Fashion Friday Dilemma: Pleats or No Pleats?


Fashion Friday tackles one of man’s most troublesome fashion issues: pants. Nothing will make you look bad faster than ill-fitting, unfashionable pants. This dilemma is unique only to the American male (the rest of the world has moved on about 10 years ago.) Pleats or no Pleats, that’s the question.

That’s an easy one for me: No pleats.

First of all, the US is the only country left where yo can find pleated pants for sale outside the Goodwill stores. But let’s put that tidbit aside since, we Americans value our uniqueness and strong individuality. Blah, blah, blah. If we disregard fashion trends and focus on what looks best on a man, the flat-front trousers would win most every time.  Here’s the problem with pleats:

1. BBS. Big Bottom Syndrome. Pleats put extra material around your waist thus creating a larger-than-real-life look. Trust me, but most of us don’t need to look any bigger around our rears.

pants, well fitted

2. DBS. Diaper Bottom Syndrome. Often pleated trousers will have deep pockets requiring extra material. This extra fabric tend to create the diaper effect, making you look like, well, you’re carrying a diaper. It’s called “the seat” and droopy seats are difficult to fix.  Unless you’re younger than 18 months or  81 years and older, you shouldn’t go around carrying more junk in your trunk than necessary.

3. SLS. Short Leg Syndrome. Flat fronts help pants look streamlined, therefore longer. Pleats work just the opposite. Unless you have extremely long legs and a tiny torso, then you should stick with flat front trousers. If you have short legs, than the flat-front pants are your best friends.

Bonus tip: No cuffs. Not even in suits.

So where do you stand? Pleats or no pleats?

  • Busted. Most of my plants have pleats. I'm fashion challenged but perhaps there is hope…. 🙂

  • Thanks so much encouraging the men of Nashville with the pleat issue! We need to figure out how to purge the pleated pants from the retail stores in Nashville and I think the problem will be solved. Most men in the Nashville area buy whats on the rack and unfortunately pleats are on the rack. One can only hope the future Nordstrom store will make a difference?


    wow!!~ with all that really important i can believe i am responding to this!! MUST BE A SLOW DAY!! wear whats comfortable to you and the heck with fashion police!! or people who think they are cool.

    • I think you can have comfort and style. Well-fitting non-pleated trousers should look and feel good.

  • Angela

    Pleats went out with the 90's!!! And please, no cuffs at the bottom. That is so, yuck!

  • todshuttleworth

    Metro – Pleats are the way to go. Looks classier. Sorry fashion boy, you are wrong on this one. And you know Iam an expert on this kind of thing from my haircut. 🙂

    • Tod, I would be troubled if you and I saw eye to eye on this one. Glad you chose pleats.

  • CA

    As someone who worked in the industry, flat-fronts are made for slender, average-endowed men. Pleats “hide” flaws as well as “assets”. They will always be offered as an option. I agree with the appeal of the flat-fronts and no cuff look, but I’ve seen men who have no business wearing them and it’s quite unattractive. Much like skinny jeans on men are an assault on my eyes.

  • greentub

    Here, here! No pleats.

  • Pleats aint sweets for the seats (makes me want to send rude tweets)
    but if we chat about the front being flat, then you, my friend are where it's at!

    Dr. Suess

  • I've heard that argument as well, but I think well fitting non-pleated pants can be just as comfortable. It all depends on the cut.

    • dmbaldwin

      Yes, I know you're right, but I have my father's physique. I have a paunch below my belt line and do wear my pants a bit high. I am sixty, so don't want to feel or look like an old gomer!

      Thank you for the comment.


  • Keep the good fight Molly! 🙂

  • Rick O.

    How come we can have 400 flavors of popcorn but have to decide between pleats or no pleats. Women can have pleated skirts, flat skirts, short skirts, mid skirts, 18 pairs of black shoes to go with 12 pairs of black pants. Free the pleats and the flats! BTW, my students rode me for two years because of my pleated jeans. Then they mysteriously disappeared after laundry day. OK, so I'm willing to give up the pleated jeans but must I say good bye to all of them?!?! Say it ain't so.

  • Rick O.

    OK, but to be honest, those Mad Men would look hot in pleats too . . . . I'm happily married, but I'm just saying . . . .

    • Rick, you're right. It would take M.C. Hammer pants to make those guys look bad.

  • engagetony

    I've got both… even a 3-button suit with flat pants & no cuffs, but I prefer pleats.

    Styles change & I'll change as necessary to not get laughed at. 35-40 years ago I wore flat pants with "continental cut" pockets (any of you know what they looked like?) & flared legs.

    I sometimes see "new" styles & fashion colors and I think "You know, that looked ugly when I first saw them (or worse) wore them a few decades ago."

  • Ally, I agree with the flare statement as well, specially if you're wearing a suit or sports jacket.

  • Bert

    Pleats wnent out of style about ten years ago. When was the last time you saw pleated pants at an H&M, Zara or Zena store?

    • American men have no idea of what those names mean. The only Zena we know is Zena the Warrior Princess with Lucy Lawless.

      • Hmmmm

        I know all three of those stores as do many Americans. They are synonymous with one step above Walmart.

  • Pleats = Satan.

    Okay, not really.

    I think pants sans pleats look more modern and feel better.

    The worst are khaki pleats circa Gap '98.

  • Jeans don't have pleats. I'm safe.

    • Larry, you obviously have forgotten the 80's: stone washed jeans with pleats. Yeah, baby!

      • Ouch! I was trying so hard to forget! That and acid wash…

  • erikcantu

    I heard a fashion commentator explain years ago, that pleats are designed to give volume to a more thin build of person; I am not that. I stopped wearing pleated pants after learning that.

    • Maurilio Amorim

      I agree!

  • ak

    I’m a big guy, and although I’ve lost some weight, and will continue to lose weight, I still have a hard time finding flat-front pants that don’t look stretched around my upper thighs.nnI guess heavy people are already offending fashion sensibility just by not being thin, so I’ll go on wearing my pleated pants until I too can be fashionable.

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  • Blackman9000

    Slight Flare = YOU’RE GAY

    • Oliver Podolski

      I agree, it’s go big or go home.

  • Trouser Knowledge

    Nonsense! A Savile Row tailor will cut trousers with pleats by default. When fitted and worn correctly on the waist pleats are essential to allow for room at the front whilst keeping the waistband a good fit. Nothing wrong with cuffs either. You can’t compare badly fitting pleated trousers cut to the hip-line and state that pleats in general are bad!

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  • Dilapidated Emu

    I had to check real quick to make sure I wasn’t wearing pleated slacks. Dodged a bullet there.

  • Felipe Portales

    You can also find those still in Chile

  • Johnny5

    I’m really sorry that you care about this sort of thing in a world wear bombs are dropped on mothers and children.

  • PRC

    Pleats by all means. I prefer a classic look, not a “trendy” here today, gone tomorrow look. Plus, I’m a power walker for exercise and my hips, thighs and calved are very big-muscled flat front pants on me always make the pockets stick out like Prince Charles’ ears. Plus, the photo in this post shows everything I hate in a pair of pants too tight in the ass, bell bottom cuffs dragging your tracks out. I’m sure this must be a Millennial generation idea — and I don’t take fashion advice from guys with tattoos.

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