One of my favourite pairs of trousers is a pair of white linens, which I bought 6 years ago for the princely sum of £7. From Primark! This was before I began my 5 Year Project.
I was looking around in Primark as I often did back then and discovered that they had linen trousers on sale. I had often admired linen trousers but had never owned a pair and didn’t know where I would go to find them. So I bought a pair in a, hard to describe but great to look at, greenish/brown colour.
I realised that I loved the fit. They were snug on the waist and hip but loose fitting in the leg. Best of all they flared wide at the hem. So the next time I was in I looked around to see what other colours were available and that’s when I spotted them in white.
It is well known that certain smells can take us back to a certain points in our memory. The smell of baking bread transports me back to my mother’s kitchen every time. Those white linens were like that for me. They transported me back to the 1980s: Miami Vice, Crockett & Tubbs, et al. Mostly, however, they reminded me of one of the coolest pairs of trousers I have ever owned.
1987 was the year. (At least I think it was. You lose stuff when you get to my age….) I had a pair of cream self-stripe cotton formal trousers. I cannot recall where I got them but I suspect that my very fashionable sister might have had a hand in their procurement.
Typical of the day they were loose fit, with sewn in turn up cuffs. Less typical was that they had, not single or double, but very neat triple pleats. And they fit me perfectly. So much so that they became my model trousers. Whenever I needed a pair of trousers adjusted I took those cream trousers along to the tailor with the instruction: ‘I want my new trousers to fit me exactly like my old trousers.’
As formal trousers they were naturally at home in formal contexts. But because they were cream coloured they were very versatile and worked in semi formal contexts just as well. When I sewed some buttons in place so I could wear them with braces (a.k.a. suspenders) they were simply awesome.
These are trousers in which important events took place. They were the trousers I was wearing when my future wife first began to see me not just as a spotty teen but as a man (I found this out later). Do I think those trousers helped her to fancy me? You betcha.
In my late teens I had an unofficial style competition going with one of my oldest friends. At least I was competing with him, I don’t think he was competing with me. I can only recall a single occasion when I thought I had won. I was wearing those trousers (with a navy shirt and cream braces).
And pretty much every picture I look back on from my late teens/early 20s which I don’t hate I am wearing either those trousers or trousers which had been modelled on them.
Weirdly, I have no idea what became of those trousers. I can’t recall whether I wore them out, outgrew them, or whether cream trousers simply ceased to be cool. Who knows?
What I do know is that all this came flooding back as I looked at those white linens in Primark that day. So I bought them without even trying them on. At the time I didn’t know whether I could wear white trousers with a straight face. After all this wasn’t the eighties, it was the noughties for crying out loud! Nonetheless, I still wanted them, even if only for nostalgic reasons.
When I got them home and tried them on I really liked them. I asked my wife’s opinion and she thought they were really cool (but then she has always liked me in cream trousers….). But to be honest, the last time I could recall wearing cream trousers was back in the 1980s and I wasn’t at all sure that this was appropriate for a man nearing his 40s.
But then the sun came out in summer and I wore them to something low key and to my surprise didn’t feel like a berk. Even better they were wonderfully comfortable and far less impracticable than you expect.
There is something about white trousers that seems ridiculously impractical. A bit like a glass slipper. They might look great, and have fairy tale connotations, but how do you wear them without breaking them or risk seriously lacerated feet?
Similarly white trousers have glamorous connotations. They are worn by cricketers, golfers, tennis stars, and gymnasts. In the US they are also worn by some baseball and football teams. Anyone who has seen the film A Few Good Men, will remember how great Demi Moore and Tom Cruise look in white dress uniforms.
Quite what it is about white trousers is tricky to ascertain. White shirt with navy trousers: no big deal. Navy shirt with white trousers, on the other hand, have a certain je ne sai quoi about them, non?
To those who feel them to be impractical I simply remind you that if American footballers and New Zealand cricketers can wear them to play sport you can probably wear them when you plan to do nothing more vigorous than stand, walk and sit.
All this I discovered once I began wearing my white linens 6 years ago. So I have worn them every spring/summer when I want something that’s wonderfully comfortable and equally at ease with T shirt and flip flops as they are with a Blazer and tie.
The problem is that after 5 years or so I began to wear them out. Literally. I discovered I’d worn holes into it. I sweet-talked my wife into darning the hole for me (she did an excellent job. It is hardly visible). In the mean time I’ve been looking for a replacement.
However, it has not been easy. Trouser styles have changed in the last half-decade so finding trousers which fit snug on the waist and hips with loose fitting legs and slightly flared bottoms are just not widely available. It’s all slim fit.
I popped into Primark Oxford the other day and saw some white linens on sale. I didn’t have the time or inclination to try them on but bought one in the hope that it would be a replay of one of their greatest hits. It was not. It too was the victim of the slim fit skinny-trousered malaise currently gripping the high street.
There are some lightweight white chinos currently on sale in M&S but they don’t quite have the fit that I am looking for. Plus linen has its own charm which is quite replicated in those chinos.
Charles Tyrwhitt has some cream flannel classic fit trousers on sale that had me very hopeful. Classic fit I interpreted to mean not skinny trousers. I was right about the looser fit but the colour was very cream, a sort of deep ivory, and the overall fit was just not quite right.
So the search continues. It’s difficult to replace an old favourite. I’ll let you know if and when I find a suitable replacement. In the mean time I’m pleased to say that there’s some life left in those linens.