Your New Hero Piece Isn’t What You Think

By Tan France
13 May 2019
Tan France, Summer Style, Cannes Film Festival
Illustration: Michael Hoeweler
Tan France looks at the wardrobe staple that’s making a big comeback

When I was 17, I was working in a call centre. I was earning probably $2,000 a month, max.

But even then, style mattered to me. One day, I was on a mission to find a tailor. Now, this was pre-Google, so I looked up a little old lady in my local newspaper – she had a storefront in my local mall.

I walked in, told her what I wanted, picked out some fabric from a local store, and she came up with a pattern. I wanted a new hero piece, and she made it: the perfect pair of trousers.

They fit to perfection. I thought they were beautiful: hidden button, regular fly, straight cut (I was still a little young and misguided). That’s how important a great fitting pant was to me.

If style is all about layering, then the summer months present an interesting problem: we’ve got to wear less.

Winter is easy. A cold weather outfit can be totally carried by a hero coat. But now, when our coats are safely tucked away in the backs of our closets, we have to make all of our layers count. You have fewer layers that could be candidates for a hero piece.

Shirt? Probably not. A tee? Tough one.

I have always put so much importance on trousers and outerwear. To me, those are the two hero pieces to choose from – the things you can build an entire outfit around. It seems odd to think of trousers as something to gravitate towards, but considering where we’re at in menswear, it makes perfect sense.

With so much streetwear at the forefront, we’re living in a super casual era of style. This is why trousers are making a big comeback. The trouser can go to the office. The trouser can go to an occasion. Most importantly, the trouser can be pared back with streetwear to create a look that’s so elegant.

And look, I love streetwear, but when I want it to seem like I’m not being too casual, I get a smart trouser. It helps me look, well, like a grown man.

So, as the weather heats up, try building a look around an elevated pair of trousers. Start by looking for something with a point of difference.

I adore a high-waisted pant. Right now, I’m leaning towards something that’s both high waisted and wide leg.

Kent & Curwen make a trouser that’s a nod to the ’40s and ’50s: very rugby and varsity-inspired. It’s really current, it’s really fresh, but it’s also a look informed by something that is more traditional.

Teamed with something as simple as trainers and a basic tee, a trouser with interest can make your look so much stronger.

Now, if the idea of stacking statement features like a high waist, a wide leg and a pleat feels a little intimidating, start by considering your body type.
If you’re sporty, and have bigger thighs, go for a pleated pant – they’ll give you a little more room to move, and look smart at the same time.

A flat front will flatter those carrying a little extra weight, but also be perfect for those who are straight up and down, with little butt or waist to speak of. Try to at least have a single point of interest, like a cropped ankle.

Me? I’m on the shorter side, but I don’t let it restrict my options too much. A cropped trouser with a little taper at the ankle tends to elongate your leg – and it does me a heap of favours. (If you’re really tall, a harsh crop will look bizarre. Let your figure do the talking instead.)

These days, you can get a great pair of trousers, at just about any price point, anywhere in the world. Sandro makes a great pair. I love Zegna pants that are high-waisted and pleated – equal parts chic and sleek. Acne also does a killer pair of black pants – which, really, go with everything, particularly when they’re high-waisted.

In this make-your-own-move moment in trousers, the golden rule is experimentation. Without shame! For instance, I love a wide-leg pant. But I go into that knowing for a fact that I’m going to look shorter. But when you’re feeling an outfit, here’s the simple truth: great fashion knows no height.
So, give it a go. Try it on. Next time you’re pressed to make an outfit interesting, try putting on your style, one leg at a time.