The Awesomeness of High-Waisted Trousers

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Clothes are meant to make the most out of your body. Even if you’re not the fittest guy, a well-tailored piece can still make you look a million bucks! One example is the high-waisted trouser; It’s an old school detail that sets you apart from all the other #menswear guys around you.

From the 1920s-1950s, high waisted trousers (or high rise) were the norm. Just so you know, rise refers to the length of the crotch seam to the top of the pant.  These pants sit at the “natural waist” right at your belly button, which is the widest part of your body and the correct place where your body is visually halved. However, they can even be made to be higher.

With your “visual legs” starting higher up on your body, it naturally has the effect of making your legs look long. If you are short or have shorter legs, high waisted trousers can do wonders. As a 5’8 man with some thick thighs, it makes my legs look slimmer and longer!  Here’s some examples with true 1930s’-1940’s pieces.

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Luckily for us in 2015, people still make high waisted trousers. Menswear has finally moved away from making suits look like skinny jeans and actually crafting them to flatter your body. I mean there’s a reason why women jeans in this style.  Ask any girl and you’ll hear how good it makes them look; ass is accentuated and the legs are elongated.

These high-rise pants aren’t met to sit on your hips and sag like your Hot-Topic denim; they sit right near your belly button. Check out some classically styled guys from B&Tailor and The Armoury who take their tailored inspiration from the 1940’s, with high-rise pants and deep pleats. Look at how long it makes their legs look!

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Compare these awesome images with modern every-day pants. Most of these sit four inches below the belly button while others can sit right on the hips (low-rise).  While it may not be 1940 anymore, it’s definitely not 2003 anymore.  Girls don’t even wear low rise anymore!  High-waisted pants have taken the world by storm.

Just look at how short my legs look. It also doesn’t go enough to meet the button stance of the jacket.  There’s a small gap between the buttoning point of the jacket and where the pants start.  This small bit of shirt shouldn’t be seen; there should be a seamless transition from shirt to jacket to pant.

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Here’s a gent who should be wearing pants at his navel.  It just messes with his body proportions and shows how short his vest is.

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You see what I mean?  Right now, you’re probably liking the look but you probably don’t have the thousands of dollars to buy those handmade garments. That’s okay, because there’s another way to get them! Just get a waist size bigger than what you’re used to, and BAM! High waisted trousers.

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For example, I’m typically a 32×30. To achieve a high waist, I get a 33 or 34.  Because the trouser proportions (like the rise) will be made for someone bigger than me, the trousers will then sit higher on my body.  I then get the waist taken in, clean up the seat/upper thigh area, and I end up with high rise trousers! It’s an option for you guys who buy from mall brands like Banana Republic and J. Crew.

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Tailored Banana Republic trousers, worn to be high rise.

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Tailored Banana Republic trousers, worn as high rise.

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Olive green Banana Republic chinos.

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Pleated J. Crew chinos that were purchased one size bigger than tailored down.

 

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Banana Republic linen trousers. 

 

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Banana Republic pleated chinos, purchased two sizes higher.

 

 

Those brown fleck ones from GAP are a great example.  The flecked pattern really gives it a vintage feel, which is one of my main inspirations behind my style! Its almost 1940s-1950s, which was what the designer (David Hart) had in mind. If your resulting tie is too long (since now you have a high-rise), just tuck it in.  When done right, it looks more Italian and less dad-like.  Just remember to wear suspenders with them!

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Another way is to go vintage. Vintage trousers will inherently be high rise since that’s simply how it was done back in the 1920s-1970s.  Obviously some vintage trousers will vary in design and style (drop loops, side tab adjusters, pleats, etc)  but they will get the job done.  You don’t even have to buy “super vintage” trousers; trousers from the 1980s/90s will do the trick if they were designed to be high rise.  Either way, a dead give away of a high rise will be a longer fly.  If the pants fly seems too long, it will be high waisted!

I’ve thrifted a bunch of vintage trousers from the 1960s-1990s to great effect!  They all range by the exact rise (some sit at my belly button while others sit higher) but they get the job done! Remember that you don’t have to get wide 1940s style pants when you want to go high waisted. If you get the pants tapered, you’ll end up with something that exudes the bespoke high rise examples shown above!

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Thrifted 80s trousers that were tailored down in this post. 

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1970’s J. Press suit.

Another option which could be expensive, is to go custom.  I’ve only had a few custom suits made, but I’ve made a habit of altering my measurements to ensure that I receive high rise trousers. This is usually done by paying close attention to the crotch, waist, and  overall length measurements.  Sometimes the brand will question you, but stay strong! It usually works!

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Light brown houndstooth suit from Indochino.

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Pleated navy trousers from an Indochino double breasted suit. 

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MTM suit trousers from Vulture Suits.

Here’s the main lesson: a lower rise will always have its place with jeans and other casual clothes, but when it comes to chinos, dress trousers, or suit pants, high-rise is the way to go.  These pants are meant to drape smoothly and create straight lines through the body.  They are meant to sit at your belly button, not four inches below and sag.  You should only wear what flatters you, not pants that make your legs look short and throw off your body proportions.

Thanks for reading, and I hope that you guys will try out this old school detail with your modern pieces like I have. Remember that there’s no shame in mixing and matching your garments, whether they’re vintage or not. Having high-rise trousers will definitely up your game if you want to have have a vintage-meets-modern style!

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W. 

 

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82 comments

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  2. dave1east · June 23

    if you are very fat the position of the centre of the waist band should be around 12-2″ above the centre of the bellybutton.

    Otherwise, the following formula for calculating rise should work well for everyone – `waist in inches`/52*18. The waist is the biological waist, measured across the bellybutton.

    For example, if your waist is 36″, the formula is 36/52*18, or 12.5″.

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    • dave1east · June 23

      sorry that should read 1″-2″, not 12-2″.

      Like

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  5. TStic · July 5

    Thanks for the great information. How about trousers that come unfinished length? Is it still possible to achieve the high-rise after hemming it? I saw Charles tyrwhitt selling those trousers at great value.

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    • Ethan W. · July 12

      It shouldn’t do much! With that said, I really need to revise this article; it is the length of the fly that really makes the difference, rather than the length.

      Bigger waists have bigger flys (to be proportionate) which will result in a higher rise. My new method is to buy a size bigger (to where it sits where I want) and then tailor the rest to make it fit correctly!

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      • TStic · July 14

        Thanks! I just bought a few pairs of Uniqlo x Lemaire chinos with centre-crease design that costed aud $19.90, that is around USD $14.90, 2 sizes bigger. Original price $59.9!! Recently, i also bought Uniqlo vintage chinos which have a higher rise than the standard chinos on discount at $19.90 but i think i messed it after had it hemmed by the Uniqlo store :/ I bought it a size bigger, had the waist taken in, really high rise! Now the problem is the width of the hem as you can see here http://imgur.com/a/W2xWA A big difference than yours in https://streetxsprezza.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/the-armoury-for-less-mark-cho-in-italy/ Do you first hem the trouser then taper it?

        Charles tyrwhitt classic fit has 29cm front rise at size 30 which is quite high but the full price is expensive.

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      • Ethan W. · July 17

        That’s some great prices! Honestly, I’m trying to go toward wider leg pants just because I appreciate the 1930s-1940s style of tailoring. Blending vintage and modern is the way I go!

        With that said, I try and taper trousers before hemming since the taper WILL mess with how the pants fall. It’s not a lot, but it’s something to consider when you’re doing alterations!

        Charles Trywhitt has great reviews (I’ve never had them) but full price items are hard for me to do. Hell, vintage pieces can also be quite expensive!

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  8. TStic · July 20

    After trying and searching many brands, Uniqlo is one of my most favorites, cheap and good enough for me quality, It’s a ‘proper brand’ with its own philosophy and design, like Muji which i also like. I can’t afford the Armoury chinos but i don’t think they are always the better option. Wider leg pant sounds very vintage! Hard look to pull off, but for me it’s very impressive if you does pull it off.

    Thanks! I had asked the tailor to lengthen and taper the trouser. I just wish it does not have the bootcut look in that photo. I am getting a lot of alterations for my trousers at the moment. Bought a Uniqlo jeans several size bigger, thought taking in the waist should be fine, alas, a small re-cut must be done.

    Indeed! I like Charles tyrwhitt, almost everything of it. Full price is not worth it, just wait for the discount! The discounted price definitely offers the best value than most of the brands. I have never owned a vintage piece but i will keep an eye on it. I saw Levis 501 vintage which has the original high rise on ebay, i am considering to get one!

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    • Ethan W. · July 20

      Sounds like you’ve got the right idea! Vintage looks aren’t for everyone, but I think with some styling and some tailoring, it can still look good!

      Please keep me updated as your progress! I really recommend those 501s.

      Like

      • TStic · July 29

        I’m not happy about the rise as it is below the belly button in relaxed form(without belt/tucking in shirt). Though it has been transformed from low-rise to mid-rise but it’s still not enough, this shows that the rise of that jeans must be really low! Actually i bought it 4 sizes larger, the tailor must have a hard time of taking in the waist so there’s still some gap and i can still put it up lol.. I have kept it away not really due to the rise but the fit is too skinny. My search for a high-rise jeans still on…perhaps it’s better to get a mid-rise jeans from the beginning like 501s, that’s easier!

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  14. Matthew Desantis · August 29

    Hello, I was just curious on where to find pants like these besides thrift stores? By the way, you dress awesome. Also if this helps I’m trying to keep it between the 1930’s – 1940’s thanks!

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