Swellboy on… elephant-legged trousers

At last, an ally appears in our man’s quest for a sartorial holy grail

Image: Brijesh Patel

If you are kind enough to read this column with any regularity then you will know that I have a multitude of fatuous doomed sartorial campaigns underway at any one time. I see myself as something of a clotheshorse Canute or dapper Don Quixote as I try to reinstate cravats, patterned braces and broad lapels – and, of course, continue the grail-like quest to restore the elephant-legged trouser to its position of importance.

Oxford bags came into being when undergraduates, banned from wearing plus fours to lectures, devised a trouser so voluminous that it could be worn over the forbidden garment. At least, that is the story I have heard, and it is a useful rule of thumb for me when it comes to designing a 21st-century Oxford bag.

As you may be aware, I had tailor Terry Haste prepare me a wonderful pair of trousers, in a 32 wool of ballistic-repellent properties, for a trip I made to Venice earlier this year. Venice is known to get a bit nippy in February, and I stipulated a leg that covered the shoe from toe to heel. It was a huge success. Gondoliers gawped, Chinese tourists turned their lenses and phones away from the palazzos to record images of my legs, and even the pigeons of St Mark’s took fright and flew off as I swaggered into what Napoleon called “the finest drawing room in Europe”, my trouser legs flapping and ballooning like the spinnakers of a pair of racing yachts charging for the finish line.


Now, at last, I have an ally in my quest. Luca Rubinacci, scion of the Neapolitan tailoring dynasty and the family firm’s advertising model, has taken to appearing in his promotional material sporting a pair of wide-legged linen trousers.

Since then, much as Lapo Elkann has been collaborating with Gucci creative director Frida Giannini on a capsule wardrobe (although I would have trouble fitting my wardrobe in a capsule), I have been working tirelessly with Mariano Rubinacci to perfect the perfect wide-legged linen suit. It goes something like this. The trousers issue from the workshops and I strap them around my waist using the Gurkha fastening. I then survey the bottoms, and if I can still see any shoe leather (even when moving), they return to the tailors for further widening.

It has been a design process involving calculation not unakin to that which resulted in the sketches Da Vinci made for aircraft in various codices. Except, of course, the difference is that while Da Vinci was keen on getting airborne, the chief concern of that other Italian genius, Rubinacci, is that a freak gust of wind on the Paseo Maritimo of Marbella does not pick me up and blow me out to sea.


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