How I Learnt To Pull Off Leather Trousers (No Talc Required)

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How I Learnt To Pull Off Leather Trousers (No Talc Required)

Words by Mr Ashley Clarke | Photography by Mr Iain Anderson | Styling by Ms Sophie Watson

1 March 2021

I am wearing leather trousers. Just writing it down feels a bit obscene, like the fashion police, nay, the actual police are going to come and take me away. But here I am, proud and shiny-legged. The last time my editors roped me into trying out a new trend, it was men’s heels. This time, they’ve coaxed me into wearing something perhaps even more controversial. Who said friendships in the workplace were dead?

As trends go – and believe me, they’re definitely trending – leather trousers are a tough thing to pull off (no pun intended). For men, anyway. In the comparatively expansive world of women’s fashion, leather trousers are far more socially acceptable. Ms Theresa May, then the UK prime minister, wore a coffee-coloured pair for an interview with The Sunday Times in 2016 and attracted public ire only for the price (£995). When women such as Ms Kris Jenner and Ms Diane Keaton wear leather trousers, it’s seen as power dressing. Female celebrities, CEOs, prime ministers. On Mr Boris Johnson, though? It just wouldn’t happen and I can only apologise for the mental image.

Leather trousers on men are, at their worst, the sartorial manifestation of a midlife crisis. They can look like the desperate death rattle of youth, worn to prove you still have it. The singer Mr Jon Bon Jovi once said men shouldn’t wear leather trousers past the age of 30. An episode of Friends was dedicated to how relationship-repellent they are. And from Mr Iggy Pop to Mr Ricky Martin via Mr Russell Brand, their proponents have historically been of the aggressive-hip-thrusting variety. Not, you’ll agree, the trustiest track record.

“I admire Mr Iggy Pop’s sartorial gumption, but I don’t wish to dress like him”

Recently, those tropes have begun to seem dated. As male dress codes have relaxed and become increasingly experimental, leather trousers are no longer the style pariah they used to be. Last November, the actor Mx Ezra Miller wore a particularly tight pair with glam-rock panache, while Messrs Rami Malek, Joe Jonas and Timothée Chalamet have all joined the leather trousers club. Mr Kanye West has been wearing them for years. Mr Jeff Goldblum was introduced to some SAINT LAURENT leather trousers by his stylist last year and began wearing them regularly. So regularly, in fact, that the 68-year-old told Vogue that he even wears them to work out.

Last year, a veritable swell of designers started showing them. CELINE HOMME, AMI PARIS, Dunhill, Hermès, LOEWE, Lanvin, Versace and Paul Smith all sent leather trousers down the runways of their SS20 menswear shows. Los Angeles-based brands such as Enfants Riches Déprimés, AMIRI and Fear of God have made leather trousers a staple part of their aesthetic, as have brands such as Rick Owens and Japanese label Blackmeans, which are popular among avant-garde fashion followers.

Taking something from the runway and transferring it to real life, however, is tough. I begin considering how I might make leather trousers work. I admire Mr Iggy Pop’s sartorial gumption, but I don’t wish to dress like him, so anything too tight is off the table. On the baggier end of the spectrum, Bottega Veneta does an oversized pair with an elasticated waist, but I’m not sure I’m tall enough to pull them off just yet. In the end, I opt for a straight-legged pair from Acne Studios. In the uncharted territory of leather trousers, if any are “safe”, it is these.

At first, I feel as if I’ve been upholstered. I smell faintly of a newly delivered Chesterfield and I creak when I sit down. After a lifetime wearing trousers made from denim, cotton or wool, leather seems like a preposterous extravagance, considering I don’t ride a motorbike.

I want to like them, but I feel the weight of societal disapproval hot on my thighs. I post them on Instagram and it’s half flames and applause emojis for of my “bravery” and half gifs of Mr David Schwimmer looking distressed.

I find them to be wholly wearable, though. The soft suede lining means they’re easy to pull on, so no need to use talcum powder. They insulate against the cold and, as far as comfort is concerned, they very nearly beat jeans. I’m not sure I’m going to do a Mr Goldblum (I don’t want to be blacklisted by my gym), but I am warming to them.

They are, however, a little long, so I send them to a tailor to be taken up by a couple of inches. This is more expensive than getting suit trousers altered, but it is necessary. It’s a good idea to find a professional who knows what they’re doing. As with tailored trousers, they will look smartest when they break just on the ankle. And, if you’re on the shorter side, a cropped pair is advisable to elongate the legs.

Choosing what to wear them with is my next challenge. I try them on with a fitted white T-shirt, but end up looking like a forgotten member of Maroon 5. A flannel shirt isn’t much better. Ditto denim. I enlist the help of my stylist girlfriend, who tells me I have no idea what I’m doing and directs me to a plain merino sweater or a minimal shirt. It seems that simple, not sexy, is the best option here.

Footwear-wise, I have a go with sneakers, but find that nothing works quite as well as polished Chelsea boots. Here, I’ve gone for a clean beige shirt from Auralee and a pair of cowboy-type boots by JW Anderson. It’s a dressed-up look with a slightly 1970s vibe, but, on the whole, I feel thoroughly modern.

Apart from strutting around my living room and surprising the UPS delivery man, the only place I have to debut my leather trousers is Marks & Spencer. I try wearing them watching TV and, while I am comfortable, this also feels like a waste. Leather trousers and lockdown don’t mix. They need to be out wining and dining, preferably somewhere without strip lighting.

Once I get used to them and break them in a bit, I struggle to see what all the fuss is about. They’re long-wearing, they’re cosy (but not too cosy), and they look and feel reassuringly expensive. Still, if there’s one thing you’ll have to deal with when wearing leather trousers, it’s endless references to that immortal Friends episode, “The One With All The Resolutions”. To which I say, that show is from 1999. How about making a resolution to watch – and wear – something new?

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