New Authenticity – PennBilt From Bill of Bills Khakis

From William Thomas: “To add context to PennBilt, Bills Khakis was based on the replication of an original WWII khaki, therefore “authenticity” was the origin point for BK. PennBilt draws from that heritage and evolves that sensibility where design and customer preferences live today.  This is why I describe PennBilt as the ‘New Authentic.’ If BK was a Willy’s Jeep, PennBilt is a new Ford Bronco. Fit, fabric, design details have all been reconsidered. PB is a faithful evolution of the original.”

From John Burton: “Holy S these khakis are perfect.”

Here’s the thing: Ivy struggles constantly with the idea of evolution. But you know what happens to species that do not evolve, right? I have bumped foreheads on many occasions, both here and in the FB group, with people who don’t think anything produced after 1958 can be Ivy. They are wrong.

But. Based on the various iterations of Ivy evolution, I see where they are coming from. Outside of J. Press and Andover, most enterprises that take a shot at moving the Ivy ball down the field fail because they don’t have the DNA from which to evolve in the first place. You have to have been something to be the next stage of something.

This is the Authentic. I have these. And they are amongst the best khakis I have ever worn. You can learn more about them here.

PennBilt is the latest move from William Thomas, founder of Bill’s Khakis and one hardcore khaki manufacturer. He got PennBilt right. He knows which boxes to check. Domestic manufacturing as a priority. Natural fabrics. Don’t mess with the rise. And so forth.

Perhaps no one is better suited to take the next CORRECT step with khakis than Bill. So he did. For example, with The American line…

He modifed the slightly tapered leg bottom so they look right with a variety of footwear. And added just 3% stretch twill so you get comfort, mobility, but you can breathe. Check them out here.

And for the Plainsman line…

The Plainsman is the sweet spot between 5 pocket chinos and traditional khakis. There is 4% stretch which is enough to add function and so little you can’t see or feel it. Check them out here.

You can read more about the philosophy and aesthetic of the company and founder here.

That’s Bill in Pennbilt.

They offer some accessories that are also pretty great. I have the ballcap, and I don’t wear a lot of ballcaps, but I DO wear this one.

There is just enough forward motion here for you to buy a pair. You could only get this type of legitimate innovation of the khaki from someone (Bill) who has mastered the original.

In fact, the company is so cool that my daughter hung their license plate on her wall. Without prompting. You need to buy a pair of pants from a guy who can make that happen.

The Package’s wall. I call her The Package… well, I will tell you the story. Go check out PennBilt.

29 Comments on "New Authenticity – PennBilt From Bill of Bills Khakis"

  1. Cool license plate. I’d have stuck that on my wall as a teenager, too. (My room rivaled many a chain restaurant for sheer volume of random stuff mounted to the walls.)
    The Authentic and the Plainsman look great, but the American model offered on the site looks more my speed: For those readers who, like me, are usually averse to the stretch twill trend, and the American is 100% cotton twill.
    The only thing I can’t get a good sense of from the site is the front rise on any of the models. It would be nice if William Thomas provided just a little more measurement info in the size guide.

  2. the passenger | May 5, 2023 at 4:38 pm |

    I’m not afraid to say it: a 10″ rise on size 36 pants (according to the fit guide page on the PennBilt website for the Authentic) is hardly traditional. For a product like this I would expect closer to a 12″ rise. I recently bought J. Crew’s “classic relaxed” khakis, and the rise on my size 36 pair is 12″. The knee and leg opening measurements suggest that the overall fit on these would not be traditional, either.

    I prefer to support companies that manufacture in the US when I can, but I’m not going to spend $200 on pants just because they are made in the US, and then end up not wearing them because they aren’t cut how I like my khakis to fit.

    If Mr. Thomas is willing to offer a product with a higher rise and fuller legs (which he could legitimately call “the Traditional”), then I’ll be interested.

    • John Burton | May 5, 2023 at 5:36 pm |

      I refer you to J Press. Trad, yes? The rise on their pants is 10 1/8 typically.

      • I guess there was more fit information on the PennBilt site than I initially found. And maybe I’m measuring or understanding trouser rise differently, but my J. Press and Donnelly chinos definitely have a rise closer to 12″, and even my 501s have a rise longer than just 10 1/8″. Is it measured from the crotch seam to the top of the front waistband?
        I’m only jumping in on this one because the rise is definitely one of the more important measurements for me when I’m looking at pants. I’m not in my 20s anymore (and neither is my physique) so the more trendy low-ish rise pants of the past 15 or so years just don’t do me any favors anymore. Plus, they look weird with sport coats.

  3. I’m a Jack Donnelly fan myself but always nice to hear about this space in the market being filled.

    • John Burton | May 5, 2023 at 7:51 pm |

      Like Jack too – hard to get a hold of.

      • Surprised to hear that, I had a question about sizing awhile back and I received a personal message from him in reply.

    • NaturalShoulder | May 5, 2023 at 9:33 pm |

      I am a fan of JD as well. I ordered a pair of the poplin khakis in the M1 fit and am quite pleased with fit and quality. Between Jack Donnelly and O’Connell’s, I think I am set with khakis for foreseeable future.

  4. Dan Leighton | May 6, 2023 at 1:45 am |

    Words like “new” and “evolution” tell us to look elsewhere for the real thing.

  5. Mitchell | May 6, 2023 at 7:41 am |

    Authentic means truthful, as in reality, not hype. Let’s talk truth for a minute…

    PennBilt’s website says “Our staple American-Made Khakis are The Authentic, made from 100% cotton, military grade twill.”

    It’s disingenuous to say that the khakis are “staple American-made” when the fabric is 100% staple-grown Peruvian Pima cotton.

    My second bone of contention is the use of the phrase “military-grade twill”.
    I’m no military historian, but most military-issued attire is a 50/50 cotton/poly blend. Also, I don’t believe twill weave khakis have been issued for decades.

    • Oh boy…please note I have not tried their khakis (and likely won’t because stretch isn’t usually for me), but how many hairs must one split?

      The website says they “remain committed to American manufacturing as a first alternative”. The website also discloses where each product is cut and sewn. Try finding that info on other websites (like Duck Head, for example).

      Would I prefer a US-made cotton and US manufacturing? Sure, I suppose. Seems a bit much to imply a company isn’t truthful about their product because they don’t meet whatever standard you feel like applying.

  6. Greg Carrara | May 6, 2023 at 8:22 am |

    Thank you, John for posting this. I am going to give them a try. I scratch my head about people applying rules or mandates about certain fits, rises, widths, etc. We are all different and built differently. I have shoulders that are a bit on the broader side, I do work them hard in my training especially since I had surgeries (extensive) on both, and at 58 still need them strong for my outdoor obstacle course races…and the vast majority of natural shoulder jackets look bad on me…I am still searching for the right one…and the full cut oxfords/dress shirts make me look huge (not in a good way) and billow out so far it just looks terrible…but, on other people, it looks great. I believe, perhaps wrongly according to some, that the colors/patterns/and spirit of the clothes are more important than implementing a rule…I would rather look decently put together than badly because I followed a made up rule. I don’t like slim fitting clothes on anyone, but, a more moderate fit which can remain comfortable but be flattering to body type and build is ideal in my eyes, at least for me, regardless of the mandates about fit, etc.

    • Great point. If the clothes fit and look good, I applaud the wearer for their style. I care about trouser rises because I know what looks good on me (or so I like to think), but I wouldn’t quibble with anyone else’s personal preference in this regard. And while I really like my natural shoulder jackets, I also like the ones with more padded and extended shoulders. And I can’t stand it when a shirt’s shoulder seams lie atop my shoulders rather than slightly dropped down. These are just my own fussy preferences, nothing I’d judge another for not adhering to.
      Thanks for stating your piece about it. It’s always funny to see how worked up people can get if something doesn’t strictly follow some Ivy “rule” or other.

  7. whiskeydent | May 6, 2023 at 8:42 am |

    Didn’t Bill Thomas do the Duck Head revival too?

    • Which one? I kid, I kid.

      Yes, for a couple of years. Don’t know who is running that ship now.

  8. Delbert Calvert Hiestand | May 6, 2023 at 5:43 pm |

    How do I subscribe to this blog??

  9. MacMcConnell | May 6, 2023 at 6:59 pm |

    A size 32 waist Levi 501 original fit jean has a 11 1/2 inch rise.

  10. Michael Brady | May 8, 2023 at 11:27 am |

    Lost me at the quarter-top pockets. Sort of like vintage Dockers.

  11. John Byrne | May 8, 2023 at 8:03 pm |

    I like the look of these but $200 for a pair of khakis seems excessive. Even in this age of runaway inflation, you should be able to get a decent pair of khakis for under $100.

    • “you should be able to get a decent pair of khakis for under $100”

      Based upon what? Certainly not a feel for the costs of quality raw materials, labor, marketing, and shipping/ production costs.

  12. Michael Powell | May 8, 2023 at 8:23 pm |

    It doesn’t really matter how “authentic” Pennbilts are, if you can’t wear them. The PBs don’t come in my size. The current Bill’s don’t come in my size. The Duck Heads don’t come in my size. I’m lucky to have several pairs of the original Bill’s I can wear. And while we’re on it, Brooks new shirt sizes don’t fit me either; but I did stock up on Trad fit OCBDs.

  13. IM(humble)O – $200 for pants to wear when you sit in a field and lean against a fence is not a prudent use of money. If they last you a lifetime and you never needed to buy another pair for sitting in a field and leaning against a fence, they’re still $150 too much…for pants to wear while your sitting in a field, leaning against a fence.

    • @chris, totally entitled to your opinion. I disagree, but think there’s a blog you may enjoy in addition to this one. Not currently updated, but a ton of excellent content. Joe Ferrara’s An Affordable Wardrobe:

      Think Joe (Guiseppe Timore) has moved on stylistically, but the blog skews Ivy and Value.

  14. Hey Fellas,
    Bill Thomas here. Thanks for these comments! I thought I’d weigh in on a few overriding themes. First, the rise. Our measurement is made from below the waistband to the center joining seam under the zipper. When measured from the top of the waistband, our 100% Cotton “Authentic” measures roughly 11 ¾”, 12” with a little tension. I would call this a medium long rise for a size 36”.
    As stated on our website, manufacturing in the USA is always our first alternative. USA made has only gotten harder to accomplish over the years, especially as a small brand. Fabric availability is extremely limited, and minimums are very high. Factories also continue to close and high labor costs have spiked over the past 12 to 24 months.
    As for fabric content, 100% cotton was the standard for WWII and Korean War era khakis. Ths shift to a cotton poly blend happened in the 1960’s to my understanding.
    If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask. All the best,
    Bill Thomas

  15. Garrett Robinson | May 16, 2023 at 11:00 am |

    Haven’t felt the need to look elsewhere than Lands’ End and L.L. Bean khakis/chinos since the
    mid-1960s and see no reason to do so now.

Comments are closed.