Full Rise/Tapered Leg Grey Flannels, Tailored In-House By Brooks Brothers At Unbeatable Price

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Ever the imperious editor of my wardrobe, last year I decided to purge a couple of real gems. I had two pairs of grey flannels — one charcoal, one mid-grey — made in Italy for Ralph Lauren. These are the trousers that sell for $350 or more, which I happened to score new with tags on eBay at a great price. As with all RL tailored clothing, the color and fabric quality were exceptional, and they were made from old-school heavy flannel that draped beautifully. They’d been my winter go-to for several years, but suddenly I decided they were flawed. What was the issue? The rise was only 10 inches, and tailoring, like football, is a game of inches.

This was around the time I was developing our ill-fated high-rise/tapered leg project with Bills Khakis, and I’d come to realize that trouser rise was now one of my dealbreakers. Now everyone has his own priorities, and few would be willing to dump such fine pants on eBay for $50, but that’s how I am. The difference between a 10-inch rise and the 11.5 on my pants from O’Connell’s is tremendous. Not only in how they look, but far more important in how they feel. That extra inch or more allows trousers to rest comfortably on your natural waist, above your hip bone, where they’re supposed to be since masculine style was codified during the Golden Age of Menswear of the 1930s.

Spring came, wiping away the need for flannel, and I forgot about this vital hole in my wardrobe until last month, when I realized I needed to find a replacement. I decided to do what I’ve done with other trousers: buy the full-cut, traditional model and then have them tapered, despite the huge added cost. Then I realized I had some rewards points from Brooks Brothers that would make their flannels, with a regular price of $250, more affordable, especially with the added cost of having them tapered at New York prices.

I’d had a pair of Brooks’ flannels before, and purged them when I got the RL pants. Made in the Far East, the pants had a papery waistband that was annoying — minor league compared to the albeit more expensive RL ones. And of course, as with virtually all of Brooks’ tailored clothing, the buttons are so poor you have to replace those, too.

The latest flannel trouser from Brooks — which is priced at $248 and offered in several fits — is made in Thailand of fabric by Vitale Barberis Canonico, a fine mill, even if it’s not located in the United Kingdom. The quality of the waistband seems better, and the lighter-weight fabric, though lacking the charming heft of a heavy flannel, allows the pant to be worn for a longer portion of the year, a nice bonus for lovers of the flannels-and-sportcoat combination.

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But here’s what really sold me. When I asked my Brooks salesman about tailoring, he quoted me a price that left me incredulous. If I remember correctly, the hemming with cuffs was considered free and the tapering was some trifling pittance like $35. With the rewards points from my Brooks Card, I was able to get the pants tailored the way I wanted them and pay no more than full price, or $250ish out the door.

These trousers are in the Madison cut, which feature an 11-inch rise. For the tapering, I decided to experiment and take the leg opening down from my usual 8 inches to 7.5, with 1.75-inch cuffs. As the thigh was too baggy, I naturally requested that the trouser be tapered gradually from the top, not just pegged from the knee down. This is an important part of the instructions if you’re going to have this alteration done.

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Now for a little meander down a side street. When you first move to New York, you’re terrified by all the stories about how expensive everything is. You’re constantly on guard of being shocked every time you walk into an establishment. Eventually I found that it wasn’t as bad as I feared (while the humid summers were far worse), and there are many bargains to be had with household supplies and food. But the first case of real Manhattan sticker shock came when I took in something to be altered. Sure it’s cheap if you use a dry cleaner in Queens, but if you want a real Manhattan menswear expert who’s going to understand how you want something to fit and actually deliver, you’re looking at jobs that quickly total hundreds of dollars. My tailor would have charged me $150 or even more to taper, hem and cuff these trousers.

So consider this an important FYI for those unaware: Brooks Brothers charges a very modest fee for alterations and, for me, did a fantastic job.

If you want that Ivy heyday look of a straight-cut undarted jacket with tapered trousers — a combo, by the way, that looked great on every young and fit guy from the heyday and deserves a return — this is what you want to start doing with your pants. That is, until manufacturers catch up to us and start making this cut off-the-rack.— CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

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Shoes by Crockett & Jones; socks by Brooks Brothers, belt by Country Club Prep. Photos by Yoshio Itagaki.

18 Comments on "Full Rise/Tapered Leg Grey Flannels, Tailored In-House By Brooks Brothers At Unbeatable Price"

  1. The Man Who Was Thursday | November 21, 2016 at 11:50 am |

    Fantastic. I actually had a pair of J Press flannels similarly taken in(all the way up), to good effect– but what you’ve had done is more the result that I desired.
    There’s a BB here in Boston, so next time I need some flannels I’ll be heading for the Madison-fit table.

  2. I am the proud owner of several pair of Brooks flannels and would add the following (of course now I’m wondering about the buttons). First, as with most seasonal clothing at year’s end they are the first to be discounted. Last December I bought some for as low as 60% off I recall. Secondly, for you fellows trim enough below the waist the Milano fit is unexpectedly comfortable. I had assumed they would be too tight but then I tried some of their cords-again at deep discount-and preferred the fit

  3. The trousers look fantastic. I agree about the high-rise. They’re the only kind of pants that I want to wear anymore, both because they look better, but are also so much for comfortable. The added bonus is that they stay up and don’t really need adjusted throughout a whole day’s worth of wear.

  4. Perfect break CC…and a great tip.

  5. It’s my impression that Brooks has always charged reasonable alteration fees for their off-the-rack items. I can think of several suits and trousers that I’ve bought from Brooks over the years that they altered at the time of purchase. I’ve not needed extensive altering, but the charges have always seemed reasonable.

    Regarding cuff size: I’ve always felt 1.75 inches to be a tad too big. My preference is 1.5 inches. When I saw the top photo, my immediate reaction was, “cuffs too large.” Am I being too much of a fussbudget in this or do others go for the smaller cuff?

  6. Charlottesville | November 21, 2016 at 2:30 pm |

    Eddie — FWIW, I generally go with 1 5/8″ cuffs, based on what my Brooks salesman suggested to me circa 1985 or so. It just looks right to me, although I doubt anyone else would notice the difference between 1.5 and 1 5/8. The salesman I used to go to at Press on 44th St. advised 1.75″, which he called “John Wayne cuffs” but that seemed a bit too much for me, at 5′ 10″. However, since Christian is tall and athletic, I think the larger cuffs work fine.

  7. I think height is most important when determining cuff size. I’m 5’6″, and if I got 1.75″ cuffs, that would be ridiculous. I prefer cuffs of 1.25″. (I learned once “American” cuffs are 1.25, and “British” are 1.5. Anyone else familiar with this rule of thumb?)

    I also am thankful for shorter rise trousers for the same reason. 10″ rise are great on me. 11.5″ and I look like a retiree from Del Boca Vista.

  8. Henry Contestwinner | November 21, 2016 at 3:29 pm |

    ADG, who is not particularly tall (5′ 8″?), goes for 2″ cuffs. At 5′ 7″, I find 1 7/8″ to be the perfect width for both cuffs and bow ties (the Cordial Churchman will make your bow ties any width or shape you ask for, at no additional cost).

    Gustibus non disputandum est, and all that.

  9. Vern Trotter | November 21, 2016 at 6:21 pm |

    I believe the cuffs look better at 1.75 regardless of your height. I don’t see why height makes any difference.

    Back in the 1950s, in the St. Louis area, we pegged our leg openings down to four inches and wore them with a little break. Paired with brown Threadneedle Street shoes with wide soles, sold by Boyds, they would spit shine so you could see your image. Everything else was Heyday Ivy, including Weejins and white bucks, which you would alternate with Threads, so the girls didn’t think you could only afford one pair of shoes. The Weejins were brown but had to be shined with black polish and the Bucks as dirty as possible. Threadneedle Streets and Boyds are long gone, I believe.

    Golden days!

    You can still find them sometimes at the Scholar Shop, a thrift store in Clayton. My friend, a lawyer in St. Louis, has around 150 vintage OCBD shirts from Brooks he purchased there.

  10. Thanks, Charlottesville. I’m 5’10’ as well (on good days) and your explanation of height and cuff size makes sense. Taller gents would look better with larger cuffs.

    I also have several pairs of RL trousers bought in the early 1990s, including one lovely pair of heavy, lined tweed. I haven’t been wearing them lately because they are pleated in the front, though they have wonderful wool material and are made well. Can a tailor turn a pair of pleated pants into a pair of plain fronts, or is that too much to ask? I would love to be able to salvage these pants and wear them again.

  11. Agree totally re higher rise being more desirable and comfortable, but disagree regarding leg opening. During the Ivy heyday when I was in college only high school kids wore less than 8.5 or 9 inch bottoms. 7.5 inches is too small and usually makes the knee wrinkle, throws the crease out of line, and causes the legs to lose all semblance of drape. And if you wear fairly large shoes, accentuates their size. Leg openings were admittedly too large during the 80’s and 90’s, but now the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.

  12. I think I misspoke when I wrote 7.5. They’re actually 15.5 total, so 7.75. A game of inches, to be sure.

    Worn them a couple times and so far no one’s said “nice peg-legs.” We’ll see.

  13. Jock Hamilton | November 21, 2016 at 11:44 pm |

    You know Berle flat front flannels basically come that way and cost a hundred dollars less, right?

  14. You are too young to remember, but in the 60’s “pegged” pants were popular. Tapered to about 16 – 17 inches at the bottom. For us full figured guys, they were uncomfortable to sit in. As probably for most guys. Then things got out of hand with “flares” and “bell bottoms.” I started selling clothing in in the late 70’s and styles started to change with the influence of Ralph Lauren. His forward pleated trousers were about 19 to19 1/2 at the bottom. Straight down from your cheek line. Draped beautifully. Still preppy. Alan Flusser wrote in his book for a proper look that the trouser line should be a straight line from the end of a jacket. DRAPE. I’ve seen no pleats, forward pleats, reverse pleats, three-pleats. Now maybe you have no ass , no thighs and thin legs being a 42 long, but the bottom measurement I take to be too narrow. It is great though that you purchased Madison, the fuller pant and had them tailored to your specification without the bitching that most guys go through. Cuff at 1.75 is perfect for most guys from 5’7″ and taller. Cuff at 1.5 for less tall individuals.

  15. Eddie
    A good tailor can do anything, but the cost could be prohibited. I once had a Tailor turn a size 8 women’s Lauren blue oxford cloth two piece suit into a size 4.

  16. Jim
    I like the old RL trousers, full and tapered from ass to knee, then stove piped to the cuff. It’s really just a matter of personal style, but since the late 50s 1.5 inches is my limit.

  17. Nice look! I’m about to have my tailor do the same thing to a pair of vintage Norman Hilton hopsack trousers I got for a song. Now I’ll be curious to see how his fee compares to Brooks.

  18. Would this kind of alteration look good/trad on non-flannel wool dress trousers? Also, what about with no cuff? Would love to hear what you guys think!

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