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Pants, Shorts and Sweats to Build Your Wardrobe Around
Pants make up — roughly, we're estimating here — 40 percent of your outfit. Wear them wisely.
A version of this story first appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine. Subscribe today.
Even though pants play an important role in the wardrobe, most men own the same two or three styles in the same two or three different colors. Expand your repertoire; you shouldn't limit yourself to just blue jeans and basic khaki chinos. These two examples make excellent pillars in your pant rotation, but there are so many other options to explore.
What about wider-fit chinos with billowing bottoms? Work trousers with designer paint splatters? Sweatpants with a heavy cashmere construction? These all sound cool, right? They are, along with a handful of others you'll have to keep reading to uncover, the new essentials — the must-haves. Each signals you're as in the know — aka on top of trends — because you're aware of what makes something classic.
We've covered all of the bases: standout pants you can wear around town or to the office, antibacterial underwear to wear underneath them and loungewear you can, well, lounge in, but also wear to basketball games or even the bar. (Gasp!)
We’re fans of washed denim and will proudly champion it when others call it a lazy shortcut. Breaking in raw denim, and washing everything its dye bleeds into, isn’t fun. Actually, it can kind of hurt, and wearing them to the point where they're soft and faded takes a long time. There’s no cheating in baseball or billiards, but in blue jeans? Buy the washed ones and save yourself eight months of pain.
Long gone is the era of skinny pants. Designers are countering the skin-tight aesthetic with looser, wider-fit trousers, and some have taken it to an extreme: They’ve crafted bottoms that billow out at the hip, widen ever so slightly at the knee and run straight down toward the hem. But milder iterations prove more manageable for most men and should be an immediate add to your wardrobe.
However, the trend isn’t a sudden development. A year in sweatpants and other supple bottoms made us used to, arguably addicted to, comfortable clothes. How could we all go back to shuffling into skin-tight pants? We couldn’t. And shouldn’t. Switching from skinny to even straight-fit feels like quite the step, but it's worth the effort to go a bit wider.
Buying underwear meant to last may seem like a backward sentiment — doesn’t it all get dingy after a while? But longer-lasting, fresher smelling base layers are out there. Opt for underwear made from superior materials such as lyocell, tencel, hemp or bamboo. These prove naturally antibacterial — meaning less B.O. — and emphasize comfort and eco-consciousness over cost-cutting and cheap construction. Finding them is just a matter of mastering which materials to look for.
Here’s the lightning-fast lowdown on utility pants: there are carpenter pants, painter pants, double-knee pants and fatigues, and although the differences between them may seem subtle, these trouser styles actually vary quite a bit. What each one says about your personal style can, too: The first two are synonymous with workwear; the third maybe too much so; and the last is unmistakably military issue
.Carpenter pants come with at least one side loop and several flush side pockets for tools; painter pants are typically the same, except for their color (they're white so they can be bleached clean); double-knee pants, as one might guess, are reinforced at the knees (and several other spots); fatigues take cues from military issue trousers and are typically olive green with two large front patch pockets and two rear patch pockets with button flaps.
Why wear any of these over, say, a pair of jeans? Well, it’s about the optics. They add interest to otherwise flat outfits and signal (at least some) fashion sensibility. Plus, who’s ever complained about having more pockets?
If nothing else, this past year proved sweatpants’ staying power. But a year spent in sweatpants ordered from Amazon would make anyone yearn for pants a little more plush, so go ahead — treat yourself to an expensive pair. How about cashmere lounge pants that were hand-knit in Italy? Like the good butter or the nice bread you splurged on at the grocery store, this is luxury you keep at home.
The right mesh shorts mix streetwear and sportswear, modern and vintage, fatherhood and first-grade gym class. With the right top — say a T-shirt from your favorite streetwear brand — they’re elevated from bottoms you'd bring to a game of pickup basketball to something you wouldn’t mind having on if you bump into your partner's parents. Finding the right pair, however, hinges on a particular formula: not baggy but definitely not skinny, no garish logos across the crotch and an inseam shorter than seven inches