Trousers for fall and winter – guide to essentials

Posted by Atte Rytkönen on 22.11.2016 in General

Style and dressing well is all about context. And your style choices are always related to the climate you live in. Therefore it is also pay attention to seasonal choices and how to dress up during different times of a year. In this post I take a look at what are the essential trouser choices, especially for fall and winter season.

Slacks, or odd trousers, come in a wide range of styles and fabrics. The dressiest trousers are cut from a dark colored wool and styled in the same way suit trousers are. These pieces are the most suitable to wear with sport coats and blazers. And when you start moving toward lighter colored fabrics cut from cotton the result becomes less formal.

Men's essential trousers - brown wool overcoat with gray flannel trousers
Gray flannel trousers are probably the most classic choice for fall and winter.

Essentials – Ground rules

When you start to build up your wardrobe, it is good to know what are the essential trousers you should at least have in your selection. And why. But before I go into the options you have in terms of seasonal trousers and slacks, it is good to bring up the basic principles. It doesn’t matter whether the question is about jackets, shirts or trousers, keep these in mind.

  1. Whatever your style is, whatever you are wearing – make sure your clothing fits. And make sure it fits you at the moment. Pay attention to the cut and fit of the clothes and pick garments that favors the build of your body.
  2. Pay attention to versatility, diversity and simplicity. Start by investing your money on some more “classic” pieces. They will give you good foundation to build up the wardrobe.
  3. Go for classic colors, patterns, and styles. Play safe in terms of colors and start with options that are again versatile and easy to combine. Try shades of blue, grey and brown. When it comes to patterns and general style, start by selecting timeless and classic garments instead of trends and fashionable items.
  4. Go quality over quantity – buy less buy better. By doing this you will end up having clothes in your wardrobe that you wear more often and feel better when you wear it. And those garments will even last longer than the cheap ones with lower quality.
Olive green trousers with brown sport coat
Olive green cotton is a good choice for more casual combinations.

What are the essential trousers every man should have?

I have earlier wrote about different types of dressers. And how start building up wardrobe for different kind of professions or styles. If you haven’t read it, check it out first.

When talking about odd trousers or slacks the most important thing to consider is that they need to be made from a clearly different looking fabric than the jacket you combine them with. So we are not talking about suit trousers, although suit trousers can many times be used as separate and so they can work as odd trousers. And if you are in beginning of building up your wardrobe, buying suits that you can use as separates is a good option.

Men's essential trousers - Charcoal gray flannel trouser with checked sport coat
Charcoal gray flannel trousers with checked sport coat and white shirt. Pic by Drake’s London.

As mentioned the most dressiest slacks are usually made from a dark (grey or blue) wool and styled in the same way suit trousers are. Therefore they can easily be combined with blazers and button-up shirts. By changing the color to something more light and fabric from wool to cotton for example the style becomes less formal and more appropriate for casual wear.

First trousers to buy

When you start to build up your wardrobe my recommendation is to acquire one pair of mid-grey colored flannel slacks and one pair of light colored cotton slacks for more dressed-up occasions. And then two pairs of cotton chinos in restrained colors. Beige or olive green and dark blue for example make a good start. It’s good to keep in mind that chinos are first of all in general more dressed-up option than denim. And secondly you can quite easily dress them up or down – depending how you end up combining them.

However in this post I mainly concentrate on trousers for fall and winter season. And especially these recommendations are for those are living in areas with “real winter”, snow and cold. Therefore I leave out all lightweight cotton and linen options.

Men's essential trousers - flannel wool details
Details of woolen flannel trousers.

Trouser fabrics – fall and winter season favorites

Before I go to the seasonal choices, a few words about trousers that are suitable to wear year-round. First of all chinos. For example medium weight cotton chinos in darker shades of khaki are appropriate for all seasons. Every guy should have a pair of these as they are easy to wear for many kind of casual occasions.

For dressier trousers, there’s of course lightweight wool fabrics, especially flannel. Lightweight flannel is good for from fall to spring. And then there are options that are appropriate for all seasons. In terms of color I would recommend getting a pair in light or mid gray. These two shades are easier to combine with dark colored sport coats and blazers. About flannel it is good to remember that it can be woolen or worsted. Worsted is a bit lighter and has more visible and resistant weave.

And then a few seasonal options that are especially appropriate for fall and winter season. And these options are especially for those guys who like to dress up but who do not wear suits on a daily basis.

Men's essential trousers - white corduroy slacks with brown double monks
Pair your corduroy trousers with heavier wool sport coats or tweed jackets.

Corduroy

Thanks to the ridges of the fabric that form an insulating cushion of air, corduroy is the warmest cotton material there is. Therefore it is a good choice for fall and winter season. And corduroy is a material that is especially adaptable for rugger outdoor use for example in the countryside. But nowadays you can wear corduroy trousers also in the city, especially the so-called narrow corduroy version. In general I would recommend to avoid very wide corduroy fabric as that is much harder to pull off. In terms of color, go for shades of brown or olive green. If you want something a bit more special, try off-white corduroy slacks with navy blue blazer or checked sport coat.

Moleskine

Another good casual option is moleskin. That is a heavy cotton fabric, woven and then sheared to create a short, soft pile on one side. Moleskin trousers are also great for the fall and winter, as they retain heat well. But as the fabric has high cotton content they are also very breathable. The fabrics is also very soft, durable and hardwearing, which makes it perfect for more casual business outfits. It is good to keep in mind that in in terms of cut and construction moleskine trousers are basically like jeans. Therefore they are always casual and not meant for very formal occasions.

Cavalry twill

Third recommandable fabric option for fall and winter is cavalry twill. It is ideal for the season because it is resistant, warm and does not crease easily. The name of cavalry twill derives from the fact that it has been and still is largerly used for military uniforms. The fabric is elastic and therefore it is suitable for those who are looking for durable trousers. The weave of cavalry twill is restrained when you look from a distance but when you come closer you can clearly see the texture. For example light khaki or brown cavalry twill is a good option for smart casual pants. Wear them with a light blue button-up shirt, dark blue windowpane sport coat and navy blue grenadine tie.

5x essential trousers for fall and winter

I have chosen five pairs that I think are recommenable in terms of dressing up for fall and winter. Five pairs of odd trousers that you can combine with sport coats, blazers and knitwear. And if you just combine them in a right way you will get through most of formal and casual occasions. This list consists of plain wool and cotton trousers. Therefore it is good to keep in mind that this is a list of trousers that are the most versatile choices in my opinion. If you have your basics covered, go for corduroy or patterned wool fabrics for example.  But if you are looking for the first five pairs to purchase or you want to keep your rotation small, these are the five essentials pairs. Three pairs of wool slacks and two cotton pairs of cotton trousers.

essential-trousers-for-men-gray-woolen-flannel-trousers-with-blue-blazer

1) Gray woolen flannel wool trousers

If you want to dress up but suit is too much for you, go for mid-gray flannel trousers. Some might say that it is boring, but gray flannel slacks with navy blazer is a classic combination. And it is actually appropriate for many occasions, from college to more formal business meetings. Here I have combined in the most classic way but you ca wear this kind of woolen flannel slacks as well with some suede double monks and casual knitwear.
essential-trousers-for-men-khaki-cotton-trousers-with-sport-coat

2) Light colored cotton / cotton-wool chinos

The second choice on my list is a pair of light colored cotton trousers. If you style is more casual, these can be even more useful than the gray flannel slacks. For fall and winter choose a pair that is made of thicker cotton fabric or fabric featuring wool and cotton together. And remember to try and find the style that suits you. If you wear a blazer or sport coat on daily basis, choose a dressier pair of cotton slacks. And if you are about to wear your trousers with chunky knitwear, go for more casual chinos, made of thicker fabric.

essential-trousers-for-men-charcoal-gray-flannel-trousers-with-sport-coat

3) Charcoal gray worsted flannel wool trousers

Third on the list is another pair of flannel slacks. The worsted wool flannel is in general slightly lighter and smoother alternative compared to the more rustic woolen flannel. It also has more visible and resistant weave. In my opinion the first pair on the list is at its best when combined with heavier wool flannel blazers. This kind of flannel slacks you can pair with lighter jacket and they are especially suitable for smart casual and business casual outfits.

essential-trousers-for-men-blue-wool-trousers-with-suede-jacket

4) Navy blue wool trousers / cotton slacks

Third and last pair of wool trousers on the list. After you have acquired the two gray pairs, you can go for blue or brown. In my opinion blue is better especially if you are looking for trousers to wear with more dressier combinations. On the other hand as you can see here, you don’t always need to wear flannel slacks with button-up shirts and sport coats. Try to pair you blue wool trousers with burgundy roll neck sweater and brown suede or leather jacket. Chic and fresh but still restrained.

essential-trousers-for-men-olive-green-cotton-trousers-with-shaw-collar-cardigan

5) Olive green cotton trousers

Finally another pair of cotton trousers, and I personally would go for olive green chinos. In my opinion olive or military green is one of the most versatile colors in terms of casual trousers. In my opinion it is better color for casual cotton slacks than brown or even better than blue. You can combine it with shades of brown, grey, blue, burdungy and even orange for example. And if you choose the right cut and make sure the trousers fits you right, you have a very versatile pair in your hands. For casual Saturday combine them with chunky cardigan, button-down shirt and suede chukka boots. But if you want to dress up a little bit, try to wear you olive green chinos with brown cashmere blazer, white spread collar shirt and brown shantung tie.

Denim & jeans

In addition to the above mentioned option, every guy needs a pair of jeans.

I know there are guys who think that they can never wear denim. That it is too casual. By their nature all jeans and denim are casual indeed. However nowadays there is a wide range of denim – going from very relaxed fitted raw denim to Italian style denim slacks that you can in fact wear with sport coats and other tailored garments. As a “rule” it could be mentioned that the darker the color of the denim the more formal it is. Finally,  it’s all about the fit and the situation will tell how the jeans should be combined.

Men's essential trousers - denim jeans with button-down shirt and sport coat
Every man needs a pair of jeans.

Jeans are also a good option for those looking a versatile pair of trousers. A good pair of denim can be combined with a cashmere sweater and suede boots on one day and with button-up shirt and sport coat on another.

My own preference is that a man should own at least two pairs of jeans. One in a darker shade of blue and one made of more light colored denim. Just keep in mind that the fit is all that matters. A man in a white t-shirt and well fitted denim will always look better and more sharp than a man in suit that does not fit. It’s good to keep in mind that denim is also one of those garments you don’t need a big budget for. For example from Uniqlo you can get great looking denim with a decent quality for a very reasonable price. But if you want to go all the way, there is no limit that you can spend for your jeans.

Men’s essential trousers for fall and winter – Sum up

To put it short, you can go through fall and winter with five or six pairs of trousers. However it is good to keep in mind that wool, especially flannel tends to peel in the ares subject to the most friction. Therefore in my opinion it is better to have enough pairs in your rotation. And remember this. If you have suits that you are about to use as separates, it might be wise to get two pairs of pants for every jacket you have in that same material.

Above I have listed 5 essential pairs of trousers for fall and winter. After those five pairs the field of choices is broad. First of all you can go for corduroy or moleskin. Or you can step up your pattern game and go for some more boldly patterned fabrics. In that case remember at least to keep the top half of your outfit simple and restrained. Or if you want to play safe, you can just keep  it simple and acquire all possible shades of gray flannel slacks.

As you can see, when it’s about the basic and essentials, the old rules apply. Keep it simple, go for colors that are versatile and easy to combine and make sure the garments you choose fits you properly.

Essential trousers for men - Blue blazer with sand colored cotton trousers
Mid-khaki colored cotton slacks with blue blazer – another classic ensemble. Pic by The Armoury.

  • f.

    What’s your recommendation for olive cotton slacks (other than the one from B&B in the photo, that is)?

    • dresslikea

      Hey,

      Yep, the pair pictured is from Berg&Berg. In addition to those Korean Finealta, Trunk Clothiers and Rose&Born have some options on their private labels.Spiga3 has a nice looking pair from Entre Amis and Linnegatan2 has an interesting olive green corduroy pair by Incotex. And for those who are looking trousers with smaller budget, Uniqlo has some nice options as well.

      Best,
      Atte

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  • sagaari

    Hi, Thank you for great articles!
    What brands would you recommend for somebody who is looking to buy his first pair of light grey flannel trousers?

    • dresslikea

      Hey man,

      Thanks for the kind words! And sorry for a bit delayed response.

      In general I think that this a good time to look for classic light gray flannel trousers. The sale season has just started and you can make some nice finds with lower budget as well. And maybe something that would normally be out of your reach. I don’t usually recommend impulsive sales purchases but classic items such as the gray flannels are something to keep an eye on.

      Regarding the possible brands I would check the following ones: Berg&Berg, I believe they will start their sales soon. From a bit more expensive brands I would check Incotex and Berwich (if you happen to live in Helsinki, go and check Sauma for those. And Schoffa have some on their own label, I would take a look at those as well.). Swedish Spiga3 seems to have some nice Eleventy lightweight flannel slacks on sale and then PTO1 (Pantaloni Torino) also makes some really nice trousers.

      Finally, if you are looking for something with smaller budget, I would take a look at Uniqlo. They actually had for this season a nice model with 98% wool and 2% elastane, which I believe would be just a great first pair of flannel slacks. And they had light gray color as well. But I’m not sure about the sizes which they have left, if any.

      Hope these helps!

      Best,
      Atte

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  • Brandon E

    What brand are the chukka boots in the 4th look? Those are the best chukka boots I’ve ever seen and I can’t find anything just like that anywhere. Thank you!

    • dresslikea

      Hey Brandon,

      Thanks for the comment and apologies for the late reply!

      Regarding your question, the chukka boots on that 5th look (I guess you meant that one with the olive cotton slacks) are made by Gaziano & Girling. Those have been available through Mr. Porter but for example Leffot has some on their selection as well.

      Best,
      Atte