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Practical Reasons to Wear Wide-Leg Pants

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Image: Story MFG.

Fashion’s slim-leg train has taken the fashion’s scenic route and I’ve grown pretty tired of looking out the window to see a forest of pegged pants. Thankfully, that train’s been losing some steam in recent years and more brands have opted to broaden their profiles. This isn’t to say that I condone getting blown around by the fickle winds of fashion, but my slim jeans ran out of gas several seasons back and I’ve moved on to greener and wider pastures. I may have gone a bit too far with the width of my hems (double-digit inches laying flat, at least), but if you’ve been sick of slim, you’re not alone.

Trends aside, there are deeper, more practical reasons for adopting pants that go beyond baggy. Actually incorporating pants of a broader cut can have real benefits for your life sitting at the cool kids table. Here are a few of those benefits.

Comfort

Evan Kinori, shot by Ulysses Ortega

Some people like the tight caress of 24oz. denim around their legs. But not everyone likes using their jeans as a blood pressure monitor. More room gives you a greater range of motion, it lets the family jewels breathe, and it makes getting dressed less of a fight. Go wide enough and you can even put your shoes on before your pants! I’m not gonna say shoes before pants is a game changer, it just means you can take more paths to get dressed. Barefoot enthusiasts like the guy above won’t notice a difference, though.

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Wide pants club via Dawson Denim.

If you’re privileged to have pockets that will fit your entire hand, looser pants can also make it easier to grab your goods (I’m talking about keys and shit). When you can’t access your front pockets without slumping in your seat to do your best impression of a hypotenuse, maybe it’s time to reevaluate. Boxer advocates will also find that their most beloved undies will ride up less, which, most would assume, is a good thing.

Longevity

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Fade Friday, LVC 501xx with 15 years of wear. Not exactly the widest, but you get the picture. (H/T alwaysnever)

When you’re on a first date and you split the seat of your pants, it’s never because your pants were too loose. No, we’re not talking about your longevity. In fact, an embarrassing moment like that might make you want to decrease your longevity dramatically. We’re talking about the longevity of your pants. Give your pants enough slack and the individual fibers will need to stretch much less, lengthening their lifespan. It also puts less strain on the seams. All this amounts to a greater cost per wear, saving you some cash while giving you more fade time.

You are, however, more prone to getting that extra fabric caught on something. It could be a piece of wire-fence jutting out as you walk past, or you could get caught in a closing door. Or, worst of all, your billowy fit could get caught in the hands of some sick “friend” who’ll find amusement in pulling your pants down. If any of these situations is likely to happen to you, you should probably pay more attention to where you’re walking and get new friends.

Tailoring (You Can Still Go Slim)

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Levi’s Tailor Shop via Unzipped Blog

Finding the perfect-fitting pair of pants is hard enough. Limit your options to raw and/or selvedge denim, and you’d be better off finding Big Foot. Conversely, even though there are countless brands expanding their fit varieties (Levi’s alone has over two dozen on their site), the sheer amount of options can also make the experience frustrating. And it’s still ready-to-wear, after all, so you’ll rarely ever get the perfect fit. Instead, you can save yourself a few bottles of Tylenol by finding a pair that’s close enough so that you can get it tailored.

You have to make sure you’re getting a fit that’s close enough in the right places, though. Tailors can work wonders, but they’re not magicians. You can’t add length or extend the rise of a pant. That’s because most pants—not just jeans—lack any seam allowance. Where dress pants usually have busted seams with 2 inches or more of seam allowance for letting out, the vast majority of pants are constructed with some kind of overlapped seams which leave no room for expansion. It’s like getting a haircut. You can always take away, but you can’t add more. So if you get jeans that are a little too large, a tailor can take the extra fabric away to get you the fit that you’re after.

Whether it’s having the legs tapered for a tight leg opening, or liberally tailoring the entire silhouette for that vacuum-sealed look, you need to leave enough fabric for your tailor to work with. Just make sure the rise and seat fit well because those are areas tailors can’t alter very easily. So, yes—you can still get a slim fit if you want.

Health

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Image via Pocahontas Memorial Hospital

Okay, aside from this incident a few years back, tight pants aren’t exactly life-threatening. They can, however, pose some health issues. If you’re like me and approximately 35 million Americans who suffer from eczema, body-hugging clothes can seriously irritate your skin, either causing flare-ups or preventing existing rashes from healing. The worst my eczema had ever been was in 2014 I had several large raw, red patches of skin all around my waistline. Not only were they unbearably itchy, they would leak puss constantly. I’d had them for several weeks, and if you couldn’t guess, it fucking sucked. Not for one second did I stop to think that my beloved Samurai’s were to blame. It turns out, my patches were infected and even though my prescribed medicine helped alleviate the situation, my condition improved dramatically once I switched my pants to a fuller and more forgiving fit. People with other skin conditions like psoriasis can find some relief with looser clothes, too.

Chronic skin diseases might be a more obvious reason for loosening up your legwear but for over 400 million people who live with diabetes, wide-leg pants can also help make the daily struggle a little less difficult. Most diabetics with Type I diabetes need to take insulin shots daily (you, know, like, with a needle…into their skin). Fuller-fitting pants allow folks with diabetes to access their bodies for insulin shots more easily. Considering the fact that diabetics have to perform these injections manually anywhere between 4 to 7 times a day, body-hugging blue jeans don’t them any favors. Still, those who choose the insulin pump route over manual shots aren’t spared from the adverse effects of tight jeans. When you have to stash an insulin pump somewhere on your person and snake insulin tubes beneath your clothes, slim-fit just makes the process harder. Not only is it less cumbersome to install this insulin system with more leg room, it also keeps the hardware hidden and more discrete. This is invaluable when you’re just trying to live a normal life without people staring at your insulin pump.

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Some of the widest of the wide. Story MFG. (left), Ullac (right).

I don’t expect the reign of the slim fit pant to end anytime soon. Even when it does fall out of favor to the masses, slim fit will still be around. But if wide-legged pants have captured your curiosity, these are just a few reasons to push you in that direction. Maybe, if you’re already reading this and have gotten all the way to this point, you didn’t really need to be convinced—you just wanted validation.