Style Dilemma – Pleated or Flat Front Pants

Pleated and flat front pants.
Pleated and flat front pants.

In this article I will talk about difference between pleated and flat front (non pleated) pants. So, if you are in the store shopping for a pair of pants you should know if pleated one will suit you more or if your best option are flat front pants. What’s the difference you will ask! Well it depends on your body type, but we will get into this a bit later.

What Are Trousers?

Trousers is a name for a type of tailored pants. They are meant to keep the eyes focused on the wearer’s face without attracting attention to the bottom half of the body.

A good pair of trousers creates a sleek profile whether a gentleman is in motion or standing still. Trousers can be casual as well as formal, as they allow men to carry all of the necessities like a phone, wallet, and sets of keys.

They have pockets that are of a proper size and the shape does not cause pants to bulge outwards. If you put items in the pockets and notice bulging at the sides, then your trousers may not be ideal. You can even get the pockets adjusted to ensure that every item you need fits.

Trousers can be tailored and custom-fitted to your frame and build to the fit is perfect. They should follow the line of the natural shape of your body, being wide at the waist and tapering down to the ankles with no fabric hanging down or swaying. They shouldn’t bunch up around the thighs, as this means they are too tight.


Tradition and Trends

Traditionally most trousers were pleated. Today, most pants are flat front. Pleats are considered old-fashioned. Flat front trousers were very popular in the middle of the 20th century, but in the 80’s with its baggy style, pleated pants had a revival. Later it all changed for the more lean, slim looking silhouette and flat front pants came back. It seems that flat front pants come back and go out of fashion, but pleated pants are always present making them more traditional.

Tip: Over at Nordstrom they have a great selection of pleated pants!

Differences Between Pleated and Flat Front Pants

Pleats are creases on the front of the pants, with two of them on both sides. The material is folded and sewed before it is attached to waistband. In flat front pants material lies flat. Pleated pants are worn on the waist, just above your hip bone. This also means that pleated pants have a higher rise. Flat front pants are worn bit lower, on your hips, making them slim looking and better fitting.


Pleated Pants

Pleated man's pantsSince pleated pants have higher rise this makes them more generous in the middle. As you might have guessed pleated pants are better suited for larger men. If you have large back and large bottom you should definitely choose pleated pants.

They will give you more freedom of movement and you will feel more comfortable. Wear them on your waist since if you wear them on your hips, your thighs will look huge.

Another detail that should be added to pleated pants is cuffs. If you opt for pleated pants you should add cuffs, because this will complete the classic look of your pants, and it will add weight to your pants making fabric drape naturally.

Slimmer men can wear pleated pants only in a suit combination, never alone by themselves since if worn alone they will make extra room around middle section and this will look sloppy.


Flat Front Pants

Flat front pantsThese pants are great for slimmer man. They will make your silhouette more smooth and straight. They should be worn on hips, but they have to fit you perfectly.

Also you should leave your pants cuff free, since they do not need extra weight at the bottom. Slimmer men can wear cuffs on their pants only if the pants are from heavier fabric. Tweed or such, which is worn in winter cold days. In this way the pants will drape better.

If you are a larger modern man you should avoid flat front since it will be too tight for you and they will feel uncomfortable. Flat front pants will also emphasize your belly.


If you are somewhere in the middle, neither big, neither slim, you should try both options and see how they feel. Sit down in them, walk around, stand up and be sure they are comfortable in every situation.

Try them out with pairing suit jacket and see how it looks, but your comfort must be your priority . If you think you need some alternations to the pants, ask for them.

Tailored fit is definitely worth the money.


9 thoughts on “Style Dilemma – Pleated or Flat Front Pants”

  1. I find pleated pants are much more comfortable than flat-fronted pants and chose pleated whenever I can (sadly stores seem to push flat-fronts). I couldn’t care less if they are slightly less ‘fashionable’. The fact is I need the extra space afforded by pleats, not because I’m fat, but because I have appendages between my legs that need space! That is why traditional pants were pleated and modern pants are flat-fronted, it is part of the feminization of men. Flat-fronted pants are for women.

    • Well stated!

      I have been buying suits for 30 years.

      When I first started it was flat front. Then they switched the style to pleaded and you could not find a flat for men in any men’s store. I came in with a flat and asked the salesman if he had anymore and he chuckled that if he had a flat, he would sell it to me at a steep discount to get it off the rack.

      They only sold pleaded.

      7 or so years ago the switch to flat front came back and guys were wearing suits that barely fit them. They looked silly. I kept wearing my pleats. Some guys pants were so tight with the flat style it was uncomfortable to sit for long periods they told me.

      I have stayed with my pleated suits. I do have some flat dress pants that do have some room in them.

      Pleats will be back soon. I know this because it’s the only way suit makers and pant makers can make $$ is switching the style every few years.

      Because with men’s clothes there is not much you can do–flat to pleat and pleat to flat and keep changing every few years.

      Hold in there–pleats will flood the stores eventually.

  2. I just like a man in pleated pants…my husband looks slimmer in that style. Even though he is not tall, and he has some extra pounds on him, they suit him well. I visited another site recently and scooped up a bunch in a size 42 waist. Guess it’s a more European look…I don’t know, I think of Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart when I see a man in pleats and that does it for me :)

  3. It’s an age & shape thing mostly. If you are over 50 & out of shape…go with pleats. If you are under 40 & in shape…you will look better in flat. There are some exceptions, but the guy who tries to claim he needs the extra room of pleats for his jewels and that flats are another sign of feminization… Just has issues…lol ?

  4. An open question to the style-professionals,

    I need some clarifications.on pleated, cuffed suits vs. flat front Men’s business pants and attire.

    In the early 2000’s, I was a marketing executive and while I was in those levels of position, since the late 1990’s, I have always worn Designer Suits: pleated pants and cuffed pant legs.

    However, due to the recession, my industry failed and I retreated to a side-skill, which is cabinet-making, picture framing and carpentry, which was a jeans and t-shirt job every day. Equally, it was tiring work for a healthy but 51 year old man.

    Now, with the economy much better, I am trying to re-enter the corporate world. But the question remains: what does a 51 year old man wear in Atlanta, while looking for meaningful employment? Will I be a joke if I have all of these “Classic” pleated & cuffed (in my era) designers suits altered to fit?

    I must have a dozen plus of Ralph Lauren, Evan-Picone, Oscar de la Renta, Christian Dior or Joseph & Fleiss, worsted wool, pleated front and cuffed pants suits worth thousands of dollars. I usually finished these suits off with a pair of Johnston & Murphy capped toe (Oxford style) or wing-tipped shiny pair of black leather shoes.

    Now, progressing through the 2nd Decade of the 21st Century, I am in the process of reevaluating my wardrobe. Which is 95% Pleated and Cuffed Pants and a mix of 2 and 3 button jackets.

    I don’t know where to spend my money? Starting from scratch and buying less expensive suits or altering the dynamite collection that I already own?

    I am sure that there are thousands of middle aged men like me with a closet full of expensive suits. In our heads, I think we say this attire says to the young men and women with whom we are competing, “Hey, old man, you look like a G-Man from the 40’s”. It’s intimidating. I’m mean really.

    I spent a life time and a fortune building a wardrobe for an extremely high level of corporate success. It benefited me greatly from 1985 to 2009. The then entire business strata collapsed.

    I’m just not that old, and certainly wiser than my college aged children, but how a man looks is the equivalent of how a man feels.

    I know I must be blathering, but I know many men in my situation. So again the question: Pleats and cuffs or flat fronts and straight legs?

    I have to make an investment and I do not know where to put it in my wardrobe expenses.

    You all are great; I need a confidence building answer, Please.
    Best regards

    P.S. 10 Years ago I always got excessive compliments on my suits and appearance. Now, I just don’t know what to do. I loved all those suits.

    Are the still in style at all?

  5. I see in 10 mos no one has answered KB. We are the same age so I think I can help. Your suits are 10+ years old, so…. it is time to set them free. You will look dated. Pleats are OK, but not the rage. I like single pleats with cuffs. But, double cuffs can look dated. Try flat front, but no cuffs. Go buy a couple of Hart Schaffner Marx suits and you will be good to go. Good Luck!


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