Pants and shorts

Pants, Shorts and Sweats to Build Your Wardrobe Around

new essentials bottoms

A version of this story first appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine. Subscribe today.


Even though pants play an important role in the wardrobe, most men own the same two or three styles in the same two or three different colors. Expand your repertoire; you shouldn’t limit yourself to just blue jeans and basic khaki chinos. These two examples make excellent pillars in your pant rotation, but there are so many other options to explore.

What about wider-fit chinos with billowing bottoms? Work trousers with designer paint splatters? Sweatpants with a heavy cashmere construction? These all sound cool, right? They are, along with a handful of others you’ll have to keep reading to uncover, the new essentials — the must-haves. Each signals you’re as in the know — aka on top of trends — because you’re aware of what makes something classic.

We’ve covered all of the bases: standout pants you can wear around town or to the office, antibacterial underwear to wear underneath them and loungewear you can, well, lounge in, but also wear to basketball games or even the bar. (Gasp!)

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We’re fans of washed denim and will proudly champion it when others call it a lazy shortcut. Breaking in raw denim, and washing everything its dye bleeds into, isn’t fun. Actually, it can kind of hurt, and wearing them to the point where they’re soft and faded takes a long time. There’s no cheating in baseball or billiards, but in blue jeans? Buy the washed ones and save yourself eight months of pain.

MORE JEANS FOR MEN

Straight-Fit Two-Year Wash Jean

Jeans that are the right of mix of ’90s and new.

S.E.A. Ambassador Jeans

These are made with the environment front of mind. They were cut, sewn and washed at the world’s foremost sustainable denim factory with denim made by Candiani, an Italian company championing eco-friendlier raw materials.

501 Original Fit Jeans

What more can I say about this classic jean? They’re 501s, the denim that defined American fashion.

Long gone is the era of skinny pants. Designers are countering the skin-tight aesthetic with looser, wider-fit trousers, and some have taken it to an extreme: They’ve crafted bottoms that billow out at the hip, widen ever so slightly at the knee and run straight down toward the hem. But milder iterations prove more manageable for most men and should be an immediate add to your wardrobe.

However, the trend isn’t a sudden development. A year in sweatpants and other supple bottoms made us used to, arguably addicted to, comfortable clothes. How could we all go back to shuffling into skin-tight pants? We couldn’t. And shouldn’t. Switching from skinny to even straight-fit feels like quite the step, but it’s worth the effort to go a bit wider.

MORE CHINOS FOR MEN

Flat Front Pant

Alex Mill’s Flat Front Pants aren’t bell bottoms by any means. They’re form-fitting at the hip, wide through the thighs and tapered through the leg.

Field Chino

Looking for a super, super straight fit that suddenly seems wide? Well, RRL’s Field Chino is just for you. 

Twill Volk Trousers

The Twill Volk Trousers are fashion-forward. Kind of cropped? Check. Pleated? Check. Available in a few norm core colors? Check, check, check.

Buying underwear meant to last may seem like a backward sentiment — doesn’t it all get dingy after a while? But longer-lasting, fresher smelling base layers are out there. Opt for underwear made from superior materials such as lyocell, tencel, hemp or bamboo. These prove naturally antibacterial — meaning less B.O. — and emphasize comfort and eco-consciousness over cost-cutting and cheap construction. Finding them is just a matter of mastering which materials to look for.

MORE UNDERWEAR FOR MEN

Boxer Brief

Lyocell is smoother than silk and more gentle on the skin than cotton. Plus, it’s naturally anti-bacterial, meaning your underwear will smell clean for far longer.

Merino 150 Boxer Briefs

Moisture-wicking and odor-resistant, Merino Wool is the material of choice for Smartwool’s 150 boxer briefs. Although wool doesn’t look like it’d sit nicely on the skin, these are super, super soft.

AIRKNITx Boxer Brief

As the name implies, Mack Weldon’s AIRKNITx Boxer Briefs let air in to keep you cool and dry and air circulated, lessening the likelihood of lingering odors.

Here’s the lightning-fast lowdown on utility pants: there are carpenter pants, painter pants, double-knee pants and fatigues, and although the differences between them may seem subtle, these trouser styles actually vary quite a bit. What each one says about your personal style can, too: The first two are synonymous with workwear; the third maybe too much so; and the last is unmistakably military issue

.Carpenter pants come with at least one side loop and several flush side pockets for tools; painter pants are typically the same, except for their color (they’re white so they can be bleached clean); double-knee pants, as one might guess, are reinforced at the knees (and several other spots); fatigues take cues from military issue trousers and are typically olive green with two large front patch pockets and two rear patch pockets with button flaps.

Why wear any of these over, say, a pair of jeans? Well, it’s about the optics. They add interest to otherwise flat outfits and signal (at least some) fashion sensibility. Plus, who’s ever complained about having more pockets?

MORE ABOUT CARHARTT

Double Knee Painter’s Pant

Drake once said he was physically incapable of taking a knee, because he was wearing all white. But he totally could’ve if he was wearing Dickies’ double-knees. They’re stylish in a workwear kind of way and come clean with simple bleach. 

Duck Work Trousers

You know Carhartt and Carhartt WIP, the fashion wing of the workwear brand, but there are a million brands reimagining work styles for the modern wearer. See: JieDa’s Duck Work Trousers, a classic-looking brown work pant with designer-made paint splatters. No, the $405 dollar price tag isn’t for the speckles, but rather the hefty duck construction. Don’t be fooled. 

US Army Fatigue Pant

No, these aren’t official standard issue fatigues from decades ago. They’re made by Japanese repro brand Orslow to the near exact specifications of vintage pairs.

If nothing else, this past year proved sweatpants’ staying power. But a year spent in sweatpants ordered from Amazon would make anyone yearn for pants a little more plush, so go ahead — treat yourself to an expensive pair. How about cashmere lounge pants that were hand-knit in Italy? Like the good butter or the nice bread you splurged on at the grocery store, this is luxury you keep at home.

MORE SWEATPANTS FOR MEN

Heavy Gauge Cashmere Lounge Pant

If you’re into luxury, you shouldn’t exclude it from your own home. So what if no one will see you in your $946 sweatpants? Surely they’re softer than the rest of the pairs piled up on the floor of your closet. And comfort is priceless. 

Vintage Sweatpant

When’s the last time you splurged on something exclusively for you? Sure, someone could swipe them from your drawer, but these sweatpants are yours, damn it!  

Frack Face Sweatpants

It’s hard to call $270 dollar sweatpants the affordable alternative. But, here they are, the affordable alternative: $270 Frack Face Sweatpants from Acne Studios. 

The right mesh shorts mix streetwear and sportswear, modern and vintage, fatherhood and first-grade gym class. With the right top — say a T-shirt from your favorite streetwear brand — they’re elevated from bottoms you’d bring to a game of pickup basketball to something you wouldn’t mind having on if you bump into your partner’s parents. Finding the right pair, however, hinges on a particular formula: not baggy but definitely not skinny, no garish logos across the crotch and an inseam shorter than seven inches

MORE MESH SHORTS

Van Cortlandt Shorts

These are short — ’70s-era “going on a run” short. As practical as they are for cross-country courses, they work well under the sweltering heat of summer. 

Mesh Shorts

Rowing Blazers’ Mesh Shorts sit above the knee but don’t ride up into the inner thigh when you sit down. There’s plenty of coverage, but they still make a statement.

Old School Mesh Shorts

Take the look to an extreme level. Relax’s lacrosse shorts became so popular that American Trench commissioned a few custom colors, and dubbed the assortment the Old School Mesh Shorts. 

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