As a feckless youth in the mid 80s I once bought a pair of red trousers. I chose them because all my favourite 60s bands seemed to favour brightly coloured trews in their key end of the decade psychedelic phase. I figured that if they were good enough for Jagger and Davies then surely they were good enough for me.
So I teamed them up with a white shirt and left the house to parade my new wares in the streets of the market town in which I lived. Rather than attracting admiring glances for my fashion rule breaking I received volley after volley of laughter and occasionally serious abuse. Suitably chastised I am ashamed to admit I stuck the red trousers back in the wardrobe and swore that from here on in I would only wear blue denim.
A few decades on and red trousers are making a bit of a comeback. Hipsters in the usual north east London haunts have been seen wearing them bought box fresh from brands like Uniqlo. In some ways their return isn’t that surprising given fashion’s current predilection for the mid 80s, but their revival has sparked a very lively debate.
For starters there is the acclaimed blog Look At My Fucking Red Trousers which catalogues people wearing red trousers in a, how shall we put this, less than celebratory way. Then recently The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman weighed in with her take on why we get all queasy when it comes to red trews.
Mainstream menswear is not – let’s be honest here – much fun. Men’s fashion can be brilliant, but basic menswear? Not so much. Beyond deciding whether you’re a T-shirt man or a button-down shirt man there isn’t much going on, and what is going on is generally pretty tedious. Because of this, style-averse men (read: fashion-fearful men), often heterosexual in their tendencies, will hear a fashion rule once and they will carve it on to their very brains, still following it and parroting it whole decades later, whether it be always wearing a belt with their trousers, never showing a naked ankle or red trousers are evil.
After the traumatising experience of my youth I really ought to be on the side of the bloggers and the parochial idiots of my home town sniggering at the fools in their comedy pants. But you know what, I think is time we learnt to embrace red trousers. Here’s why.
1 As Hadley so succinctly pointed out until recently trousers for man were pretty boring, The recent trend for coloured twisty chinos has been a breath of fresh air.
2 Why should men continue to agonise over whether the colours of the items they wear match? Women got over this years ago. if you want to wear yellow trousers and a lime green jumper why shouldn’t you? Of course it might look ridiculous on you if you are pushing 40, but hey it is your choice.
3 Red trousers need to be reclaimed. There is undoubtedly a touch of class war in some of our hatred for red trousers. Toffs have been wearing them for years You can bet that Cameron has a pair somewhere which he dons during his weekends with the Chipping Norton set. They also tend to be favoured by older gentlemen teamed with Wellington Boots and Barbours. Well both wellies and barbours have been reclaimed so why not red trousers.
4 Finally red trousers are not created equal. There are many shades of red and the the darker less lurid shades (check out the Uniqlo cords) actually look quite conservative. There are also red jeans, red chinos and red cords. Personally I think the chinos look best and at least mean you manage to avoid looking like the bassist out of some 80s hair metal band.
So hating red trousers because toffs and hipsters wear them simply isn’t good enough any more. Besides if we claims back red trousers it means we can continue to plunder toff fashion in the future. Plus Fours anyone?
Four to choose from below