Finding fine trousers is difficult because they have to work so hard. From the hip down to the ankle, the area they clothe – unless part of a pair of pyjamas – is in a state of near perpetual motion.
Material is pushed and pulled, seams strained, hems frayed and seats rubbed shiny. Only socks receive worse treatment.
Furthermore, trouser shapes evolve constantly. So even if you do find a pair that fits appropriately at the waist, an overly loose leg shape will appear ever so slightly anachronistic.
At London’s high temple of trousers, Anderson & Shepherd’s Haberdashery, they are developing a pantheon of pant shapes from the straightforwardly front-fronted crescent pocketed (A&S Style 3), via the built-in double-strap cummberbunded ‘Gurkha trouser’ (A&S Style 8) through to the modern low-rise skinny (A&S Style 11). For those entranced by trousers, it is nirvana.
More straightforwardly, here is an edit of the ten best currently-cut, semi-formal trousers we have able to find on the high street and in the boutiques this week. The higher the price, the sturdier the trouser and the more resistant to wear and wash it will be. There are some excellent inexpensive options for short-termists too. Cuts vary slightly and materials widely. As you browse, never forget the first rule of trousers: unless you have a pair of exactly the same style already, it is always worth trying them on before you buy.
1. Kin laundered cotton chino, John Lewis; johnlewis.com
Faux chambray pocket linings apart, these chinos by John Lewis’s newish house brand have nothing especially flashy about them – which is as it should be. The cut is just slim enough in the leg to appear modern and the selection of colours is good. Washed carefully to avoid post-machine crinkle, these should see you through one – or maybe two – summers in style.
2. Blue Harbour lightweight chinos, Marks & Spencer; marksandspencer.com
Semi-formal trousers packing a waistband that yo-yos with your waistline – genius. In navy these look perfectly dapper, are pleasantly light and stand up well to mistreatment. The material is not quite as fluid as that stretchy waist, but this is a high-quality, extremely versatile, low-price summer trouser choice.
3. Loose tapered chino, £25, Next; next.co.uk
This new Next cut is supposed to end modishly at the ankle – a horrible look – so buy them in long. Roomy at the top and slim at the hem, these sturdily made strides will be loved by suitably proportioned men, but do try them on first.
4. Dry stretch trousers, Uniqlo; uniqlo.com
Wow – who would have thought all-polyester trousers could look so swish. Designed with golfer Adam Scott, these are stretchy enough for a ruck-free full squat, have a great cut, and are an excellent budget option. The only worry is that repeated wear – and washings – will lead to the dreaded shiny seat.
5. Classic fit chino, Ted Baker; tedbaker.com
Jazzy buttons (that come wrapped in tissue), richly patterned pocket linings, and a wear-outside-if-you-want pocket stay on the back right hand side make these trousers the best mid-priced choice for measured extroverts. The hem stitch, however, is about a centimetre too wide to look entirely elegant.
L-R: Levi’s, Oliver Spencer, Hugo Boss, Incotex
6. 508 Commuter trouser, Levi’s; levi.com
These resemble Sta-Prest in both finish and cut, and feature special washes to make them splash-proof and slightly stretchy. The only downside is that the chemicals that coat them stop air moving freely through the material, so they might be a bit sticky in mid summer. Top trousers none the less.
7. Fishtail cotton chinos, £140, Oliver Spencer; matchesfashion.com
Olive green is a great trouser tone, especially when teamed with a darkish grey T-shirt. Spencer’s eye for detail provides a useful precious-item-safe pocket at the front, a light, rugged material and a sharp shape. All combine to make you look like you’re not trying all that hard. Will need hemming.
8. T-Sherman D slim-fit business trousers, Hugo Boss; hugoboss.com
Pleasantly striking in this dark purple, these trousers are also extremely light, hardily constructed, and very flattering. The little twill piping detail at the pocket is the subtlest eye-catching detail, and works well.
9. Incotex four season relaxed-fit cotton-blend chinos, Slowear; mrporter.com
This Italian company is the Mercedes-Benz of trousers: build, design and finish are all consistently of the highest order. Its only flaw is a tendency to over-emphasise too-tight leg shapes, but these have just the right balance between shape and freedom of movement. The best example of a classic chino that should last you for many, many years – if you don’t splash them with coffee.
10. Casual trouser, Zegna; zegna.com
An unusual gun-metal toggle at the fly and a faintly fuzzy peachskin finish hint at their “luxury” provenance – but once on, they’re straightforwardly excellent. Comfortable yet dashing, they fit closely and offer plenty of give. A high-end version of the technologically impressive trousers offered by Uniqlo – and in far finer material.
Zegna casual trousers
By Luke Leitch