Menswear fans who tuned into the news of Brendon Babenzien's appointment to Creative Director, Men's at J.Crew in 2021 knew they'd have to wait more than a full calendar year for the designer's first seasonal release. What was to come, many wondered? More of the same or disruption, just like J.Crew CEO Libby Wadle desired? When the fall season's first lookbook launched online, everyone, at least, got an answer: a little bit of both.
Straightforward softballs like a few new Oxford shirts, a slate of graphic tees and hats, nice sweaters and plenty of patterned barn jackets were pre-saved to the carts of soon-to-be shoppers. Then, a short video featuring Babenzien, a native of Long Island who'd eventually help lead Supreme, then launch Noah, in some of the first season's standout items appeared on J.Crew's site. Alongside the video, though, were still shots from presumably the same shoot. Babenzien, whose personal style is equal parts prep and punk, paired a new of basic, albeit big, J.Crew chinos with a well broken-in leather jacket.
He looked good. But, experts — including Gear Patrol Senior Editor John Zientek — wondered whether the pair he was pictured in was a personal (a sample stitched to his exact size) or the same pants folks could buy a few hours later. "I wonder if that's the sample or if production pieces are actually going to fit like that?" he asked me. Commerce Writer Will Porter was skeptical: "Big fitting trousers aren't new, but they tried to make big fitting trousers that fit the J.Crew mold, and I don't think it works," he replied.
Elsewhere, self-proclaimed sartorialists suggested that although the Giant-Fit Chinos may look good on Babenzien, the average J.Crew customer won't look so suave. Derek Guy, an editor at Put This On, posted a side-by-side stitch of Babenzien and '90s-era Jeff Bezos, implying Babenzien was "what you think you look like in J.Crew giant chinos" and and Bezos is "what you actually look like." Another one of Guy's tweets... compared the chinos to North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jung-on's signature trousers.
I, myself, even took to social media to show off my own pair — in part to prove I could still put an outfit together after two years of avoiding formal office spaces, but more so to show off that I owned one of the few pairs currently in circulation. Minutes after they launched, the most popular sizes were backordered for a few months. (They launched in July and delivery windows were pushed all the way into October.) Now, the pants are fully sold out, with a disclaimer that says: "Sorry, this style from our Fall 2022 Lookbook has sold out. The good news: We’ll be getting more in just a few weeks. Please check back soon — we have a feeling they’ll go fast."
And they probably will. In fact, I fully expect I won't be able to get a second pair — yes, I want a second pair — until next year. Demand will be even higher once fall arrives, and I certainly, despite my day job, am not refreshing the product listing each morning to see if sizes have been restocked. After all, they're still just J.Crew.
But my inherent bias, and yours, too, probably, towards "better" brands is probably doing a disservice to my wardrobe, which would be better off filled with more pants like the Giant-Fit Chinos. They're well made, super comfortable and the kind of staple most gravitate toward once fall and winter dressing starts to feel a little more routine. There's no stretch — just stone- and enzyme-washed cotton twill — and the leg openings (which are 20.5 inches wide vs. just 16.5 inches on J.Crew's relaxed-fit chinos) hang nicely around the collar of high-top boots or Chuck Taylors, especially with the polished, 1.375 inch affixed cuffs.
They're a concentrated dose of '80s and '90s nostalgia strong enough to make you forget about the era's lowlights — like frosted tips and padded shoulders.