The Ideal Pants (a treatise)


If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this exercise it’s that you can’t very thoroughly describe an archtypal pair of pants without using the word “groin” a few times. Oh, I’m sure you can describe a lot of features of pants and vaguely give the location of those features, but if you want to give a position for anything above the knees and not directly associated with the waist, then you probably have to indicate some clue relating it’s proximity to the groin.

If you look at pants as being like a country then the cuffs and waist are sort of akin to the frontiers. The legs below the thigh are like far flung provinces. But ah, the groin! The groin is the like unto Grenich England from which all longitudes are judged, ancient Rome to which all roads lead, a sort of axis mundi of pants if you will.

Last week I read of the Great Jeans Search on Megan’s blog and felt some sympathy with her plight. Who hasn’t had some sort of clothing or other common item they’ve been searching for everywhere only to realize that for some unknown reason this particular product is now rare, sold out, or not made anymore? I mentioned I felt this way about certain shoes, not so much pants.

But gradually it’s dawned on me that although I’m not really fussy about what pants I wear (which range from jeans to khakis and occasional dress or other random styles), there’s an archtypal style of pants I’ve gradually built up a desire for. I’ll call this purely theoretical construct “The Ideal Pants” for the sake of brevity.

The Ideal Pants seek to combine all things I find good, interesting, and favorable in the realms of Pantdom. Sadly I fear that these pants, while perfect in my own eyes, might be slightly freakish to behold in the sight of my peers, and probably only adopted (in one variant) by trendy kids who hang out in The Garage Mall or (in another variant) by paramilitary wannabes.

But what the hey! Timidity never established avant garde fashion, so may as well throw these things out there and see who puts them on.

Ideal Pants

  • Fabric(s):

    It might be interesting if a comfortable kevlar-cotton blend could be devised. Not to make the pants bullet proof, but to make them wear out less easily. Otherwise denim or casual/dress-khaki type cotton fabrics would be the normal options (depending on intended use).

    • Optional: Stainable or stain-resistant fabric (depending on how you want your pants to look).
    • Optional: Various other fabrics or prints (desert camoflage, silk satin, pink bunnies, stone washed, etc.).
    • Optional: Corellian blood stripe or similar multi-fabric pattern.
  • Cut:

    Relaxed fit around the groin and upper legs for ease of movement. This is also intended to avoid the feeling of tightness around the groin and minimize the feeling that your pants are riding up your legs if you sit in the same spot for a long time.

    • Optional: Very slightly tapered in toward the feet to avoid excessive “swishing”.
  • Features:Ideal Pants (side view) (click picture for detailed view)

    Many features are manditory for the ideal pants. Many others are optional. One feature which the ideal pants may not have is pre-ripped or otherwise intentionally damaged fabric. Folks who want to tear up their clothing can do it on their own time. Standard features include:

    • Seams: All seams sewn for durability first and to reduce fraying, comfort second, style afterward.

    • Non-Belt loops: One belt loop centered above each rear pocket, close to the top of the pocket so that a key ring, pocket knife, wallet chain, etc. can be attached there and easily dangle down into the pocket.

      • Note: These two “belt” loops should be in place even if other belt loops do not exist (ie. Suspenders or the drawstring option are used).
    • Suspender Buttons: Large, rugged buttons securely sewn in places where they could easily be used with buttoned suspenders.

      • Reasoning: While I like belts stylistically I’ve noticed one particular drawback: On some folks (ie. me) if a belt is tight enough to hold your pants up at the waist then it slightly inhibits breathing with the diaphram since the belly can not expand outward. However, if the belt is loose enough to allow easy diaphram breathing then it sags to the hips and the pant cuffs tend to drag against the ground, fraying within a couple months of regular use. In the case of these pants the pant cuffs won’t drag when drawstrings are tightened, but will still sort of bag around the ankles more than usual. Suspenders keep the pants up but still allow room for breathing.
      • Optional: Other regular belt loops in the normal places.
      • Optional: The “Texas” option: Oversized belt loops in normal places to hold up that massive belt of yours and it’s WWF sized buckle.
      • Optional: Built in drawstring, in case you don’t have suspenders and/or don’t like belts).
        • Note: Elastic may be used to suppliment a drawstring, (ie. one elastic section to allow waist band a little “give” for comfort), but elastic should never exist instead of a drawstring! Adrienne and I have noted that drawstrings allow for adjustable sizing while elastic doesn’t compensate well with weight gain or loss or slightly incorrect size choices and eventually elastic loses it’s elasticity.
    • Fly: The fly is a normal button + zipper combination. However, a rugged zipper with coarse teeth (as on a winter jacket) should be used to minimize clothing snags and zipper breaks.

      • Optional: A small tag of cloth may be sewn into the zipper loop. This cloth should be hidden under the fly fabric when the zipper is closed.
        • Reasoning: Sometimes when you open the zipper of a fly the zipper handle gets stuck in the pocket of fabric at the bottom of the fly and is difficult to pull up. The extra tag of fabric allows the zipper handle to be pulled even when in such a far down position.
      • Optional: Ostentations fly option: Nomally the zipper tag should be of the same fabric as the pants so as not to stand out, and should be thin enough to hide behind the fabric of the fly when closed. However, those wishing for a more ostentations fly might have the tag be a clashing color and/or larger than normal.
    • Cuffs: Drawstring pant cuffs.

      • Reasoning: So that cuffs don’t drag on the ground even if pants are loose. Drawstrings also inhitit cold air or creepy crawlies from getting up in there.
      • Note: cuff drawstrings should be made of a very rugged material since they are likely to be pulled and tied many times. Prefferably a material that doesn’t fray or wear out easily.
      • Optional: Drawstrings located 1/4″ to 1/2″ above the cuff for stylistic purposes.Roll-up Ties (cutaway view)
    • Roll-up ties: Zippered pockets are located along the outer and inner seem of each leg. These pockets begin three inches below the knee and end two inches above the knee. The pockets are only about 1″ to 1.5″ wide and have zippers along their entire lengths so that the handle of the zipper is at the bottom of the pocket when closed and at the top of the pocket when fully open. As with the fly, the zipper construction of these pockets is rugged. Inside the pocket, at the very bottom corner and the very top corner are attached 8″ long tie-cords of the same material as the cuff drawstrings. There are cords sewn inside the pant leg at a height corresponding to each cord in a pocket.

      • Reasoning: The pant legs can be rolled up and the cords used to tie off either below or above the knee so that they don’t come unrolled. The pockets keep the cords on the outside of the pant-leg from dangling all over the place or getting pulled off.
    • Pockets: These pants have many pockets. All pockets, except those for the roll-up ties and the normal front pockets, should have a buttonable flap over the top. The flap should taper toward buttons (square cut flaps which don’t taper end up with their corners severely wrinkled and skewed after washing). Flaps should be of a width exactly that of the pocket so that they can be tucked into pockets if such is desired.

      • Reasoning: Zippered pockets have the advantage of sealing relatively effectively, but unfortunately create an apature whose width is smaller than the inner diameter of the pocket.
      • Note: “Boxy” pocket construction is being used to refer to pockets taking a shape roughly like flattened boxes sewn onto the outside of the fabric (some cargo pants side pockets are made this way). “Flat” pocket construction is being used to refer to relatively flat pieces of cloth sewn onto the outside of the pants as external pockets (many mens jeans rear pockets are constructed this way). “Internal” pocket construction is being used to refer to slits in the oudside of the pants with the pocket made of a seperate material hanging from the inside of the slit (most pants front pockets are constructed this way).
      • Optional: If velcro is used in place of buttons then the “rough” half of the velcro should be attached to the pocket flap and the “fluffy” half of the velcro should be attached to the outside of the pocket. If this doesn’t happen then the “rough” side of the velcro tends to snag on overhanging shirt tails.
    • Specific Pockets to include:
      • Front Pockets: Regular but spacious front pockets, with very sturdy lining fabric so that pointy or rough items won’t slowly wear holes in them (a common problem with front pockets IMHO).
      • Back Pockets: Of “boxy” construction. Attached high enough that they don’t curve under the buttocks much when seated. Prefferably large enough to hold an MP3 player or possibly even compactly constructed CD player.
        • Optional: Internally constructed or flat pockets instead.
      • Map Pockets: Front surfaces of the thighs have pockets large enough to fit a folded map or 8.5″x11″ paper folded in half. The “map” pockets should have their bottom edge slightly above the knee, but their lower edge prefferably below the groin.
        • Reasoning: I’ve noticed that cargo pockets located significantly below the groin tend to have their contents swing around in akward ways when running making them impractical for actually carring things and moving around quickly. However if a pocket is designed to hold only papers then it shouldn’t be very bulky and might be easily stored lower than the groin. There is a large, relatively straight (lengthwise) surface to the front of most people’s thighs. This surface doesn’t deform much whether standing or sitting down and generally little external pressure is applied to it, as compared with the outsides of the thighs or the buttocks.
      • Cargo Pockets: Cargo pockets should generally be of boxy construction. The tops of the cargo pockets should be located below the regular pants pocket, but no lower than 1/3 of the way from the groin to the knee. There may be cargo-pockets of different sizes on each side.
        • Reasoning: See the reasoning behind “Map Pockets” to understand why these cargo pockets are located at the height they are. Also, cargo pocket dimensions were chosen because they were measured to fit particular impliments I often carry. Their function is to unclutter the normal front pockets, which in my case end up holding a slew of random things and sort of bulge out anyway.
        • Options: Some pockets, especially in more “outdoorsish” variants, may have elastic strips or drawstrings on their outsides to secure items from bouncing around in the pocket.
        • Options: Cargo pockets should come in several different sizes, however the following should probably be present if they can be made to fit:
        • Cellphone Pocket: A pocket approximately 2.5″ wide and 4.5 inches deep. Prefferably located higher and toward the front slightly. Also usable for pocket watches, compasses, pocket knives, etc.
        • Pen pocket: A pocket about 5″ deep and 2″ wide. The pocket should be oriented vertically so that the long axis runs parallel to the femur. This pocket should also be somewhat lower so pens and such are long the straighter part of the leg and not pressed under the buttocks or hip when seated or bending. Also the flap of the pocket should be attached about 1.5″ above the top of the pocket so that the tops of the pens can protrude from the pocket and still come under it. above the top of the pocket.
        • Campera/PDA pocket: A pocket about 5″ high and 4″ wide. If specifically intended for Cameras it should extend about 2-2.5″ out from the leg. If more likely used with a PDA it need only extend about 1.5″ from the leg.
        • Other large pocket: If you can fit it in there go ahead and attach another large pocket of up to 8″x7″ in size.

Ideally you’d be able to order any waist size and inseam of these pants for the same cost they’d be off the rack in a store (possibly excluding shipping). Also, ideally women would be able to specify the dimensions of the pants based on inseam, waist, and hip size (as She Dragon suggests), rather than based on some obscure scale composed entirely of even numbers (as Megan laments).

I’m sure that if Toyota can set up a “Lean Manufacturing” system to make and assemble the myriad different components for cars more inexpensively and efficiently, then clothing manufacturers can use a similar system to make practically custom sized clothing from a single piece of cloth, some thread, a couple zippers and some buttons.

About Peter

This guy lives in Boston MA with his beloved wife and two kids. You can get some idea of his likes and dislikes from posts on this website or elsewhere.

5 thoughts on “The Ideal Pants (a treatise)

  1. Unfortunately, my ideal pants are womens pants because my ass sticks out too much (often called a sheff-butt). I always have to buy my pants a few waist sizes too big just to compensate.

    Alas, your practicallity shown above doesn’t jive well with fashion. I don’t think it ever has (ex: those 6 inch soled shoes those girls were wearing comes to mind….or is that a fad and not a fashion? All the same to me).

    There was a small movement of “technosexual” for a while, but cellphones are actually thin enough to store in places they didn’t fit well before. But don’t let me stop you from having a vision.

  2. You’ve either got a calling for a new job in fashion, or in the military, cause those are some bad-ass pants my friend. I remember this look came in the U.K. in my 3rd or 4th year there, where the style was this weird urban look. I don’t know if it came in here at all. However, the look tended to be urban-impractical as I seem to recall. Like my friend had a coat that zipped up sideways. It looked cool, but I don’t know how practical it was, or just more “Hello, I’m from the future. In the future we zipper sideways”. There were a lot of cool cargos too. They had these ones you could unzipper the leg off at the knee and make into shorts. Something tells me those cargo pants didn’t take into account the smacking objects in the front pockets into the groin like yours have.

    Anyway – I’m impressed. And cool pictures too!

  3. Wow…I have to say, I’m very impressed with the amount of thought you have put into those pants. Granted, I put a lot of thought into my ideal pants, but more so about the fit, and neglected to take into account fabrics that would lessen the wear and tear. I also never thought about diagrams. Hmmm…I’ll have to revise my vision of perfect jeans by implementing some of the models you have described here.

  4. One feature I was toying with, but didn’t mention, was the optional knee patches (approximately 7″x5.5″), made out of some heavy weight, highly abrasion resistant, stain resistant fabric. Although some cracks might be made about such things comming in handy for groveling, I was thinking more along the lines of graveling (garden/yard work) and athletics (skateboarding, etc.).

    Dick: “Technosexual”. I hadn’t heard of that. From what you say I’m guessing it means fashions better designed for use with technology (cell-phone pockets, like you said and such). But it sounds like something the Borg would wear.

    It’s not just a place to put a cell-phone that I have issues with though. It’s where to put the phone and my keys and wallet and a couple tissues (especially in allergy seasons) and a couple writing impliments, and maybe a pocket knife or MP3 player.

    I don’t know if I mentioned it above, but I’ve had some serious issues over the years with my keys, pocket watch, and/or writing impliments gradually wearing holes through my front pockets.

    Loki: I’ve seen those pants with the zip-off lower legs. They were actually part of the inspiration for roll-up legs, but a small bee in my bonet is having “detachable” things like that. It’s like you’re out on a hot day so you’re wearing the pants as shorts then as the sun sets you realize you left the lower legs at home and it’s starting to get chilly out. Sort of the same reason I’m a little put off by convertables with a removable top.

    Oddly though coats with a removable liner don’t bother me. I guess because there’s no way to get around layering/delayering for insulation in one form or another.

    Also, I think I like the aescetic of having extra pockets and tie-strings. I’ve seen these kids a ocuple times walking around with gigantic lanyards hanging out of the cargo-pockets of their oversized pants, for no apparenty functional reason. Maybe it’s just rubbed off on me a little.

    By contrast the look of normal long pants with extra zipper creating an extra band all the way around the thigh strikes me as “dorky” in some way that’s tough to quantify. Maybe it’s that the extra lateral seam of the zipper breaks the lengthwise visual continuity I enjoy in a pant leg. Or maybe it’s just that the zippered break in an otherwise straight pant-leg brings to mind some blah mental association with Lands End models who have that, “I’m a casually but respecably dressed guy of better than average looks, just taking some well earned outdoor vacation in the off season. Sometimes it’s just nice to stare off into space and reflect while the wind blows through my hair,” look about them.

    That coat you mention that zippered the other way around though: How did that work? I can’t even picture it in my mind. Can you draw a picture maybe?

    Megan: Thanks.

    I have a feeling that alot of people have ideas here and there of how they’d prefer a product should be or function, little details they look for when shopping. I think most people just don’t write all their preferences down.

    And sadly, there’s not really a formalized way to submit these ideas that I know of. At least to the clothing industry.

  5. We should write to Levi’s or some other major pants manufacturers. We could get people to sign petitions, or to write letters of their own. Perhaps if enough people bitched about it, and offered logical solutions, someone might make a change. Damn it, it want pants that fit!

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