It was rainy spring morning, perhaps the only saving grace was a possibility that the pollen washed into the gutters and soil for the first hours of dry sunlight. I found myself deep in my closet with a cup of coffee. I’ve never fashioned my wardrobe as an expression of minimalism or efficiency. The folks at the the clothing ministry don’t know me as a recognizable face at the drop off to say the least. My clothing has nostalgia and its hard for me to purge.
As I sorted out everything that had fallen out of order, I began to give consideration to pants. So much of what we see in posts and blogs are in the “now”, but my admiration is for the lasting.
I have many idiosyncrasies about clothing. I am the maximal opposite of Steve Jobs and Tim Cook in their jeans and black tees. I’m not drawn to logos and my style is rather traditional. I like things that last- not just physically, but have an over arcing duration over trends of fashion.
I took a fancy to some of the pants that would never go in a bag to the Goodwill, no matter how frayed. Here are some of them:
Filson Oiled Double Tin Pants.
I have owned these for over twenty, who knows twenty-five years. They are the old Filson. Made in America. I have never washed them in a machine, but rather brush them. There are faint hints of game blood and dirt trapped under newer layers of wax. They are a bit heavy for warmer days, but see a lot of action in the “r-months”. On the surface, they are field pants- made for busting through briar and brush. They are waxed just enough to keep the dew out. I don’t just wear them on upland walks. They are great for sitting in the dirt and wet moss against an oak tree turkey hunting. The majority of the time I am operating a chain saw or doing chores in the winter, they come out of the closet. Perhaps their only drawback is the lack of breathability on muggy days in the South. When I wear them I have an elevated feeling that is timeless- I feel like a cowboy, a trapper, and a Cherokee scout all rolled into one. They are not just pants- they are armor. No matter how tattered the lower hem gets I would never pass them on- I imagine one of my grandchildren will wear them one day.
Ball and Back Field Pants
Hanging just beside my Flison pants are B&B’s field pant. In so many ways, the Ball and Buck pants have the same attributes of the Filson pants. Some days it is difficult to choose between them. Perhaps the decision is made by the lap of the Ball and Back pant being breathable. I respect owner Mark Bollman for making a product that is highest quality. He took on a mission to manufacture a superior product that has no planned obsolescence, which is rare these days. I purchased these on their first run, essentially ahead of the cut and sew years ago. This was not a mistake. Vanity only would cause me to want a pair in a different colorway than the camouflage that I own- but they are par excellence and I wear them in places that I am the only person looking- fully for functionality and not fashion (but they are awful handsome to say the least).
Tom James Khaki Trousers in Holland and Sherry
Although I would argue a couple of pairs of these premium pants would suffice arguably to be all a man needs, a wild count would put me at over twenty pairs of these made to measure “khakis” in my rotation over the past fifteen years. Every single pair of them is still in service. Some have “grown”to accommodate my maturing waist line- they are designed to be able to do that with a good tailor. Personal preference would dictate the specifications of how one would have them cut, but I can only share my specs. Unlike so many modern fashioned trousers, both OTR and bespoke, I prefer a little break over my loafer- with with and without cuffs. All are tapered to accommodate boot shafts- so they are a little fuller. They have the rise for a man that prefers boxers over briefs. I like a French fly that fastens inside, at the center and off to the right on the out side. I like the little split in the back of the waistband, the rubberized strip to hold a tucked shirt. Flat front. Four main pockets, but a hidden cash pocket in the waist band and coin pouch in the right front pocket.
To be sure, there are OTC pants out there that other people might see as the same, esp. if you spend the time to find the right fit. Wearing something perfectly fit to your body has an elevated feel and appearance that can’t be replicated. In a time when jeans, stretch pants, and less casual pants like five pockets come and go- I prefer to steadiness of my “old man” notion of khakis over the over-arcing life of my wardrobe.
Agave Waterman Jeans
I’m not a big jeans guy. But when I must, I have found these made in America (California) jeans to be my go to. They have a more tailored feel than other brands. The wash feels good. The cut is just right for boots. I don’t fuss with finding the correct inseam- but rather focus on getting the waist and rise just right at the time I need them, buy the length too long and let my tailor sort out the hem. I have just as much affection for the first pair I bought with a worn out knee as the newest pair that I can wear (ahem) with a sports coat.
Patagonia Organic Cotton Standup Shorts 5 inch
The first pair of these (no longer manufactured) staples I purchased was at Jesse Brown’s prior to a summer trip to the Outward Bound School in Snowmass Colorado when I was fourteen years old. I still have that pair and they are patched and tattered. Every year since, until Patagucci stopped making them, I started spring by buying a new pair. I have bunches that will go the rest of my life. There are little tiny design changes, like the addition of a second wallet pocket in latter models, but they remained essentially in a perfect state of design for all those years. Despite a lifelong nostalgic draw to Patagonia I pretty much have enough synchillas to outfit a dorm hall- and I’m pretty over buying from Patagonia- esp. now that the LWSUP is gone and half my money goes to Chinard’s political fancy. None-the-less, no one has hit the mark in replacing these.
The standup shorts are my summer Lederhosen. I wear them when I’m active. I don’t wear them as a fashion statement- but rather I love the way they feel. Short enough that when you are walking uphill, the fabric isn’t long enough to drag on the front of your thigh. They have built in air conditioning, esp. when you don them commando or with boxers – hence the idea of stand up only. I’ll never forget the time my good pal, Sam, played the “I sat in gum” trick on me- pinning his scrotum to a bench with his thumb. It was a real “made you look” laugh. (Sorry to be tacky- but you get it and you’ll never forget it- now you laughed too.)
The other value of these shorts are the back pockets that look like hooping front pockets- they only work standing up- but these aren’t pants you wear when you are being lazy and sitting down.
AFTCO Fishing Shorts
Much like the standup pants, AFTCO fishing shorts have been in my rotation since I was in junior high. They have many of the great attributes of the stand up shorts. I like that they are short (6” inseam) and have wide leg openings. They are nylon, so they fit the bill when you are around water. I’d never wear them expressly to go swimming- but if you end up in the water they work out. I have never admired cargo pants or shorts- but I do appreciate the pockets (7 of them). The Cordura lined plier pocket gets used- for just that, when I’m fishing, both free wading and on the boat.
I would tell you that I have bunches and bunches of Patagonia baggies. I like the short ones. I like the mesh. The older I get I figure that if I am forced to find only garments that are made by cheap labor in foreign countries, that I really don’t get too held up on the marketing surrounding brand. I’m no longer married to any one brand of baggies, they should be cheap- but of a quality that can make it through a few seasons of salt water, chlorine, and sunscreen stains. I wouldn’t be caught dead in board shorts.
Linen Bermuda Shorts- English Sports Shop
It doesn’t matter if the invitation says “casual” to a summer cocktail party- I’m probably not going to wear shorts. In that sweet little spot when I wear shorts in an elevated way, say out to dinner at the beach with loafers, a nice belt, and a button up- I’m going with the most iconic short pant there is. These shorts from the English Sports Shop in Hamilton are perfect. They are iconic, essentially the first shorts. They are linen dress trousers cut just above the knee. I have to confess that I usually take them to the tailor and have two inches cut off the inseam though. Don’t forget a fresh splash of Royall Lyme to top off the vibe.