Paul Galvin: It's all a bit pants
Men, make sure you’re the ones wearing the trousers - and good-fitting ones at that, says Paul Galvin
If a dog is man’s best friend then trousers have to be a close second. They might not have the same character as a canine companion, but they’re just as reliable and faithful. Always there when we need them, just where would a man be without trousers?
Let us pause for a moment and offer up a prayer for honest to goodness trousers, onethird of the holy trinity when it comes to menswear. In the name of the sock, the jock and the holy trouser, Amen. Before you go all Joe Duffy on me, let me say I am a man of God and blasphemy is only acceptable to me when it comes to fashion. These three items are an indispensable part of a man’s daily life and vital to his wellbeing.
If a man is missing any one of them in his daily attire, it says quite a bit about him. If he's missing all three, run quickly from him. Socks are like nurses: they’re ultra-efficient, sometimes work shifts of three days on, four days off; get up close and personal with all manner of foul infections and fungi on a daily basis, and are often taken for granted. Jocks, then, are the firemen of menswear: brave; subject to bouts of intense heat, and never quite sure when they’ll be called upon in an emergency.
Finally, trousers are the wardrobe accountants: some are boring, some are necessary; it's hard to find the right one but, when you do, great for minding the money. I’ve been a big fan of skinny jeans for a while, but I'm beginning to think it’s time for a change. Our very distinguished fashion editor here, Bairbre Power — or Bairbre Wintour, as I like to call her — told me recently that I was known for them.
Now, I believe that, in life, you should never be known for any one thing, so I declared to B that I was done with skinny jeans. With that, she whisked me off shopping and I was decked out in all manner of trousers for the afternoon. Paul Smith ankle-length, satin-tipped trousers in cream; full-length, navy silk-satin Gucci trousers; jeans by Prada, Acne andDolce & Gabbana.... what a day. I felt as if I was in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’.
I've never worn so much money. The problem was that, for all my noise about moving away from the skinny jeans, the minute I stepped into the regular cut I felt, well, just regular. I was lost in them. One pair I did like, however, were the Paul Smith pants. Well, them and Martin Margiela, but more about him at a later date. They were my favourite and the ankle cut is a look I really like.
I have developed a sock fetish in recent weeks and am indulging it as I see fit. Sir Paul is well known, of course, for his propensity towards odd socks, along with another favourite designer of mine, Thom Browne, who designs all his suit trousers to ankle length to show off the socks.
His collection for this season has seen him go a step further with his suits, featuring Bermudashorts- style trousers and knee socks! Only for the very brave. The right colour socks really finish off an outfit and a nice bright pair can add lots of character to your look, as well as a splash of individuality — essential with the massmarket approach of high-street retailers.
So I'll invest in a pair of Paul Smith’s because the fit and fabric-feel of his trousers is immaculate. To add some variety, I'll also dig out some old slacks and get them altered. Often, an old pair of trousers found in my wardrobe would have initially caught my eye for their particular denim wash, colour or cut, but the fit would be bootleg or too long, so I take them to my tailor in town, a nice Polish lady, and have them altered.
I once arrived to her with eight pairs of old jeans and slacks that I hadn’t worn in years, and four days later I had eight pairs of skinny jeans and slacks for €80. I love the freedom and creativity this allows me — going to my tailor, knowing exactly what changes I want made and what look I want as a result. It's fun and part of the reason I love fashion. It allows me to indulge any leanings I have towards a particular look or a trend I see coming.
I've always wanted a pair of Farah trousers since I was young, as I used to love how my dad dressed for work at CIE. He always looked smart in his uniform: navy V-neck jumper with grey trim and a grey shirt, and he always wore navy Farah trousers, though I'm not sure they were supposed to be part of the uniform. What chance had I of growing up conformist with a dad like that? I can still see the orange Farah label and I remember how I loved the way the orange worked with the navy of his trousers and how the grey stitching of the trousers complemented both colours perfectly.
I still look out for the colour of the stitching in jeans today as a result. If the stitching doesn't complement the denim and fit the whole aesthetic of the jeans, I won't buy them. Today, I have three pairs of Farahs, in navy, check and maroon in homage to my dad.
Maroon features heavily in Paul Smith’s spring-summer 2011 collection, and it’s a colour I’ll wear a lot this year as its very versatile and works really well with black, white, grey or even red if you’re feeling bold. Plus, it adds a splash of colour to your look and it has a bit of character. Team maroon slacks with a red T-shirt this summer and you’ll be bang on-trend, fellas, plus you’ll catch the eye of any discerning ladies out there who know colour blocking is all in this year.
Now, that's enough trend speak. I’ll end on this simple note: a reminder to men that, regardless of trends, cuts, colours or designs, irrespective of leg length or waist width, your trousers should be yours. They are manly. A statement of your masculinity. They should say a little bit about you — just enough to make people curious. They should never, ever fall below the heel of your shoe, or be torn and frayed halfway up your leg. This is blatant abuse of trousers, that one garment which makes a man a man.
Finally, but most importantly, when you go to the trouble of spending your hardearned green on trousers, make sure you’re the one wearing them and not your missus. In the name of the sock, the jock and the holy trousers, Amen!
Photography by James Horan