How to wear proper trousers

For a good decade or so back there, it seemed like jeans had killed off trousers. First, the dark skinny jean replaced the black trouser as the goes‑with‑anything mainstay of getting dressed. Then white jeans became a summer daytime staple and chinos and palazzo pants went out of the window. Different denim silhouettes – low‑rise or high-waisted, mom or dad jeans, balloon-leg or carrot-shape – came to define the shape of our outfits. Somewhere along the line, trousers lost their mojo. They became what you wore to work when you didn’t feel like wearing something jazzier, like a dress.

But after a year of sweatpants, trousers are back. With their stiff denim, metal buttons and rigid waistbands, jeans are frankly too much of a shock to the system, when you have acclimatised to jersey and drawstring. Changing from a tracksuit to jeans feels like stepping out of jimjams into a suit of armour. And then there’s the fact that dressing for the office is an unfamiliar, almost exotic look for many of us, at this point. Work trousers? Exciting.

The point is, I find myself wanting to wear trousers for the first time in years, but I’m not quite sure how to do it. I have a tangle of leather belts that have been ignored in a drawer for years, and now on many mornings you will find me in front of the mirror debating which to wear – black or tan? Narrow or wide? And what to wear with a pair of trousers on a summer day – is a shirt too preppy? A T-shirt too basic?

So, in case any of it is useful, here is the sum of wisdom gleaned in my recent experiments. First, trousers in cream or tan or tobacco or light blue feel more summery than black or navy. Second, prairie or pie-crust collars do not work with tailored trousers. They are just too fussy; keep it minimal. Third, you need to wear a top that ends at your waist, or tuck it into your trousers, rather than having a long top pulled down to hip height – but a loose white shirt worn open, as a summer version of a blazer, is definitely a thing if you prefer to cover up. Finally, the belt is key, and should be as un-fancy as possible. Should it be black or tan, though? Narrow, or wide? If you figure that out, I’d love to know.