Wrapping our Heads Around Weaves

The way a fabric is created determines the way it looks, the way it hangs, the way it feels. From light and sheer to heavy and shiny, the weave determines the very character of a garment. When it comes to men’s clothing we only have to consider two basic types of weaving, but the variety within those weaves is almost endless.

Plain Weave

Plain weaves are defined by their simple over-under weave. The warp threads (those running vertically) alternate going over and under the weft threads (those running horizontally), just as the weft alternates going over and under the warp.

poplin wikipedia


A popular and common weave, poplin gets its name from the Pope having a residence in the town where it was once made. Poplin was originally made with a thicker weft, giving it a corded appearance and texture. Modern poplins use the same size threads for warp and weft, making it smoother but also a bit sheer. Poplin fabrics are usually used for formal dress shirts and tend to have solid colors.


Broadcloth is made with a normal plain weave like the poplin, but it is woven wider than its intended final width. Traditionally, it was stretched while immersed in water; when it dried, the fabric shrank to its intended size. Finally, the fabric was rubbed with special earth and beaten with wooden hammers to bind the individual fibers together, similar to a felting process. Because of this processing, broadcloth is softer and heavier than poplin, but it can still be used in formal situations.

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Jeans: From Genoa to Glamor

Denim has been used for making clothes for over 350 years but it has only been in the last 50 years that they have enjoyed widespread popularity. Blue jeans, as we know them today, were invented in 1871. Soon after, Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss would patent their rivet-reinforced work pants. It would be nearly 100 years before jeans found their way from workers’ wardrobes to pop culture and ubiquity. Today you can find people wearing blue jeans in nearly every country.


Part of the secret to their popularity lies in the particular way that denim is made. The indigo dye – whether synthetic or organic – is only applied to the warp threads of the twill weave. Further, the dye is only applied to the surface of the cotton threads, leaving an inner core of white cotton. As the jeans age and flex and stretch, some of that indigo dye is lost causing the blue of the jeans to fade. This fade is unique to each pair of jeans and is influenced by how they are worn and what we do in them, making each pair as individual as the wearer.

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Pleated vs Flat-Fronted Pants


As I was doing the research for this article it struck me that this debate has been happening on the internet for at least 10 years. Most of that writing focuses on what’s in or out of fashion but the true secret to choosing between pleated pants or flat-fronted pants is choosing the pair we feel most comfortable in. Being happy and confident in the clothes we are wearing is the ultimate secret to style.

Having said that, there are some big differences between these two types of trousers. The number one difference is the pleat. Pleats are folds in a fabric that are stitched permanently in place. In men’s pants these folds are designed to allow more room around the hips and waist, especially when sitting. Pleated pants also tend to have a higher rise than flat-front pants which means they have a bit more room in the crotch.

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How to Find Your Fit

pant fit

Proper pant fit is important because pants that are too loose or too tight draw attention. Too loose and we can end up looking clownish while wearing pants that are too small can bunch up in awkward places or make our pockets protrude from our hips. We want people to be paying attention to our faces, not our pants. Nicholas Taverna of Primer says “Pants will mostly be in the background of an outfit, serving as a foundation for the foreground of your shirt or outerwear.”

So how do we figure out if a pair of pants fits properly? While there is a lot of advice out there on lots of different sites, the basics can be boiled down to the lengths of the waist, the leg, and the rise.

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Picking the Perfect Pair: A Pants Primer

Before I get in too deep with the jargon of pants it’s important to point out how fluid these terms are. Despite what we might read here or anywhere else, expect to see some of these terms used interchangeably elsewhere. I think of pants as the catch-all term, while slacks tends to include trousers, chinos, and khakis. Of course parts of the UK say pants instead of underwear and for some people, slacks are only for women.


trousers - www.realmenrealstyle.comTrousers are your nice pants. They can either be paired with a suit or sold alone. Modern trousers were made fashionable by Beau Brummell, the original Dandy, in the early 19th century. Brummell believed, and most writers today agree, that trousers look best when they’re tailored.


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Task 4 – Style Safari: Pants

I had a ton of fun researching and learning about shoes for my last Style Safari and this time we’re moving up to the next level. This month we’ll be looking into the different styles of men’s pants. And just like the posts on shoes, I’ll be writing about pants from different angles. Leave me a comment if there’s anything you want me to write … Continue reading Task 4 – Style Safari: Pants