In search of the perfect black pants

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Matching the pattern

Don Deisch, COO of Oxxford Clothes, talks about what makes a good pair of trousers at Oxxford Clothes in Chicago, Tuesday, January 17, 2012. Deisch notes the matching lines in the pattern. (Heather Charles, Chicago Tribune / January 17, 2012)

Tip: Check the buttonholes. "The hole should be encased with stitches." Gaps in stitching suggest poor manufacturing.

Pockets

"You put your hands in. Is the fabric stiff and crunchy or is it soft? It does make a difference." You want soft.

Reinforcement at the top corners means durability.

Do pockets front and back lay flat? "Are there ripples? Do they look sloppy? A really cheap pair of pants is going to have a more sloppy look to these things."

Tip: Try the pants on and check that back pockets are straight across; front pockets shouldn't show "twisting and pulling."

Zipper

"Most manufacturers use a nylon zipper. A metal zipper is more expensive and more durable."

Tip: "If you see a metal zipper it's an indicator that it's a better pair of pants."

Waist closure

"Zip the pants up and button or close the hook. When you close everything, do they line up?"

This whole area should look neat and flat. Where the left and right parts of the waistband meet above the zipper, seams should be even and straight across the body.

Tip: Bumps, puckers or gaps in the closure area are a sign of low-quality construction.

Postscript

After Deisch walked me through Oxxford's Trouser Shop, I asked him to give me an honest appraisal of my Max Mara pants, the ones I have always thought were the highest quality in my closet.

"They have been dry-cleaned," he said as soon as he touched them, detecting the harsh effects of chemicals. People tend to dry-clean way too much, he said.

He told me to stop wearing the same pants all the time.

He recommends spot cleaning when needed but full dry cleaning only after about 25 wearings and pressing, not dry cleaning, "to get the shape back."

"The seams look good," he said. But then he got to the closure, with its bunched-up stitching where the waistband meets the pants. "You could always press some of that out," he said, not sounding convinced.

Noting that where the two sides of the waistband meet, one was an alarming, noticeable quarter-inch higher than the other. "I'm a little disappointed with the front," he said, sounding very disappointed with the front.

"It's a nice machine-made (pair of) pants," he concluded. On a scale of 1 to 10, he gave my favorite pants a 6. But I didn't think he meant it. "Maybe I'm being kind," he said.

shopellen@tribune.com
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