British brand Kit Blake began from a simple premise: classic men’s trousers have long been neglected. When it comes to tailoring, suit jackets get all the attention. For casual occasions, jeans and chinos dominate. Kit Blake’s proposition was a standalone, ready-to-wear trouser of the kind that is increasingly difficult to find outside of bespoke: classic proportions, luxury fabrics and the styling cues of traditional English tailoring. We sat down with Chris Modoo, the brand’s creative director, to get his thoughts on what makes a great trouser.
When launching the brand, Modoo’s biggest inspiration was a classic casual garment, once omnipresent on both sides of the Atlantic: grey wool flannels. With a blazer and tie, flannel trousers are as crisp as a suit, and twice as versatile. A heavy English cloth looks flattering on all body shapes yet wears as soft as sweatpants. Every men’s store used to carry grey flannels, Modoo explains, as well as the tailors of Savile Row.
Kit Blake’s are made in the same way today: with generous cuts that allow the fabric to drape cleanly down the leg and a light fusible canvas in the waistband for shape. They’re always self-supporting—with side adjusters or a drawstring—rather than requiring a belt. Ready-to-wear will never replace the slow, individualized crafting of bespoke, but a good off-the-rack model can provide the backbone of a tailored wardrobe without the considerable time and expense that bespoke requires. Here’s Modoo’s advice on finding the perfect trouser.
The key to fitting is the seat and not the waist. The seat (that old tailoring euphemism for the backside) determines how the trousers will hang, Modoo explains. In the mirror, there should be a continuous line from the hip to the trouser hem as it meets the shoe. This straight line is harder to achieve in slimmer fits because the trouser catches on the calf and thigh: all the more reason to get comfortable with a more generous cut. Don’t worry too much about the waist, Modoo advises, since it can easily be adjusted. Similarly, it’s best to get unfinished hems and have an alteration tailor finish the leg to precisely the length you need.
A high-quality grey flannel should be the first purchase. Modoo recommends heavy 11-12oz cloth as it hangs better, but everything from four season to tropical weights is possible. A mottled grey flannel is beautiful with brown suede shoes, he says. After one or two pairs of solid grey trousers, consider a check pattern: houndstooth, or Prince of Wales plaid. A patterned trouser is a simple way to elevate a navy blazer or other plain jacket. It’s as smart as a good suit and looks more considered. These options will work for anyone, Modoo explains, but if you’re a bold dresser, get cream gabardine as a special option. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a dinner jacket in summer, and an instant upgrade to the ubiquitous beige chino.
Prioritize good fit, and then good fabric. Beyond these, what details matter? A self-supporting trouser looks cleaner than a belt, and it saves time and space when traveling. Look for brace buttons if you’ll use them. And don’t be afraid of pleats; they can help to achieve a clean line and comfortable fit without adding bulk. Converts to pleats rarely go back to flat fronts. Although something of a rarity, double pleat trousers have been Kit Blake’s bestseller. Finally, to improve the lifespan of your trousers, look for a good inlay of spare fabric in the seams for alterations. With unfinished hems and a good leg length, you can wear Modoo’s recommended two-inch cuffs and still keep some spare fabric for repairs.
Modoo’s best tip is to hang trousers from the cuffs with empty pockets. “Use the trouser clips on the hanger and the weight of the trouser will pull them back into shape,” he explains. “It saves so much time and effort.” If you do find your trousers losing their shape, give them a light press with an iron through a thin towel. A good alteration tailor or cleaner will also offer a steam press to rejuvenate them. Should they get dirty, you can spot clean with a damp cloth. Only dry clean when absolutely necessary.
Crisp wool trousers and a blazer are a classic formal combination for a reason. Grey works with sport coats of every shade, and a patterned trouser stands out as an elegant and uncommon choice—Modoo points to the old “off duty” look of Hollywood stars like David Niven and Cary Grant. But a crisp trouser can also transform a smart casual outfit: with sneakers and a knit polo, the trouser becomes the centerpiece of a thoroughly modern English look. Wear a drawstring pair with a cashmere sweater from Cucinelli or Loro Piana and you have a luxe off-duty uniform. As formal wear, they will interrupt your reflex to grab a suit and offer a world of possibility. As casual wear, they offer unmatched informal elegance.