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Swellboy on… the trouble with trousers

The exhausting business of trying on trousers

Swellboy on… the trouble with trousers

Image: Brijesh Patel

September 07 2010
Nick Foulkes

I remember Mark Birley once telling me that he found fittings at his tailor, usually the late Doug Hayward on Mount Street (now under new and excellent management), tiring: for him, trying on trousers was particularly draining. Mark, who was a great hero of mine, was right about most things, and the whole trouser thing can indeed be quite exhausting.

I don’t mind shrugging on a jacket and agonising about sleeve lengths, tiny wrinkles at the back of the neck and debating such arcane points as whether it needs to be crookened on and what have you. In fact I am not sure that there aren’t times when I prevaricate and procrastinate about the jacket so that I can claim to have run out of time to try on the trousers. And yet, in spite of the already taxing nature of ensuring that the legs are suitably covered, I seem to find new ways of making the trouser experience a more complicated one.

Take the Gurkha fastening. On more sporting suits and certain casual trousers I have been persuaded by the cynosure of Neapolitan elegance, Mariano Rubinacci (who has a shop next door to Hayward), to adopt the Gurkha fastening, whereby the waistband terminates in a pair of straps, one of which has a slit through which the other passes and each is fastened at a buckle on the hip. All I can say is that I am glad I no longer drink as trying to operate a Gurkha fastening while under the influence must be hellish, but they have a jaunty and slightly unusual vaguely colonial feel about them.

And besides, I can console myself that when it comes to trouser fittings I do not subject myself to anything remotely like the inconvenience of the transocean trouser. I understand that while he was governor of the Bahamas the Duke of Windsor took to having his trousers made in New York and after the war persisted in this, while still having jackets made in London. Imagine having to board an ocean liner to go for a trouser fitting. That is what I call true devotion to male elegance.

I also once heard that the Hindujas too were devotees of transcontinental trousering. While the Hinduja torso is clad by a London tailor, the clothing of their nether regions is entrusted to tailors in India – not for reasons of style, but, so I was told, for economy. So next time I bump into the Hindujas I will have to ask for the name not of their tailor, bur rather details of their travel agent, as they must have been getting a very good deal on their airline tickets.

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People, Trousers