The Great Flood

Fashion always reaches the extreme before it swings back the other direction.

At some point in the ’60s some guys exaggerated the “I’ve had these since puberty” look by wearing their trousers with ultra-highwater hems.

In the movie “The Outsiders,” the denim-clad greasers mock the khaki-clad socs (pronounced “soshes,” for social) for looking like they’re expecting a flood.

And in “Making The Grade,” the advice is given that pants should look like you outgrew them last year. Actor Judd Nelson is then seen with his khakis rolled halfway up his shins.

Of course, the opposite extreme — with trouser hems dragging on the ground — looks equally as bad.

As in most things in life, pursue the middle way. — CC

17 Comments on "The Great Flood"

  1. Charlottesville | June 27, 2019 at 11:21 am |

    I have a pair of very nice khakis that I unfortunately had cuffed before washing and drying. After a while, they looked almost as short as those shown above. I undid the cuffs, and they are now of proper length, but I can’t get comfortable wearing them except for yard work. Silly, I know, but my father was a cuff-wearer even when mowing the lawn, so I am at least a bit less obsessive that he was.

  2. hardbopper | June 27, 2019 at 1:32 pm |

    I have two pair of very nice khakis, one heavy, one light. The light ones I’ll have dry cleaned. the heavy ones are washable, so I washed them in hot water prior to hem/cuff. But here’s the problem. Both pair are too baggy in the thigh. Can a good alterations “tailor” fix that?

  3. Minimalist Trad | June 27, 2019 at 3:01 pm |

    Those khakis aren’t too baggy in the thigh; that’s
    called a gentleman’s cut. A suggestion: alter your style, not the trousers.

  4. Charlottesville | June 27, 2019 at 3:47 pm |

    hardbopper and Minimalist Trad – Pants tend to be worn too snug these days, so I get what Mr. Trad is saying. I don’t want the low-waisted, ankle-baring, skinny pants that we see so much of currently. However, for me at least, some khakis, like the original version Bill’s Khakis, are just too full in the legs, and too wide at the bottom. I have had very good luck with having my tailor take in the seat a bit and taper the leg from the upper thigh down to the cuff. The leg taper by itself runs me $20, and I think in Washington was about $35. Worth it to me.

  5. “What goes around comes around.” Yet again.

    You won’t find it on the PoloRL website now, but, just a few years ago, there was, under a section having to do with styling options, a certain something called the “Ralph Roll.” What is the “Ralph Roll”? Well, the “Ralph” in question was/is none other than the label’s founder (Ralph Lauren). The “roll” in question had to do with pants–more particularly, chinos. (Best I recall, the superb Philip Pant was still a mainstay of the PoloRL inventory). The working idea was/is as follows: Find a pair of full-legged, unhemmed chinos and “roll” the bottoms–so as to create a nonchalant version of a cuff. If memory serves, two or three “rolls” should do it (hence the importance of unhemmed bottoms–for the sake of plenty of fabric). Plenty of ankle revealed–as much as the wearer prefers. I remember the featured picture of said “roll”–a wide-legged, “Ralph Rolled” Philip pant matched with faded PoloRL canvas sneakers.

    I confess: I liked it.

  6. MacMcConnell | June 27, 2019 at 7:27 pm |

    I do the Ralph roll when walking on the beach.

    Back to the image above, put oatmeal Adler socks, suede chukka boots on those guys and you’ve got Topeka, Kansas townies from 1970.

  7. Proper trouser length may be the area I’m most sensitive to on myself these days. Just one quarter inch too high and the whole look can suddenly look twee and contrived.

    That being said, flood pants are preferable to the cloth puddles found at the ankles of many middle-aged business men.

  8. Vern Trotter | June 27, 2019 at 8:09 pm |

    Anyone from around Boston recalls Yankee high water pants. Cuffs, I mean. I wonder if they are still worn there and are they now skinny pants or just what do they look like?

  9. Hardbopper | June 27, 2019 at 10:23 pm |

    Charlottesville and Minimalist Trad,
    Thanks for your replies. No way am I looking for a Thom Browne taper, nor the T.D. Jakes cut. Like CC said, “the middle way”. I remember a time when conventional was available off the rack.

  10. Hardbopper | June 27, 2019 at 10:31 pm |

    “Cloth puddles”. Perfect! Again, off the rack was once an unfinished hem. Now, everything is factory finished in 2 inch increments.

  11. Moderate Man | June 28, 2019 at 12:59 am |

    “Pursue the middle way”.

  12. Old School Tie | June 28, 2019 at 6:25 am |

    Unless they come cuffed, I just roll up chinos. As for the question of cut I either go for pleats or flat front relaxed (gentleman’s cut?) fit, but always tapered. Always. And always well worn in.

  13. I’ve no idea the dates of the above picture, but one of the impressions is the adherence to a certain vibe that goes beyond the clothes–they’re clean-cut. As contrasted with, say, “greasers.” And, later, the “long hairs” and the “beatniks” and “hippies.”

    Years ago I met (and to to know) an older gentleman who owned a great men’s store throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s. He observed that, by 1973/74, the population of committed customers had been reduced to half of what it was during (what we here refer to as) the Heyday–late 50s and early 60s. He observed that the line of demarcation was grooming–more to the point: hair.

    “If, in the 70s, the fellow had shorter hair, especially a crew cut, we knew he’d buy our clothes.” If not–if his hair was long and sideburns were thick, the chances of a sale “were basically zero.”

    One way to understand Fogeyish Trad from an historical/cultural perspective: the men who, as the late 60s surrendered (succumbed) to the 70s, maintained tastes and preferences that were (still are) more conservative. Conservative here synonymous with a generally Heydayish look. It’s funny–perusing the circa early 70s yearbooks. The crew-cutted preppies are like small islands in a sea of “long hairs.”

    Consider what they were up against. This is what Southern gentleman at one of America’s most conservative colleges looked like in the early 70s:

  14. whiskeydent | June 28, 2019 at 10:27 am |


    Bloom County cartoonist Berke Breathed was a University of Texas student in the mid-70’s. If you’re familiar with the strip, frat rats like me looked pretty much like his character Steve Dallas during that era at UT. Our hair was shorter than in ’74 but not as short as it would later become.

    A friend of mine knew Breathed and looked an awful lot like Dallas, complete with the stubble, Raybans and wrinkled, untucked button-down.

    Preppy with a bit of rebellion was the thing. Uptight was still uncool.

    By the decade’s end, the hair lengths had become much shorter. Ebb and flow.

  15. Vern Trotter | June 28, 2019 at 10:51 am |

    High water pants also came about because Yankee prep types often wore their father’s suits and the trousers were just too short.

  16. Norm Crosby | June 29, 2019 at 7:07 pm |

    ‘Tis better to suffer the occasional flood than to live life in a constant puddle.” Quote from the great Billax, and like most of what he says re. clothing, one that I agree with.

    Th Concord Diaspora

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