My MTO Trousers by Hertling USA

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It’s been a while since I’ve had trousers made for me.  MTO to be precise, but hey, who’s askin?

Just so you know, I bought these myself with my own money because I wanted to see what it was like. I’ll always tell ya’ll if there is ever any free piece or something when it applies!

Introduction

So I must admit, I was never kept in the loop about the whole Hertling thing.  I remember seeing a few posts back in the day, particularly by Put This On, about how this American manufacturer was one of the oldest and best trouser makers. They’ve provided the pants for places like J. Crew, Sid Mashburn, and Paul Stuart, according to PTO.  Then they were looking to close, which is unfortunate, but another log in the funeral pyre for American made clothing.  A few people began buying up the last Hertling made pieces they could with some rich guys on Styleforum even thinking up a plan to buy the factory.

While most of the menswear world was lamenting this upcoming loss, I admittedly was unfazed (or ignorant). During that time, most of my trousers were either true vintage (1940s-1960s) or thrifted ones from say Polo RL. I didn’t even have much in the realm of custom clothing, other than some rather mediocre Indochino suits (that were honestly done away with by that time anyway), a couple of slim (but cool) Stoffa trousers and a fantastic Ascot Chang suit; my beloved MTM cotton suits would come later in 2019.

 

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Trusty grey pleated trousers from Stoffa.  Still love wearing them, despite being a bit slim/casual for a mature look.

 

However, as my tastes started to change, I wanted more command over my wardrobe and that meant two things: being much pickier over what I bought (no more buying vintage just because it’s cheap and you found it) or getting more into custom clothing.  Obviously price was still a factor and as I detailed in my shoe essay, I already have a lot of options, which means that if I splurged on one item, I probably wouldn’t get a good cost-per-wear ratio.  But I started to change on that, especially as I wanted to invest in a good spring-summer appropriate wardrobe, because as you know, vintage or pre-owned summer wear (that is also tasteful) is hard to come by.

Then last summer (2019) I saw a post by Sean Crowley, showing off a beautiful pair of flat front grey trousers.  I assumed they were RL or vintage, considering the source, but to my surprise, they were Hertling, still made right in NYC! Immediately, I DM’d him to see if these were some older stock of Hertling (as I believe they had side tab trousers RTW before they closed), but Sean revealed that they were a fresh pickup and MTO for him. Apparently the Hertling factory had been reinvigorated and was doing a MTO program to celebrate!

The website was rather normal and provided customizations (like pleats, side tabs, high rise) and cloth options (hopsack, tweed, cotton). Most of the pieces were around $200-300, but they were doing a BOGO offer, which was very tempting. Unfortunately, at the time, I couldn’t justify it (as I was freshly back from an extensive Japan trip) despite wanting to try out their hopsack trouser, as I desperately needed non-chino wool pants to wear in the spring/summer.

Thankfully, they brought back the BOGO promotion in November 2019, and I was ready to finally place an order. Seemed like a good investment to get some MTO trousers!

Ordering

The MTO page is fairly easy, especially if you also have the fit guide pulled up for reference.

Upon looking at it, you’ll note that everything really is just standard.  It starts off with a few visual selections (pleats, side tabs, fly style), but the real customization happens when you add a cloth to your cart, which is when you’re actually able to check mark the details you want. There is also a message section for special requests or comments.

My ideal trouser model that I’ve done with friends like Natty Adams, Ascot Chang, or Atelier Fugue, is that the trouser has a high rise (with a long fly if possible), has double reverse pleats, side tabs, and has turn ups.  The checklist unfortunately had only single reverse pleats but they did have an option for a higher rise, which made the front rise 0.5″ longer than the fit model you pick (hence why it’s important to have the fit guide pulled up while you order).  I mean it is MTO rather than MTM, so I expected there to be a minimal amount of customizations.  Thankfully, Sean told me that if I had any extra requests, I could just DM or email Hertling directly.

The cloth picks are rather nice. It’s a bit like Stoffa where they give you a limited amount to pick as to reduce buyers anxiety.  Like I said earlier, I initially was going to go with hopsack for breathability and texture, but it was unavailable this time.  The tropical wool was intriguing and probably what I needed, so I felt like it was the right option for LA spring/summer trousering that wasn’t cotton.

After an email with Justin, the Hertling man, I was able to go with the following details in charcoal and navy (for BOGO) tropical wool.  Also, for the BOGO, your card is charged the full amount  during the order and then you’ll receive a refund for half (or the cheaper trouser choice) a day or so later. The total was $275, which is definitely a steal for two trousers!

  • 32 waist
  • Relaxed Fit, because it has the highest natural rise, and widest leg opening. I wanted something elegant and more 1930’s-esque rather than a slim-ivy odd trouser a la Drake’s.
  • Higher Rise (adds 0.5″ to rise) which made for a 11.5″ total rise
  • Double Reverse Pleats (thank you Justin)
  • Side Tabs
  • Button Fly
  • Button back pockets
  • 8.75″ leg opening if possible

Justin initially quoted us a month to be delivered by Christmas, but later sent an email notifying us that a few of the orders would have to be sent in January since they had a high influx that they didn’t initially expect.  This wasn’t an issue, as it was still cold in Los Angeles, but around mid January, I started to get a teensie bit antsy.

A few of my friends and followers also had the same feeling and apparently, this was an issue for even the first time Hertling did the BOGO promotion.  My friend Yung Chomsky regretted doing the BOGO in stages (get the first pair then the second pair after tweaking the first), as he has it took two months for the first and has still not received the second. There were already quite a few comments on their IG and I had even sent one or two emails before I got a response.  To give credit when it was due, when they finally shipped, I got a tracking number so I could see when I was going to receive the pants.

At around the end of Jan or start of Feb, I got them in and immediately got them hemmed by my tailor so I could wear them, as LA was starting to heat up.  I didn’t get a chance to inspect them closely until I picked them up, and that’s when I started to notice some things.

The Trousers

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Charcoal grey.  The smooth tropical wool isn’t bad with the heavier camel!

Let me first say that the trousers overall are pretty good! The tropical wool is very light and comfortable, providing a bit of visual texture despite being rather smooth and cool to the touch.

I was a bit taken a back by this, as I’m much more used to feeling texture in my odd trousers, either by way of flannel (my go-to for F/W) or the hearty drape of a twill. Most non-flannel wool tends to be a bit too smooth unless it’s an open weave variety like Crispaire, since they feel more versatile to play with textured sportcoats rather than the overly silky look that is more appropriate for full suits or business wear.  For me, it really is about evoking the slouchy trad feel in an LA environment.  However, I soon got used to how breezy the tropical wool was.

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Love the deep pleats but unsurre of the wide buckles for the side tabs.

The grey is a perfect charcoal that isn’t too light or too dark, while the navy has an almost black appearance.  These are perfect for me, as I do prefer a somber trouser in order to counteract my louder odd jackets.  Obviously, the jackets I wear aren’t as bold as some other Pitti Peacocks, but to me, I just tend to gravitate toward a darker pant.

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A fairly good silhouette! Note the offset stitching on (your) right side, near the waistband.

The relaxed fit (along with the pleats) is pretty spot on in what I’m looking for in a trouser silhouette. At first, they were a bit stiff in the waist  (due to the unworn waistband canvas) but it has gotten more comfortable over repeated wears; that’s common with most trousers, especially if they were custom made for you. Unlike the SJC wide leg chinos, there was plenty of room in the thigh and crotch, leading me to think that the SJC cut simply isn’t for me.

There is a slight taper through the leg to a 8.5″ leg opening. I had emailed them to have a 8.75″, but it wasn’t done.  I definitely prefer a wider leg opening with even less taper, so if I order in the future, I’ll definitely try to push them for an 8.75″ or even a 9″, though Hertling is doing MTO based on their existing blocks and not a fully custom trouser like Luxire or a bespoke maker.

You’ll notice that there is a bit of excess room on the outer thigh, which I think is because it’s just slightly big.  They don’t offer odd sizes (31, 33, etc) and it probably means the trousers are probably a fraction of a inch large in the  waist, which leads to a bit of extra in the thigh and seat, emphasized by the wrinkling of a side tab pulled tightly. This also results in some hanging in the upper leg, which is something that happens when I buy RTW. That’s okay, as I prefer to have extra room rather than something that feels too close to my skin.

These aren’t bespoke or even MTM anyway, so they get a pass! We’ll see if it bothers me enough in the future to get them taken in slightly.

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Pockets don’t really lay flat.

My main gripe, other than the excessive waiting time with rather lackluster responses, is the finishing, specifically in the fly stitching. As you get closer to the where the fly meets the waist band, the stitching skews out, which is rather unfortunate since its noticeable, especially on the grey trousers.  It hasn’t detracted me from wearing it, but like the tight crotch/thigh issues on the SJC, it’s something I can’t unsee. I did tell Justin about it, and he apologized saying that the factory must have been rushing (due to all their orders) and it somehow passed a QC check.  Again, it’s not a huge deal and doesn’t detract my desire to wear them, but it’s something to keep in mind regarding their making.

 

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Navy doesn’t photograph well in dramatic lighting.

 

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The navy trousers are so dark!

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Apparently navy on grey is called “security guarding”, by my friends at StyleForum.

Conclusion

Anyway, I do enjoy wearing these Hertling pants. They’re elegant, drape quite well, and are really comfortable for the warmer weather (I don’t know why it’s been 80F lately). They provide a great spring/sum alternative to the flannels I enjoy wearing in the colder months and even give me a different vibe to the chinos or jeans I tend to wear when it’s hot.  They also have the same elegance as my suit trousers from Ascot Chang, which is a nice thing to have in an odd trouser that is meant for separates.

It’s also nice to finally have a proper grey and navy odd trouser. Wearing them makes me feel a bit more mature and in the Armoury category rather than Drake’s, which in my mind, relies on slim-straight chinos, rather than full cut pleats. It’s just a more tailored vibe, which again is something I seldom get to do in warm weather!

The “relaxed cut” (in a 32, high rise, double pleats) is great for me, though they would be made even more perfect with a wider leg opening.  A wider leg tends to offset a higher rise (of which, this one is the perfect rise for me), so having them sit far up on my tummy requires a straighter leg line.  It’s fine where it is now, but for that Golden Era silhouette that I still want to cling to on a whim, a wider leg is needed!  This bigger block is why I picked Hertling rather than doing Natalino or Spier, which tends to be a bit too tapered, at least for this particular trouser I wanted to get.

The tropical wool again is smooth, but not as much as say an ultra silk 200s or something.  They’re light and comfortable, leaning a bit on the delicate, but it’s an aesthetic I haven’t really gotten in spring/summer. The trousers definitely err on the formal side, so I’m not sure if I’d wear these with a simple tee shirt; polos and sportshirts should be fine though!

I just need to keep reminding myself that it was a good deal and that these were MTO, which is basically like RTW (since they have predetermined fits) with a few extra customizations. The fit isn’t completely perfect, and that’s fine! I’d be more scrutinous over a multi-thousand dollar bespoke garment, but as that is not it, it passes muster.  It’s a good value to get a trouser I know I’ll wear when it comes up in my rotation.

Found this picture of Bruce Boyer in relaxed fit MTO Hertling chinos.  Seems like a damn good fit and style!

I’m tempted to try Hertling again for their heavy cotton twill (in navy and brown), as to replace the SJCs I find too difficult to wear with each passing time.  I hope that the QC is better, as stitching mistakes on cotton are much easier to notice.  Additionally, more communication and transparency on when we can expect the pieces would be good to have as well.  I know that I got them after around 9 weeks (mid Nov-end Jan), but I have a feeling others may not have had my same experience, for better or worse.  I recall some people saying that the Styleforum community were not too happy about the whole thing.

That being said, I liked that Justin was able to do my requests (namely the double pleats) and even sent them finished with a cuff (but it was still too long anyway). Hopefully they fix the issues and do the BOGO promotion again, because then I’ll be even more tempted to get some nice side tab, wider leg chinos.  We’ll see what the wallet allows.

The chinos certainly look good on Brucey.

Always a pleasure,

@EthanMWong

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