Other than the morning waistcoat, your choice of morning trousers is a fantastic way to add a touch of individuality to your ensemble. In the following, we will elaborate a little bit on the morning trouser history; discuss the color, pattern and fabric choices before we make suggestions with regard to cut and fit of morning trousers.
Gentlemen at Royal Ascot in Morning Coats with Checked & Striped Trousers
Morning Trouser History
Traditionally, in the 19th century, it was normal to combine a morning coat with matching trousers, creating a morning suit. In particular, morning suits in brown or grey fabrics seem to have been en vogue at the time. At around the Fin de Siècle, the frock coat was already disappearing and the morning coat was now considered to be a more formal garment and was hence worn in black. Instead of matching trousers, men preferred a slightly lighter colored, striped trousers. The base color of these trousers was usually some variety of grey. Soon after its introduction, cloth weavers had created a huge range of striped trouser fabric designs. In Germany, the striped trousers became popular after Gustav Stresemann had worn them for the first time in combination with a black single breasted lounge coat on December 1, 1925.
This stroller suit combination subsequently gained popularity as the ‘Stresemann Suit’. Beginning in the 1930s, men began wearing other patterns, and by the 1950s, it was not unusual at all to see different trouser patterns. Striped trousers had become omnipresent and every stroller suit-wearing man who worked at a hotel or a café probably owned a pair of striped trousers. Elegant men who wanted to distinguish themselves through their dress were practically forced to switch to alternative patterns.
Striped Morning Spongebag Trousers & Coat by Henry Poole
Morning Trouser Fabric
Even today, the striped trousers are by far the most popular for morning dress. While there are numerous variations of stripes, like the pin stripe or the chalk stripe, the typical morning trousers stripe is the cashmere stripe.
The Cashmere Spongebag Trousers
Traditional Morning Trouser Stripe
Morning Trouser Stripe
Cashmere Spongebag Trousers have a very close resemblance to traditional, striped, wet spongebags. For those not familiar with this rather unattractive term, a ‘spongebag’ is used in Britain in reference to the travel bag one uses to carry toiletries.
Tailors call these trousers ‘cashmere’ even when though they are not made of cashmere at all! In any case, this is the reason why this combination of grey and black stripes is called Cashmere Spongebag Trousers. In Germany, they are called Stresemann trousers.
Morning Trousers with Blue Stripe & Traditional Dark Morning Trousers
At one point in time, there were literally hundreds if not thousands of different kinds of these Cashmere Spongebag Trouser Stripes. Nevertheless, they all had a similar look of grey and black stripes, which is sometimes combined with a partial twill weave. Traditionally, they were made of worsteds that felt similar to Melton or panama cloth. Today, it is difficult to find a variety of spongebag stripes anymore.
Vintage Cashmere Spongebag Trousers fabrics are usually rather heavy, whereas their modern equivalents are generally lighter and also thinner.
Charcoal Morning Coat with Wide Striped Trousers
Every once in a while you will find older pictures of dapper men dressed in what looks like chalk stripe trousers with off white stripes on a dark base. While this is certainly the exception to the rule, it can look rather elegant in my opinion.
The most popular alternative to the spongebag striped trouser is certainly the black and white Houndstooth pattern. It is sometimes referred to as ‘salt and pepper’if the houndstooth pattern is roughly 2mm or smaller. Some people may argue that this is pattern is less formal due to its lighter color, but today it is generally accepted as being appropriately formal with a morning coat ensemble. Personally, I think it is an excellent alternative pattern that can be easily combined with other items in your wardrobe aside from morning dress.
Duke of Kent in Morning Coat with Glencheck Trousers & Princess Alexandra
Glencheck / Prince of Wales Check & Small Check
As previously mentioned, beginning in the 1930s and peaking in the 1950s, alternative patterns became quite popular. The ypung Duke of Kent popularized glencheck trousers for morning dress after he wore a bold pair of glencheck trousers at Royal Ascot. Interestingly, the Duke of Kent was not the first who tried to establish the trend of glencheck trousers with morning coats. In 1954, Sir Percy Loraine was seen at the Epsom Derby with trousers in a subdued glencheck pattern.
If you want to try something special, choose a glencheck pattern with an overplaid in a muted color.
Morning Coat with Plain Flannel Trousers & Spats
Light Grey Trousers
In the 1930s, the fascist Italian secretary of foreign affairs, Gian Galeazzo Ciano, 2nd Count of Cortellazzo and Buccari, developed a preference for solid light grey morning trousers, and they continued to be seen even after WWII.
Herringbone and Twill
There was a time when men even wore Cheviot Twill or Shetland morning trousers. These rather coarse, heavy fabrics are not seen at all anymore and you should consider yourself extremely lucky if you find a vintage model in tones of black, grey and white. Of course, there is always the option to go bespoke, but even then it will be a challenge to obtain the right shade.
As a last resort, you may wear your grey flannel pants with a morning coat. You should only wear this versatile garment if you really cannot acquire any of the other possibilities mentioned above. Nobody would consider grey flannels to be utterly wrong, though it is in fact quite unexciting and depending on the color of your morning coat, it may not look harmonious if it is too dark. So if you go with gray flannel, choose a lighter shade that looks distinctly different from the morning coat.
Henry Poole Cuffed Morning Trouser with Fish Tail Back for Suspenders
Morning Trouser Cut
Stroller Suit & Morning Coat with Striped & Checked Trousers
During the Victorian and Edwardian era, morning trousers were cut rather slim and tapered with a high waist. In the 1930s, morning trousers became much fuller with big (reverse) pleats in the front, but a likewise high waist. The trousers usually featured a fish tail back and were tailored for suspenders / braces that kept your trousers in place at all times, even if they were a little roomy around your waist.
Suspenders or Side Adjuster but No Belt
Suspenders are still the ideal choice, in my opinion, but side adjusters will do as well if you do not like to wear suspenders. Trousers with belt loops should be avoided because the waistcoat will not look too good under a belt.
In place of a fishtail back, you sometimes can see a round waistband with buttons on the inside and two vertical straps with buttons in the back. This model is also tailored for suspenders and emulates the positioning of a fishtail back.
Low Rise vs. High Rise Trousers
Henry Poole Cuffed Morning Trouser Pattern
Today, it seems like most contemporary morning trousers are cut slimly again, and in compliance with a general trend, they are cut to finish just slightly over the hip. Trousers with such a low rise are difficult to combine with a waistcoat, unless they were tailored together. Most waistcoats are usually cut a little shorter, since they were designed to cover the waistband of a pair of high rise trousers. However, modern trousers may leave a gap, which is unacceptable.
Morning Coat & Trousers in Stripes, Checks & Herringbones
As a consequence, modern waistcoats, especially single breasted ones, are often times cut longer. Unfortunately, this looks less elegant in my opinion than a shorter waistcoat with high rise trousers. So, you should bear that in mind when you look for a pair of morning trousers.
To Pleat or Not To Pleat
With regard to pleats, I personally I prefer the look of traditional pleats and reverse pleats over a flat front, but this is simply a matter of taste. You should choose the style you like the most – no style is right, or better than another. Before choosing, take into consideration that pleated trousers create more room and visual dynamic, and hence provide you with more comfort and detail than flat front pants. In addition, a slim frame will be exaggerated by flat front pants, and you should take care to make sure that the pockets do not gap awkwardly on the sides.
Henry Poole Cuffed Morning Trousers
The Morning Trouser Cuffs
Morning Trousers with Cuffs in 1935
Historically, cuffed trousers were considered to be less formal that those without turn-ups. Naturally, the semi-formal and later formal morning coat was usually worn without cuffs. However, during the Edwardian era, there were a few gentlemen who favored trousers with turn-ups even for their morning dress when they attended horse races. Just look at the picture of a pair of Henry Poole morning trousers from Savile Row that had faux cuffs, meaning that they were cut and attached separately. Considering that the cloth of the cuffs matches the trousers perfectly, this faux cuff could probably have been attributed to high fabric prices at the time. Tailors tried to use every single piece of cloth they had.
In the 30s in the US, cuffed morning trousers were accepted with a black jacket – also known as the Stroller or Stresemann suit. Overall, I have only seen quite a few pictures of men wearing cuffed morning trousers and if so, they were usually in a horse race setting. Cuffs on morning trousers certainly existed but they were not a major trend.
As such, it probably makes more sense to choose a plain pair of morning trousers without cuffs. In case you already have morning trousers without cuffs and you would like to try something new, give them a try but consider wearing them with the less formal Stroller jacket first and avoid them for weddings.