Garment Doctor Series: Pocket Flare

March 20th, 2013

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Continuing on with our Garment Doctor Series

The first image here illustrates how a pair of trousers should fit.

Notice how the fabric is draping smoothly, with no breaking, and the lines are clean and streamlined.

1a

A common issue with men’s trousers is pocket flare, which is often accompanied by wrinkles across the front hips.

2afinal

Pocket Flare

This can be caused by a number of different factors. Typically, it means the pants are tight across the hips/seat, causing the pockets to pull open. If you don’t have any of the other symptoms shown here, simply letting-out the hips will help the pockets sit flat.

In other cases, the pocket flare (and front wrinkles/crunching) are caused by an athletic seat (high, prominent glutes) and/or a tilted pelvis. For example, all I’m doing differently in this second photo is subtly flexing/pushing up my seat and tilting my hips backward – you can see the dramatic effect on the drape of the pants.

Some guys have naturally strong seats and slightly tilted hips, which makes it difficult to achieve clean-looking pants off-the-rack. If you’re prone to these issues, you would benefit from bespoke trousers. As a cheaper alternative, seek out trousers that have set-forward or western-style pockets: if they’re not constructed on the side seam they will not pull open as easily.

Also, this highlights the importance of trying-on multiple brands before purchasing. Some fits and fabrics will inevitably drape better on your body than others.

Wrinkling under front waistband

Most often, wrinkles under the front waistband are caused by a low stomach bulge, physically pushing down on the front of the waistband. A loose waistband will only accentuate these wrinkles – so have the waist taken-in so your trousers sit snugly in place.

Obviously, a flat stomach helps trousers drape cleanly. If losing a few pounds is not in the cards, I suggest having your tailor trim down the front waistband so the pants sit comfortably under the gut – or go the opposite route and use braces to “float” your natural waist.

Tilted Hip “Crunching”

This pooling of fabric around the upper thighs/crotch is another symptom of a tilted-back pelvis. It’s very difficult to get rid of this, so try avoiding it by finding a trouser that better suits your specific needs.

In one case, I had a client/friend who was tired of this issue and asked his chiropractor about it. Apparently his posture was putting unhealthy pressure on his lower spine. He ended up solving all the issues above with some routine stretches and an exercise plan that focused on straightening and strengthening the lower spine and pelvis. He’s never felt more athletic and energized, and his pants have never looked so good.

 

 

Remember, more often than not, the breaking in your clothes is telling you something about your body.

 

Yours in style,

Dan & TSBmen

 

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  • Benjy

    Not sure if this site is these comments are still being responded to, but thought I’d give it a go.
    Today I’m getting severe wrinkles in my pants in the upper thigh/crotch area. While there is a bit of pocket flare, I believe I’m getting these wrinkles when sitting down. It’s off the rack and very slim fit–is this just the price to pay for very slim fit pants? Are pleats, dare I say, and option to combat this problem (I did see an article in the Wall Street Journal extoling the high fashion virtues of pleats)? Is there anything I can do about the current suit?
    Thanks for your help. Definitely going to enjoy this blog as I’ve already wasted an hour of my workday reading it.

  • Dave

    I definitely have ‘high prominent glutes’ – and have always wondered about pocket flare and how to deal with it.

    Thanks for posting this! I’ll have to take my trousers to a tailor and see if can deal with it…

  • Joe

    As a bigger guy, I have to disagree with this statement – “I suggest having your tailor trim down the front waistband so the pants sit comfortably under the gut”.

    This might be effective if the gut is on the small side of big (a bit oxymoronic, I know). But for a bigger guy, I find it’s very unflattering to have your gut “spill” over your waistband.

    A better route is to pull the waistband to just under your belly button (i.e. actually wearing your waistband at your waist – a novel concept). If the pants fit properly, this should give a smooth flow downward that doesn’t accentuate your waist/gut and lengthens the appearance of your legs. Tapering the pants might be warranted if you purchase pants to fit well at the actual waist – if so, I find tapering to the knee, and then leaving it straight from there down (or a less severe taper) works best.

    Thanks for the informative article.

  • TO

    The issues that are explained above and cited as being pelvic alignment related are caused by what is termed an anteriorly, or forwardly, tilted pelvis.

    This is an anatomical description and refers to the downward rotation of the front part part of the “hip bones”, or the ASIS protrusions, shown here: http://media.onsugar.com/files/users/1/12981/33_2007/asis.jpg

    This forward “tipping” of the pelvis (the ASISs) is associated with increased extension of the lumbar, or lower spine, which increases pressure in that area, as mentioned.

    Research indicates that on average a 12 degree forward tilt of the pelvis is evident in people (meaning the ASIS is tilted downward 12 degrees from a horizontal line through the back/top of the pelvis, or PSIS, which you can feel protruding at the top on the back), but beyond 18 degrees anterior pelvic tilt may be considered “excessive”.

    Here is a simple graphic demonstrating the different tilts of the pelvis: http://taylorednutrition.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/postures.jpg

    A excessively posteriorly tilted pelvis is rare (where the back of the pelvis is actually lower than the front), but (excessive) anterior tilt is a lot more common, but does not always result in low back pain or any other physical issues, barring in mind the potential for tailoring issues as shown above.

    A PHD biomechanist Bret Contreras wrote an easy-to-read article here further touching on pelvic tilts as well as explaining exercise strategies which can bring about a more “neutral” (i.e. usually more posteriorly tilted) pelvis: http://www.t-nation.com/readArticle.do?id=5311337

    • Rob A

      Great insight TO

      Another TSB reader that frequents t-nation. Love It
      the on going pursuit to look good in and out of clothes

      • TO

        Thanks Rob. Haha, every bit helps.

  • Marcus Forlan

    Glad you wrote this. Even w my bespoke trousers I have a slight pocket flare even though the pants fit perfectly everywhere – no wrinkles, lines or anything.

    Letting out the seat / hips makes it looks baggy and breaks up the clean line of the way the pants fall, which is worse.

    Question – y can’t the tailor just shorten the fabric making up the pocket flare ? That way there wont be enough fabric to make it flare. I know nothing about tailoring.

    • Rick Lomax

      That way there wont be enough fabric to make it flare – but I suspect not enough fabric to get objects or hands into your pockets either :)

      If you think about it, pockets cannot work if the trouser fits exactly across your body. They require a certain amount of breathing space.

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

      If it were that simple, tailoring wouldn’t be such a respected profession.

      Pattern-making lessons aside, these issues are less simple arithmetic and more complex geometry and physics.

      Cheers

    • Bob P

      Marcus,

      I have the same issue and I have asked the very same question, but not aloud: why can’t the tailor just shorten the pocket itself to eliminate the flare?

      My last attempt shopping at an outlet mall, I bought some Brooks Brothers 346 gray flannel trousers, which were anything but a slim fit. Figured I could just tailor them to a slim fit and still come out cheaper than a full-priced pair in Milano (slim) fit from BB’s downtown store here in Austin.

      Long story short, after 3 trips to the tailor, I now have a pair of gray flannel trousers that fit slightly better than the Milano (slim) fit, but with a wicked flare.

      My point in posting this is that, like Dan said, there’s no getting around the “importance of trying-on multiple brands [and fits] before purchasing.” Personally, I’ve found that outlet mall cost me more money in the long run on account of having to tailor things more, and even then the fit might still be a little off.