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Men's Wardrobe Essential: Wool Dress Pants

The duct tape of a man's closet

By Megan Collins | Jan 8 2018

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If you were worried I’d start this latest non-denim wardrobe essential guide with a story about the time my mom took me shopping for my first training bra, don’t worry, I won’t. Though you could argue that wool dress pants are really the “training bra” of a man’s formal wardrobe, taking you from casual denim and on your way towards a full suit…but I’M NOT GOING TO MAKE THAT ARGUMENT. NOPE.

It’s true, though, that men’s dress pants (or trousers) are a must in any man’s wardrobe. Maybe you wear them regularly for work in a corporate casual environment, or maybe you need them once in a  blue moon, when dressing up for dinner with your girlfriend’s parents, or for an internship interview.

So for week 2 of this No Jeans January denim detox challenge, we’re covering men’s dress pants. Below, everything you need to know about this wardrobe essential.

What Are Wool Dress Pants

SG pal Ashley Weston, the LA-based celebrity menswear stylist puts it succinctly:

“When we think of dress pants, we generally think of the wool trousers that are of a heavier weight, since suit pants are lighter and look odd when separated from their suit jacket. This is the kind of pant you can wear with a dress shirt on its own and a belt, or adding layers like a sweater, topcoat, or leather jacket.”

What aren’t they? Suit pants you wear without the jacket. No! Suits are made of lighter wool that don’t quite look right on their own. Don’t believe me? Go try it. Actually, just trust me and don’t.

How Dress Pants Should Fit

It’s old-fashioned—and just plain wrong, really—to think that dress pants (and suits, for that matter), should fit in a roomy way. For a modern, stylish man, you want your pants to have a tailored fit without being too tight. Your dress pants ought to fit close to your body around your butt and thighs, then hang straight down if you’re a bigger guy, or taper slightly from the knee to the ankle for thinner guys.

While the models in fashion spreads may look cool in ultra slim dress pants, keep in mind they’re posing and not sitting at their desk staring at a shared Google doc all day. 

Similar to a suit pant, look for dress pants that sit at your waist without needing a belt to cinch them. Though, of course, a belt looks very nice with dress pants…sometimes fashion over function wins!

When trying on pants, try sitting down. If the thighs are really straining, go up a size and bring the waist in. The leg opening should be tailored but not too small. If your pants always catch on your calves when you stand up, your pants are too tight. But also, way to go on those calves, dude.

I Brake for a Good Break

A break in pants is the amount of fabric that touches your shoes when you’re standing. A slight break is the most modern look for guys when it comes to dress pants.

This means that the front of your pants cover the top of your laces, and the back of your pants falls midway between the top of your shoe and the top of the heel. If you’re taking your pants to the tailor (which you probably will, since most pants don’t fit right off the rack), you can achieve this look simply by asking for the pants to be hemmed so they’re a little longer in the back than the front. It’s not complicated, but it does make a big difference in how the pant looks overall. Details matter!

>> Shop a roundup of #SGapproved dress pants

To Pleat or not to Pleat

No pleats. Even if you’re a bit bigger in the belly. Even if you’re older and feel flat-front pants are too “young” for you. They’re not, and you’ll look better in a flat-front pant no matter your body type.

This is a hill I will die on. Please, come join me.

How to Dress Wool Pants Up and Down


Shop #SGApproved Picks:

Wool dress pants are a good place to start when you’re unsure of an event’s dress code. If you want a smart casual look, pair yours with a nice white t-shirt and cardigan, finishing off with classic tennis shoes. For business casual, rock your dress pants with a white dress shirt, navy tie and blazer.

At work, you can keep things safe with a dress shirt, maybe a tie, and a sport coat when wearing dress pants. I also like a good sweater and dress shirt combo—or just a turtleneck on its own. Mm hm mmm.

Take the look in a more downtown direction in a t-shirt and sneakers with a great jacket that will have you looking like the bad boy who dresses up to take his dream date out on the town (I’ve been watching a lot of Younger, okay?)

Why Wool Dress Pants are a Wardrobe Essential

Wool has gotten a bad rap over the years. Guys hear wool and they tend to think: itchy, scratch, and hot. But truly, dress pants can be the most comfortable bottoms you own if you pick the right pair. Wool needs to get cotton’s PR team on the case. Errrybody loves cotton.

In reality, wool dresses up better than cotton, since wash after wash and wear after wear, cotton fibers break down, fading much faster than wool. Even if you dry clean cotton pants, they won’t maintain that crisp refined look that wool pants will. A good pair of wool pants will last and look better longer than cotton slacks 11 out of 10 times.

What Color Dress Pants to Wear

Just like with suiting, the first two shades to knock out are navy and gray. From there, you can get creative. Y’all know we’re never going to shy away from a pattern or unexpected color.

Fabric and Quality

Look for dress pants with a curtain waistband. In addition to being a sign of a well-made pant, a curtain waistband allows the pant’s waist to be easily let out as well as taken in by a tailor. This is a lifesaver for guys that play certain sports and have a hard time finding pants that fit a smaller waist but bigger glutes and thighs. Ahem, it’s also lifesaving if you tend to put on a few pounds around the holidays, so…

The other feature to look for is a partial lining in the front of the pant down to the knee. This is for comfort, keeping the fabric from sticking to or scratching your leg.

Check out all our wardrobe essentials: See how to style your khaki chinos, navy grenadine tie, navy blazer and OCBD shirt



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