Style + Ask The Edit

He Said, She Said: Pleat, and Repleat

Dear Belle,

I recently started working on the Hill after years at a non-profit that allowed me to wear jeans every day.  As a result, I need to buy new suits, jackets and pants.  My girlfriend says no pleated pants, but if that’s true then why does every store sell them? I don’t think they look bad, but I’m curious what you think.


Belle: Whenever a man asks me this question, I feel like doing a Mommy Dearest-like scream, “No pleated pants, ever!”  But since you were probably looking for a more thoughtful answer, and one that didn’t involve being beaten with a wire hanger, let’s ask our resident Y-chromosome, Beau, what his thoughts are on the subject.

Beau: To pleat or not to pleat, that is the question.

As far as the look of a man’s suit, pleats are mostly decorative, but they do contribute to the overall allusion of your waistline. If your goal is to be more fashionable, which is why I assume you are reading this blog, then always go with a flat front. Hands down, flat fronts are more fashionable. 
Men often say that flat front pants are for the slimmer, or more athletic types, because you are dealing with less fabric around the waistline. The opposite is actually true, having pleats adds fabric to the waist area of the pants and thus, creates the illusion that you are carrying more weight. Pleats actually make you look heavier. (Preach, brother, preach.)
If you are carrying around a little extra heft after the holidays, and are worried you won’t have enough fabric with a flat front to maneuver, start by adding some fruit to your diet. Then buy your flat fronted dress pants one size above your normal size and have the waist taken in an inch or two. This will allow more room for your upper thighs to move around and prevent any bunching. However, do not buy flat front pants that hug your thighs, you want the pant to float over them. This isn’t the 70’s and you aren’t John Travolta, so you don’t want to look like you’re wearing bell bottoms.

If you’re too nervous about going all flat front, many designers (such at Cole Haan) have taken to making pants with a single pleat in them. But wouldn’t it be easier to just man up and get flat front pants? Nine times out of ten, they look better.

One last thing, before you leave the tailor, check the pockets. A bad tailoring job will leave the pockets flaring out, and you don’t want that.  Pockets should rest snug over your hip.

Belle: Pleated pants, you are officially on notice.  Next time, you get faux pas-ed.


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  1. Makeda says:


    I was about to do an article on this but you beat me to the punch. I asked a lot of my guy friends via Gchat in December about their preference for pleated pants. It seems the general consecus is that taller guys wear pleated pants because it’s more flattering. Shorter guys should avoid pleated pants like the plague. Check out some of the conversations below:

    my friend Win
    me: yea
    3:02 PM guy fashion question: pleated pants or straight pants?
    Win: pleated for tall guys, straight pants for short guys
    me: pleated looks so dorky (even on tall guys)
    3:03 PM Win: well it appears we have differing opinions

    A certain philanthropist and DC heavy hitter through gchat told me:
    "I am embarrrssed to learn that as I have gotten thinner I have noticed that some of my pants are pleated. I am not sure what is worse….. The fact that I own pleated pants or the fact I owned them, wore them, and stretched them into plain fronts….. Hee hee"

    ANOTHER Conversation via Gchat with my friend Jonathan:
    me: belt for a ticket?
    3:58 PM do you wear pleated or flat front pants/
    Jonathan: what the fuck question is that
    3:59 PM me: dude i am asking
    your preference
    Jonathan: i mean
    te fact that you ask
    is just insulting to me
    4:00 PM me: sorry man
    Jonathan: i only wear flat fronts.
    me: haha
    4:01 PM well when I worked at jcrew guys would come in and ask for pleated too
    Jonathan: well thats because they are idiots.

    Friend Alex:
    me: do you wear pleated or flat front pants/
    6 minutes
    4:06 PM Alex: i have both
    but i prefer flt front
    4:07 PM but a lot of suits are still only sold with pleats

    January 12, 2010/Reply
  2. District Cut says:

    Speaking as a thin guy–I would never ever ever put pleated pants on my body. They make you look way bigger than you actually are or make you look as if your wearing someone else’s pants. Or a parachute. Think Hammertime.
    But if you have a heavier build, I still wouldn’t suggest pleated pants. Flat fronts would still work just fine, with an added crease and the appropriate size.
    Pleated pants are for the abnormally overweight, otherwise your committing sartorial sin.
    But alas, this is only my opinion.

    January 12, 2010/Reply
  3. dcm58 says:

    I have FINALLY won this argument with my husband. He has a slim athletic build and pleats do NOTHING for him!!! Do either you or Beau have recommendations of good brands for men needing dress pants (but not suit pants) for work???

    January 12, 2010/Reply
  4. Makeda says:

    The first thing you must realize is that pants are not made one-size fits all. You have to take it to the tailor for them to make it truly fit your frame. Bonobos makes really great fitting pants that can be tailored to fit your man’s figure like a glove.

    J. Crew makes good pants that are affordable.

    Express Photographer 5-pocket pants, Brooks Brothers, Save Khaki and Ralph lauren

    January 12, 2010/Reply
  5. Kim says:

    Ditto District Cut – it took a few comparison images from google, but the point was driven home.

    January 12, 2010/Reply
  6. Belle says:

    I second Makeda, Bonobos. If that doesn’t appeal to you, United Colors of Benetton makes a nice flat front pant.

    January 12, 2010/Reply
  7. District Cut says:

    United Colors of Benetton do make great trousers, but they are rather pricey. I’d try Exress and J. Crew.

    January 12, 2010/Reply
  8. Belle says:


    Glad I could help 😉

    January 12, 2010/Reply
  9. amy b.s. says:

    i love this! thank you! every time my husband walks out of the room with pleated pants and says, "what?" i am directing him here! seriously? what is it about pleats?

    January 12, 2010/Reply
  10. Belle says:

    I had an ex who used to argue that he needed to wear pleated pants because he was knock kneed. A) I never noticed that he was knock kneed and B) That’s no excuse and C) even if it were it would apply to less than one-percent of the population–so what all the rest are thinking, I do not know.

    January 12, 2010/Reply
  11. dcm58 says:

    Thank you! I will try all of those places . . . yea!

    January 13, 2010/Reply