Flat-front and pleated pants have made appearances over the years, each one taking its turn as the trendy way for men to wear their trousers.

You could probably recognize each of these styles, but how much do you really know about them?

There’s more to each of these styles that “pleats” the eye, and you may discover that one version is better for you than the other.

What are Flat-Front Pants

The name of this style of pants is pretty much a dead giveaway; they are dress pants with flat fronts. This means there are no folds or creases to give the fronts extra shaping.

flat-front pants style

This style of pants is simple and stark, creating a streamlined silhouette.

Flat-front pants have a more youthful vibe than pleated pants; they’re a somewhat contemporary trend, only really becoming popular in the last several years.

There is no extra fabric to create some “give” when you sit, so flat-front trousers may feel a little tight when you sit or move a lot.

What you see is what you get; there’s no fabric expansion to accommodate your body as it moves.

Admittedly, flat-front pants usually look better than they feel. They aren’t uncomfortable, but they are certainly more stylish than practical.

In addition, flat-front pants are most flattering on slim and regularly shaped bodies.

What are Pleated Pants

Pleats are folds in cloth that create some shape in a garment while allowing for some expansion to accommodate body movement.

standard pleated pants style

The material is folded and sewn with a small accordion style that opens up the fabric. All sorts of articles of clothing have pleats: skirts, shirts, and pants.

On pants, pleats are located in the center of the top of each leg, just under the waistband. There are commonly two pleats in front, but there can be up to four.

Pleats are pretty functional. They save your seams from taking on too much stress from movement. They can also help disguise larger areas of your body.

Pleated pants are suitable for men with larger or muscular builds. In addition, there are multiple variations and styles of pleats from which to choose.

Double-Pleated Pant Style

This is the style of trouser pleats that you’ll see most often. Consider it a kind of default for pleats.

double-pleated pants style

You’ll recognize this style by the two pleats on either side of the zipper.

The pants have one very long fold extending from the waistband and ending near the crotch, turning into the leg crease. Then there is a second, smaller pleat off to the side, closer to the pocket.

Forward-Pleated Pant Style

This style refers to how the pleats are constructed.

forward pleated pants style

There are only two pleats, one on either side of the pants zipper. The creases have the opening side of the fold facing the center of the body.

Forward pleats aren’t a commonly used style; they hail from British fashion.

Reverse-Pleated Pant Style

Another way of constructing pleats is to have the folds open away from the center of the pants, and face the pockets, instead.

reverse pleated pants style

They can have either one or two pleats on each pant leg.

Reverse-pleated pants are built in the Italian tradition of trousers and are the most common way to make pleats in the US.

Flat-Front vs. Pleated Pants: How to Choose

So, which is the better pair of pants? Do you just choose your preference? Sometimes, yes.

flat-front vs. pleated pants

But sometimes, you may have indicators to push you in one direction. For example, it may help to consider your body type, the setting, and how you like to wear your pants.

Each style has definite benefits, so there isn’t really a wrong answer.

In fact, you may prefer to keep both pleated and flat-front pants on hand, so you can wear the ones that strike your mood best that day.

When Are Flat-Front Pants Better?

Flat-front trousers are very trendy but are often associated with a more everyday look.

However, if you don’t need to dress formally or very professionally, there’s little reason to avoid flat-front pants if you like them best.

wearing navy flat-front pants more casually

They can be useful in creating balance in your ensemble.

For instance, double-breasted suit jackets have a lot going on up top, with the extra fabric that drapes across the torso.

double-breasted grey suit with grey flat-front pants

It’s a smart idea to keep your bottom half sleek as a counterweight to the heavy business up top.

A quick note. Keep in mind that your flat-front pants need to fit you very well.

flat-front pants' waist

If they are at all too large, they can quickly look messy without the pleats to help reign in the fabric.

On the other hand, pants that are too small generally benefit if there are at least some pleats to give them some grace.

Otherwise, it’s all on the table (figuratively, of course).

When Are Pleated Pants Better?

Do you prefer comfort over appearance?

For example, if you’re very active in your dress pants or spend a large part of the day sitting, you might choose to wear pleated pants because they’ll accommodate your lifestyle well.

Wearing grey double-pleated pants stylishly

Pleated pants are more dressy than flat-front, so they are terrific for amping up your business casual look.

It’s a minor tweak that will make your outfit feel slightly more formal. And since pleats are traditional, they can be a nice throwback to dressing well.

You also have a perfect excuse to skip wearing a belt if you’ve chosen pleated pants.

The waistband area is busy enough already; you don’t need to add a belt to make it look bulky.

Differences in Pant Rise

Flat-front pants are typically associated with tapered and slim-fit trousers.

pant rise measured with outseam length

However, this also usually means low-rise pants. This is because pleats don’t have much room to fit when there’s a smaller rise; they would look wedged into the front of the pants without having much space.

For pleated pants, you’ll usually have a medium rise at a minimum, but they’re generally on high-rise pants.

Differences in Pant Break

The flat-front pants brought with them the “no break” look to keep up with the modern trend. Their entire aesthetic is sleek, just one straight line from top to bottom.

no break suit pants

Pleats are associated with more looseness and softness, so you’ll notice that pants with pleats have a break.

This is another instance of creating balance in your outfit. A bit of extra fabric at the top and the bottom to reflect each other.

half break suit pants

The only time you definitely don’t want a pant break with pleated pants is if they have cuffs.

Can You Remove the Pleats

Tailoring your pants to be the best fit is always a good idea. However, trying to remove pleats from your trousers is a bad one, especially if they’re old.

To create the folds in the fabric, the tailor leaves extra material. If you unstitch those pleats, you’ll have baggy pants that sag oddly.

The pants won’t sit properly on your body once you undo the stitching for the pleats.

Alexander Stoicoff
Author: Alexander Stoicoff

Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve studied and specialized in styling in Rome. Through my writing, I want to help men dress well and learn the purpose and significance of suits and other formal attire. My final goal is to make men more confident in their wardrobe choice and life in general.

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