Old man pants are cool now


Full-cut, high-waisted, and hiked up to the anatomical waist, they appeared repeatedly on the runways at the recently wrapped men’s fashion shows in Europe. Numerous designers presented them: Dries Van Noten, Lanvin, Margarett Howell, Ami, Umit Benan, even Off-White, the growing fashion label with streetwear roots headed by Kanye West’s creative director, Virgil Abloh.

There were plenty of other trends on display. Androgyny was everywhere. Sportswear persisted. But few things felt quite so new as the pants recalling those your grandpa wore. At this point they’re so far out of style in the mainstream, which is still dangling low-slung skinny pants from its hips, that it’s practically transgressive for a designer to show them on a young model, as though someone that age would actually wear them. Even skirts, which proliferated on the runways, felt a little staid and expected by comparison.

Old man pants by Dries Van Noten, Margaret Howell, Raf Simons, Paul Smith, and Lanvin.
Old man pants by Dries Van Noten, Margaret Howell, Raf Simons, Paul Smith, and Lanvin. (Getty Images/Patrick Kovarik, Ben A. Pruchnie, Dominique Charriau, Tristan Fewings)

The details of the bottoms varied. Pleats were present here, absent there. Some tapered, while others were left to pool in folds.

The variety Raf Simons showed were so full and long they resembled ’90s-era raver pants, except that a raver would never have worn them pulled up so high, let alone paired them with a sweater vest. The older set might not find them fitting either. “It’s not like the senior citizens of the world are suddenly going to demand to be kitted out in Simons’ trousers that flare to puddles of fabric on the floor,” Tim Blanks wrote in his review for Style.com.

Jose Iturbi, playing the piano, Lucille Ball, Harpo Marx, on piano, and Fred Astaire, dancing on piano, rehearse backstage at the Madison Square Garden in New York City before going on in the Hollywood Bond Cavalcade Show on Sept. 11, 1943.
Fred Astaire with a waistline so high you have to look up to see it. (AP Photo)

No, these trousers are updated in their cut, with old-school elegance, rather than just old, and the styling gave them an attitude more befitting of a kid in Paris or Tokyo than his grandparents.

If you’re not convinced that high-waisted pants can actually have an edge, consider that Rick Owens—the designer in the vanguard of the current wave of men in skirts, and the same guy who sent exposed penises down the runway last season—started toying with them in his fall-winter 2012 collection. His “Astaire” pants played on the 1930s glamor of their dancing namesake, as well as the baggy-crotched bottoms worn by LA gang members.

Models present creations by US designer Rick Owens during the Autumn-Winter 2012/2013 ready-to-wear men's fashion collection show on January 19, 2012 in Paris.
Astaire’s dark side. (Alexander Klein/AFP/Getty Images)

In recent seasons, Lanvin has tinkered with the style a fair bit, as has Christophe Lemaire, and earlier this year at New York Fashion Week they turned up in a few collections.

This season saw more of them than ever, and retailers appear to be taking note. “Looser-fit pants” were highlighted in a roundup by WWD (paywall) as one of the top buying trends among fashion retailers after the Paris shows.


home our picks popular latest obsessions search