find the catalog,

amoolya kondru

Hi simon,
I wanted to know what kind of finishes is given to the fabric at the garment stage on the basis of durability or any physical or chemical finish.

Nico

Happy New Year, Simon
I am looking at whipcords to have trousers made and I am somewhat puzzled by HS’s offerings from their Dakota bunch, which I know you are very familiar with.
I draw from both the Jackets /Trousers guides that for one and the same cloth, looser is more advisable for jackets, denser for trousers.
I am all for heavy cloths for trousers in order to favor drape, heat not being an issue.
Now, HS classifies 10 / 11 oz whipcords for use in suits:
https://apparel.hollandandsherry.com/en/fabric/use/suits/9518301-dakota-tan-whipcord
While 13 oz whipcords are classified for use in jackets:
https://apparel.hollandandsherry.com/en/fabric/use/jackets/9518500-dakota-fawn-whipcord
For added uncertainty, the example dummy for both only features trousers.
Would you expect the 13 oz to make good trousers? So I would from a twill in that weight, rather than the lighter ones. Or would you fear the “stiffness” drawback?
Thanks,

nicholaswmin

Hi Simon,

Any thoughts on using 350g canvas linen for a trouser? I’ve got some Cacciopoli swatches here and a beige one looks nice to me. I’m just worried about the suitability of canvas linen instead of delave linen for trousers.

nicholaswmin

Thanks a lot for the reply appreciate it!

Any thoughts on the versatility of beige vs light-beige? I’m torn between the two. I’m a little weary of drawing too much attention to myself and I think the light beige looks a bit too flashy, but i’m willing to risk it for the sake of versatility.

The shirts I have are made from the Oxford cloth from the PS Shop (blue, ping and the chambray).

Flynn

Hi Simon, I had a question about the hardiness of certain fabrics for trousers, piqued by the review of your latest Sexton brown linen suit.

For smart trousers that will cope with near-daily wear, tailors that I’ve worked with have consistently recommended high-twist wools. Consequently, my wardrobe is stocked with Fresco and Crispaire pieces in various colours for regular rotation. This works, because living in a temperate/subtropical coastal city, there is little call for heavier flannels, even in the middle of winter.

Could I please ask you for an opinion on the relative robustness of a heavier, Irish linen for tailored trousers as compared to something like Fresco? I wouldn’t be wearing it every day, but where I am a heavier linen could do quite well for up to three seasons per year.

Many thanks for your thoughts and best wishes.

Pramendra

Where can I get it

Hyam Ali

Hi Simon, I just came across your site, and I am already addicted there’s just an abundance of amazing advice here.

I wanted to ask though about that denim jacket, It’s all I can think about now, what should I search for to get that exact look? Is that raw or selvedge, whatever it is its perfect! Could you tell me where you got it? I am 5″2′ so it’s tricky to find things that fit me. If you read this then thanks!

Anonymous

Hi Simon, after mid-grey and charcoal flannel trousers, would you recommend light grey or char-brown flannel? Which is more versatile?

Anonymous

Hi Simon, I’ve seen you recommend 13oz Brisbane Moss corduroy for trousers. What are your thoughts on the 11oz for trousers? Would you strongly recommend against using it, or say it’s good but just a bit worse than the 13oz?

Anonymous

Thanks. What impact would the 2oz have on warmth?

William

Which trouser fabrics provide the most natural stretch, as well as being a lightweight summer fabric? Similarly, which fabrics offer the least stretch?

Tony Hodges

In my experience, linen often has the least. Another good reason to have it a little fuller.

William

As far as natural stretch, how do you rate Fresco vs Tropical Wool vs Crispaire vs Worsted Wool vs Gabardine?

Sebastián P

Hello, Simon,

I’ve been thinking about getting three nice odd trousers, but the problem is that I would like them to be susceptible of being machine-washed and tumble dried. I’ve already got a nice pair of jeans and I’m not really a fan of chinos, so I’m wondering which (if any) of these cloths and weaves are better suited for this purpose. Ideally, I would also like my trousers to have creases, so I’d be glad if you could help with this.

Thanks!

Annonymous

What do you think are the best overall colors for pants such as cavalry twill, gabardine, and flannel?