Closet Constructor: Menswear Has a Pants Problem

Demystifying fashion's most hotly contested topic

March 29, 2024 12:09 pm
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How big should your pants be, really?

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Welcome to Closet Constructor, a weekly series where I (a style editor) help you (a well-meaning person who likes clothes) discover new, interesting, and affordable ways to really start dressin’.

Don’t get it twisted — I am capital-s Stoked that it is once again time to bust out the jorts (this is the vibe I’m trying to be on). But I am also hyper-aware that, for the average man, shorts season is a concept fraught with peril and excess amounts of leg hair, and many of the guys would prefer not to bother. So, instead of regaling you with inseam wisdom (3″ or shorter this summer, fellas), we’ll be discussing an equally polarizing topic in pants.

The Spring Denim Upgrade
Lighter blue rinses, relaxed fits and warmer weather go hand in hand

There is perhaps no discussion more hotly contested across the (admittedly insular and oft-cringe) threads and IG comments that make up internet menswear discourse than the topic of trousers. Not just what type you should be wearing — raw denim, hearty workwear pants, sartorial suit bottoms — but how they should hang. The general consensus seems to fall somewhere in between plastered-on skinnies and JNCO-sized pantaloons, leaning towards the latter, but between 511 evangelists and galaxy brains who swear by belting the size-46-waists, it’s anyone’s guess.

It would be incredibly easy to drop a little “different strokes for different folks” and send you on your merry way with some sick, pants-forward outfit inspo. But while that is a sound answer in abstract, it’s both a cop-out from me, a style editor with strong opinions about trou, and unsatisfying for you, a discerning reader who wants to dress just a little better this spring.

So instead, I’ll give it to you straight — there is a way that your pants should fit for spring 2024. Namely, about one standard fit larger than you think they probably should. As Jonah Weiner, author of cult newsletter Blackbird Spyplane and author of a recent and quite excellent NYT essay on why trousers have absolutely blown up, suggests, “you should always be wearing pants you think look stupid.” (This is a concept in turn co-opted from comedian Noah Garfinkel.)

I won’t go as far as to say you should feel uncomfortable in your own skin chinos, but, running with the idea that our pants-goggles are inherent screwy, the standard deviation from your norm is a way to both adopt the dominant trend of bigger, looser pants without feeling like you’ve gone full 20-something Bushwick barista at the Charli XCX Boiler Room set.

More Reviews

This is not to suggest you should mess around with your natural waist size or inseam — your height is your height, and rocking a pair of missized athletic taper chinos is going to do you no favors. Stitck with switching up your fits until you’ve mastered the slightly larger pant. If you’re still a traditionally slim-cut guy, try graduating to a breezier straight-leg trouser. If you’re already swimming in the relaxed waters, take the plunge into a proper relaxed fit. (Todd Snyder’s new-ish relaxed fit straddles the oversized line to perfection.) Once you’ve gotten the hang of your new, slightly swishier trousers, then you can play with proportions and rises.

models wearing MFPEN
MFPEN’s trousers fit exactly how they should: slightly wider than you’d think.

Obviously, with the berth of preference here, it’s impossible to prescribe an exact formula that will work for you. But pants-peration is everywhere you look. Take, for example, Copenhagen-based MFPEN, whose straight-leg, relaxed-fit pinstripe trousers are the latest iykyk joints to grace the thighs of the industry’s best and brightest. The drape on these bad boys are exquisite — this probably has something to do with the deadstock Italian wool — and the rise hits just a touch higher than you’d think would be cool. You’d also be wrong, of course.

TLDR: get a little (and just a little) freaky with your pants this spring. Everyone will like you more. I promise. Shop this week’s closet constructor below, and enjoy the sunny weekend.

Shop the Look

Thoughts? Comments? Queries on how to pick out the perfect pair of socks? Email me your questions and concerns at

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