Aspirational trousers

So, this is how it works in the era of influencer marketing in the engagement economy. Some elder bloggers – who I trust aren’t in the pocket of Big Trouser – blat about Hiut Denim, which is a nice brand of trousers made in Wales. Later, I, in possession of some money and in want of something to conceal my legs, remembered this and bought some.

The most echt artisanal trousers are surely made of selvedge denim. Whereas many mass-market trouser merchants sell stonewashed jeans in various states of distress1, Hiut and others revolutionarily offer actual brand new clothes and invite you to distress them yourself. The most committed disgusting raw denim users will forego washing their jeans for months at a time, in favour of putting them in the freezer, to make the distress as personalised as possible. Perhaps this is a case of the IKEA effect, “a cognitive bias in which consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created”.2

I didn’t buy that sort of trouser – too predictable. Instead, a high-tech blend of stretchy fabric. Slightly tight – a style once favoured by Tony Blair – but no one has the courage to tell me to my face that my kecks make me look like a war criminal, so it’s OK. “Great to ride your bike into work, it’s quick drying, but in the office they just look like a great black jean,” blethers the marketing copy, which is quite right.

Months later, it seemed time to expand the trouser collection with something different: cheap, flappy and made of cotton. Summertime trousers. But disaster struck: on practically their first outing, I trousered my mobile phone, before nonchalantly sitting down near some aphsalt … you can guess what happened next. The trousers had seemed cheap, but the shallow pockets quickly made it a false economy. It’s a modern parable.

I kept a lookout for aspirational garb. Of course, I’m abreast of the exciting New York “underground fashion label for nerds” Outlierthere’s a long Wired article that probably isn’t worth reading – but, the last time I considered it, shipping a military-inspired poncho across the pond just didn’t seem worth it.3 Instead, doesn’t someone make something similar in this country, I thought.

Someone suggested Finisterre, whose products are slightly targeted at people who surf. I’ve never surfed, but I can speak favourably about the slightly itchy short-sleeved woollen base layer, and nice socks, that I bought. Also, some trousers, which were the wrong size (my fault) but the return process was wonderfully hassle-free. Their commitment to sustainability isn’t bullshit, which is nice.

The last trousers I bought were from the venture capital–backed corporate stooges Spoke. Again with the technical fabric aimed at bicyclists – less stretchy and a bit more water-repellent than the stuff of the Hiut jeans, but – let me be clear – still not so water-repellent that actual waterproof trousers aren’t needed on top in the rain. They’re innovative trousers, with a fold-out reflective bit, and an extra zipped pocket inside the right-hand side pockets. The one snag is literally snagging one’s hand on that pocket’s zip (after leaving the zip unzipped and forgetting about it) – but such is the agony and ecstasy of high-quality trousers.

  1. Adding a message to your trousers: in the 2011 BBC Three documentary Secrets of the Superbrands: Fashion – which contains lines like “That says ‘crankshafts’ in Japanese. That’s amazing isn’t it?” – children’s presenter Alex Riley went to India to meet a “philosopher of denim” whose vocation is using power tools, bleach etc to fuck up trousers. 

  2. See also: the (disproven) theory that instant cake mixes “sold poorly until one food company decided to require the addition of a fresh egg to their product”. 

  3. Maybe I will change my mind. Cotton Bureau’s “Blank” T-shirts are the best T-shirts I’ve worn in all my years of wearing T-shirts – well worth the hassle of international shipping.