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Why baggy pants are both a runway and streetwear hit

Whether it’s a fashion show or an airport look, the wide-legged pants are having a grand moment

Ranveer Singh in Valentino
Ranveer Singh in Valentino (Sheldon Santos)

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Baggy pants are no longer frumpy. In an era of love-all fashion, donning wide-legged pants (be it trousers, jeans or cargo pants) to the office, a party or a brunch is more than welcome. It’s high-fashion too, with couture houses like Balenciaga, Gucci, Hermès and Valentino (their pink pants are everywhere, from front rows at fashion shows to film festivals, even airports) presenting their versions over the past few weeks in Milan, London and Paris.

Among the reasons for their growing popularity is the recent resurgence of Y2K fashion (think cargo fits, flared or boot-cut jeans, shiny jackets, small tees and velour tracksuits). During the pandemic, moreover, we started living in comfy co-ords, tees and pyjamas, or kaftans. We continue to crave this comfort even though many of us have returned to the open-plan physical office to hunch over our laptops. For, the past two years have made us realise not only that comfort should be the top priority in whatever we wear but also that it doesn’t mean compromising on style—as singer-actor Harry Styles showed on several occasions when he landed in Venice last month to promote Don’t Worry Darling.

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A look from Hermès at the recent Paris Fashion Week
A look from Hermès at the recent Paris Fashion Week (Filippo Fior)

Nimish Shah, creative director of Bhaane, a brand known for creating simple, contemporary clothing, offers a perspective: “Trousers were designed for workwear and were always meant to be relaxed. It was only much later, when fabrics with stretch were used that would allow you to stretch and flex, that the style became more contemporary. Despite the stretch, the silhouettes of denims and cargos of the 1990s and early 2000s were still parallel to baggy, giving room for movement.”

Explaining the lingering popularity of the uncomfortable skinny pants that have long enjoyed the limelight (Styles, like many singers and artists, popularised them during his days as a member of the boy band One Direction), Shah says: “The skinnies rose to popularity in the late 2000s. The whole East London boys look had a lot more to do with current fashion with the use of spandex than your standard trousers, which had more room.”

Celebrity stylist Eka Lakhani, who has styled stars such as Sidharth Malhotra and Ranveer Singh, reiterates the point. “Trousers in general were originally made to fit loose and relaxed. It’s only much later that adaptations were made for them to fit skinny or tapered. We saw a lot of wide-legged and even boot-cuts in the 1980s,” she says. “And now the baggy, oversized or even wide-legged trousers have made a comeback.” So great is the interest in comfortable pants that brands like Levi’s have launched a collection dedicated just to baggy fits.

Beyond the comfort, what works in their favour is that they are easy to style. Team a pair with a tank top (as seen at Valentino’s grand Couture Week presentation) and it adds the perfect definition to the top half. Wear it under a long shirt and you have a great outfit for a relaxed lunch date, or a long day at work. “Mid-rise wide trousers are very comfortable to wear for different body types compared to very low ones,” says Shah.

“Very wide trousers still don’t work for all workplaces though, you can’t look like you are trying too hard, it might be on trend but doesn’t necessarily work for all work settings, unless you are an American music composer who can wear bright wide pants to work. I quite like how Harry Styles wears it often, and also how these pants were styled at the JACQUEMUS and Marni shows,” Shah adds.

The styling trick

At home, actor Ranveer Singh has often been seen in baggy, wide and flared fits on both casual and formal occasions. “We did a lot of high-waist baggy pants, boot-cuts and 1970s flared bottoms with formal shirts, jackets and blazers and even corduroys for Ranveer all through the 83 promotions. It gave him a cool, edgy look. With Karan (Johar, the film-maker), I have done a lot of oversized-on-oversized. So oversized jackets with pants, oversized T-shirts with wide trousers, and stitched blazers with cargos. Depending on how casual or formal your look, this can work with both body types by changing your footwear,” says Lakhani.

Shah says you could also try ankle-length, Japanese-style wide pants that can be worn with sneakers and a T-shirt. Or longer, wide pants with workwear shoes.

“When it comes to fits, shoes are really underrated, the length of your pants and the shoes you choose have to be in sync. Use footwear wisely and dress according to your body and not because something is on trend. With a wide silhouette, the pants have to be well-made,” says Shah. “And don’t drown completely in baggy fits, identify your slimming zone. It could be an open neck, wrist, torso or arms with a muscle tee that could make the look flattering.”

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