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Up with the High Waist, Down with the Low Rise

Up with the High Waist, Down with the Low Rise

The case for high-waisted trousers, denim and even shorts.

Connery’s trousers in Dr. No

I recall trying on my first pair of high-waisted pants in much the same way I remember drinking my first beer. Said paint—a wide-wale tan corduroy pulled from a stack at The Andover Shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts—felt like something made for older people, strange and unfamiliar to myself. But like the Yuengling I nicked from my parent’s garage at 16, my curiosity was piqued. 

Unlike that beer, I didn’t steal the pants, which have become a staple of my wardrobe in the three years since their purchase. It did take a few wears to get used to the odd feeling of a structured waistband sitting against my bellybutton. But whatever initial discomfort I felt was counteracted by how much more flattering they were then my mid-rise jeans, a fact confirmed by every mirror.

Photo courtesy of 1000yardstyle

In fact, standing before a reflective surface in a white OCBD (which, thanks to the pants’ high wise, actually stayed tucked in) and my cords brought another image to mind. A photo of my grandfather taken when he was young, in which he stands in front of a car wearing a button-down shirt, a sweater tied over his shoulders, and a pair of slacks hitched slightly north of his navel. My grandfather was no Cary Grant—he was a lifelong union printer in a small town—but in that snap, you’d swear he was old Hollywood royalty. I credit the pants. 

A higher-rise pant is flattering because it elongates the legs and covers-up the paunch, but it also plays much better with tailored clothing. Wear anything low or even mid-rise, and you’re much more likely to risk exposing some of the dreaded “shirt triangle,” that patch of exposed shirt between the jacket’s buttoned upper-button and the waistband of the trousers. 

And though I started on the high-rise route for stylistic reasons, I soon grew used to the feeling of a heightened waist. And after a full fall/winter season spent in high-rise flannels, moleskin pants and khakis subsequently made for me at The Andover Shop, I found my mid-rise jeans impossible to fit into. Not because they no longer fit—but because a pant that sat around the hips felt constricting by virtue of its placement alone. That, and the fact that any minor movement to reach for a bar on the subway train or tie a shoe pulled my tucked oxford halfway out, leading it to bunch up unflatteringly around the too-low waistband. 

All that’s a long way of saying that I’m now high rise or nothing. Finding tailored clothing with a higher rise is less of a chore, but denim is tricky. For months I didn’t even own a pair of jeans because I couldn’t find anything over a mid-rise. Fortunately, my research did yield some winners. 


Drake’s makes jeans that average about a 12” rise, and the denim from French label Husbands is also impressively high-up. My own go-to is what RRL dubs its “Vintage 5-Pocket,” a model with a 10.25” rise that is complemented by a wide leg (they’re even making a shorts version this summer, if you’re feeling more daring than I).

In the chino camp I’d again pull for Drake’s and RRL’s chino pant. I’ve also been intrigued by some recent offerings from Todd Snyder, including their Japanese selvedge chino and the “boxy chino” they made as part of their J. Press capsule.

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Todd Snyder

My high-rise mania has expanded to include shorts, too, and I’ve come to rely on the RRL chino short that clocks in at an impressive 11.25” rise. Theirs looks to vintage military gear for inspiration: if your summer ambitions run a bit more preppy, I’d point you in the direction of J. Press.

In sum, life is short: don’t waste it on the wrong waists. 

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