Buckle Up: An Open Letter to American Retailers

Dear Maker of Khakis:

It has come to my attention that a number of designers, executives and creative directors in the apparel industry read this blog. Therefore I’d like to address you directly with an idea for how to get a quick sales spike this fall with an otherwise quotidian commodity item like khakis.

Put a buckle in the back.

Sometime around 1956, khakis with a buckle in the back became a huge trend among the young and collegiate. A useless and trifling furbelow, the buckled khaki hit the market like a starting pistol launching young men in a race to be the first on their block with a pair.

Buckled chinos (or Heiney Binders, or whatever you decide to call them) have come up in my interview with Bruce Boyer, and most recently in the J. Press interview and “Tea and Sympathy” posts below. An old discussion of back buckles was also recently resuscitated on Andy’s Trad Forum.

Designers, manufacturers, retailers: The American man has spoken, and he wants to see the return of khakis with a buckle in the back. Will he pay $10 more for it? Of course he will: Fashion demands it, and fashion is a tyrant.

You don’t even need to alter the pattern of the ones you’re already making. Simply have your patternmaker create the specs for the buckle and tab and e-mail it to your factory. Approve the sample ASAP (no need for a hard sample for such a small addition; just approve the 3-D virtual sample), and you can have buckled chinos in stores this fall accompanied by marketing fanfare.

Do it today. It’ll be good for America.


Christian Chensvold

PS: And now an open post-script to readers: Use the leave-comment feature to put the following companies in the order in which you think they will bring out khakis with a buckle in the back. You can put them in three categories: Yes, before Christmas; Yes, but next spring, or No, will not introduce them before next spring. If you’re right, I’ll personally make sure you get a pair.

a) Brooks Brothers

b) Ralph Lauren

c) LL Bean

d) J. Crew

e) The Gap

f) Lands’ End

g) Dockers

h) Abercrombie & Fitch

i) Orvis

j) Old Navy

k) Uniqlo

l) Target

33 Comments on "Buckle Up: An Open Letter to American Retailers"

  1. T Cameron | July 22, 2009 at 2:38 pm |

    Ralph Lauren
    J. Crew
    Brooks Brothers

    Designers have been doing this with denim for some time now, khaki’s should hop on board too.
    J. Peterman occasionally puts buckles on the back too – I know the Walt Whitman pants have the buckle – once mainstream brands hop on board it might make it seem less like a costume piece and more like a reintroduction of tradition.

  2. The clothiers had better do some market research before stocking such inventory. I’m afraid this will fall flat. Most of the time you have a keen sense of exactly what to do, Mr. Chensvold, but I must disagree about the buckled backs.

  3. I think they’ll jump on for board for spring. I think the manuf have laid off to many folks to gear up sooner. First to see in the stores I think are:
    J Crew
    Old Navy
    Brooks Brothers

  4. We’ve run them before and Polo runs them fairly often.

  5. Christian | July 22, 2009 at 5:23 pm |

    I see RL has these with side buckles:


    I used to have some trousers with side tabs in lieu of belt loops.

    These are largely novelty items, though. What I think we’re due for is a single center buckle and tab as a major trend item.

  6. Ralph already has khakis with a buckle back through his line, RRL, which has lots of authentic reproductions of western and workwear products. Unfortunately RRL has no web presence so I can’t guide you to a picture.

  7. Old School | July 22, 2009 at 7:46 pm |

    Can we also lobby for the revival of the locker-loop, where the back pleat of the shirt meets the yoke, as well as the revival of the button on the back of the button-down collar, just above the loop?

  8. ThurstonWildenstein | July 22, 2009 at 8:30 pm |

    Ralph Lauren has been doing buckles here and there forever, which makes sense given their costumey nature. I cannot believe I am interested in this crap. I am such a loser. There is essentially zero value in dressing like spaceman from another era. What is the value? The psychological implications of traddy dressing are worthy of a multi volume set from Mental Health Series. Ass buckles just make one look more gay than one already is. If that’s cool then lets do it!

  9. Old School | July 22, 2009 at 9:03 pm |

    “There are continuities in classical music that we value and respect, and which make it relatively immune to short-termism. In that sense classical music remains deeply unfashionable. That’s why it has lasted.”

    Andrew Clark
    Financial Times’ chief classical music critic

  10. What? No Bill’s? I don’t have time to get as specific as you’ve requested, however the 4, yes 4 not 3, I could actually see introducing something such as this in a timely manner:

    1. J Crew
    2. Uniqlo
    3. Brooks Brothers
    4. RL

    That was in no particular order. Good suggestion. Uniqlo takes lots of risks, like bringing Loden Dager on, ect… I’ve been collecting clothing for years, figuring different components of trad dressing would pop back into fashion, Palm Beach look for a few years, now sort of 60’s “Ivy” take and so on. Whenever I think, for example, “Hmmm…I should pull out that barracuda jacket”, there is J Crew wheeling and dealing in them. So, I can imagine if you post this, they’ll have it out by, perhaps next fall (2010), maybe spring, that might be pushing it.

  11. Engineered Garments makes khakis with a buckle in the back.

  12. Zara already sold them this spring.

  13. It’s surprising to me that Bill’s Khakis don;t offer a model with a buckle back!

    Levi’s Vintage offered a Big E khaki with a buckle back a couple of years ago – For any English readers, I believe American Classics on Endell Street still have a couple of pairs…

  14. the passenger | July 23, 2009 at 11:23 am |

    Voice of dissent… I pay a lot of attention to men’s fashion, I think I dress in a pretty traditional style, and I put far more thought and effort into what I choose to wear than a typical guy, but I have no interest in khakis with a buckle back. It looks too fussy while not serving any real purpose. I am, however, totally down with locker loops and back collar buttons on shirts, because those had/have a theoretical purpose, even if they aren’t used for it.

  15. Christian | July 23, 2009 at 7:19 pm |

    That’s why I called it a furbelow.

  16. Bruce Boyer | July 24, 2009 at 7:39 am |

    The belt-in-the-back idea was tremendously popular in the 1950s — it had originally been used by British tailors as a way for a man to tighten his high-waisted fishback trousers, this before they turned to side buckle-and-strap. I think it’s a wonderful idea and would help the clothing industry in these hard economic times. I’ll pass this idea along to my friend Bill Thomas at Bill’s Khakis. And of course credit the source.

  17. Yes BC:
    LL Bean
    J. Crew

    Yes NS

  18. Thom Browne suit trousers feature the buckle back. I could see J Crew doing this (they did a fairly good reproduction of a WWII chino called the “officer’s chino”, so they’re not shy of replicating older styles). RRL (RL’s most vintage inspired line) could do this in a heartbeat, and maybe Rugby too, if there wouldn’t be too much concern about college kids being turned off by the buckle.

    AF, LL Bean, Uniqlo and Bills I don’t see much hope.

  19. Christian | July 24, 2009 at 8:53 pm |

    I couldn’t have said it better myself (insert winking smiley).

  20. An outside bet, and way off reservation, but I’ll say Baracuta. They had some as recent as last season.

  21. Ralph Lauren
    J. Crew

  22. I don’t think I’m a very big fan or the back buckle. Owned a pair of denim with it on it and it really served no purpose. Very costumey indeed.

  23. I am 100% in favor of the buckle. Love it! just DON’T do it in that silly, super skinny size only 12 yo girls can/should wear.

  24. At Georgetown in 1953, khaki colored cotton “wash pants” were not allowed in class, chapel, dining room, etc. Steve Barrabas, owner of the Georgetown Shop, brought in Black, cotton “wash pants”, with a buckle in the back. As far as the University was concerned, they were Kosher…thus he couldn’t keep them on the shelves. The trend lasted approximately three years. The trousers were plain front and cuffed

  25. love them my wife likes them grabs my ass a lot

  26. Hah! Who says they’re useless?

  27. they should be called butt grabbers

  28. I have an origanal pair of these pants from Levi’s. Black, cuffed with buckle in back. They were my brothers, who was killed in a car wreck in 1958. Where can I sell them?

  29. Dockers has made them in their K1 model and it is currently available outside the US. They will be remaking them again available soon in the US of A!!

  30. Russ…u can goes to oldestlevis.com and write to the owner of the site regarding your pants. He could help u for sure!

  31. I dont happen to like the look. I dont like clothes that look like your trying to compensate for something not fitting. The classic result you are trying to achieve is that it was tailored to you for you. That is what the rich and famous do and we buy off the shelf trying to imitate that look as best and cheap as we can

  32. Richard King | June 16, 2013 at 4:36 pm |

    (F) Land’s End. I would love to see them come around again. Rember wearing them in Jr., High School & college. 1957 – 1965. Buckel had no purpose, but if you didn’t have a pair w/madras plaid button down shirt, you weren’t stylen.

  33. Barry Sayer | October 7, 2013 at 8:12 pm |

    At the age of 70, I would enjoy going back in time. Eating cheeseburgers,drinking fountain made cherry coke and of course wearing chino pants with the buckle in the back.
    I have a appointment with a custom tailor to see about making the pant for me.

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