Trouser Tuesday: Whillas & Gunn “Charles”, unusually retro

Working our way around the world reviewing trousers sees us arriving in Australia today. Whillas & Gunn, a family company supplying fine, rugged menswear since 1972, are something of a favourite of mine, having made both one of the very favourite waistcoats (which says something) and the backpack I use on a daily basis.

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Todays offering is a pair of the new “Charles” trousers, described on their website as “high waisted vintage inspired pants”. Now, high waisted and vintage are both excellent trigger-words to capture my attention, so given my previous good experience with the good company of Whillas & Gunn, these trousers obviously required a closer look.

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The most obvious feature is the material used. I just love the fancy-looking stripes, very reminiscent of my vintage suit from the 40’s.  Described as “mattress ticking canvas”, it is a densely woven cotton of low weight. This is not a thick twill or wool fabric, but more of a summer weight.

Mattress ticking canvas would in previous times have been used to cover a mattress, with the fabric dense enough to prevent feathers from poking through. We learn something every day, eh?

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The second most obvious feature is that there are no belt loops. Nor are there any buttons for braces (though we’ll return to that a little further on). You may be wondering how on earth these britches will preserve your dignity? We do have two decent rear pockets though, with welted edges and a button a piece.

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What we have instead of provision for belts and braces is a a rather innovative adjustable waist tab feature. I’m not sure if this is a new innovation, or a vintage idea that seeing the light again, but it’s certainly different!

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Using two tabs and 4 buttons, there are basically two waist sizes possible. Or three, if you’re not a stickler for symmetry, though that may look a bit off if you’re showing the front of the trousers. First one tab passes through the waist-lining and fastens to the left side, then the other is fastened to the right. It’s actually a pretty clever idea.

Thankfully the fly has a zipper, which means that a gentleman need not unbutton the waist tab when only partial access is required. The buttons are of the metal tack variety and should wear in nicely for a bit of vintage patina.

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The silhouette is a classic tapered look with double pleats. Not extremely tapered in a hipster style, but enough to give them the suitable retro style. The waist will be set to be an exact fit, but the hip area is generous.

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I suspect that the fabric on these will really start working once they’ve been washed and soften up a bit. Ideally I’d like a pair in an even thicker fabric, but in a quite similar style and striped pattern.

The inside of the pockets is in a comfy blue cotton. Stitching is primarily of the overlocked type, utilitarian more than the last weeks tour de force lapped stitching by Thoroughstitch.

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I’m still a little uncertain about the tab waist compared to a more traditional solution. Especially as the only way of setting the waist size. While adding belt loops would be entirely wrong, I will be adding the necessary buttons to let me use a proper pair of braces with them.

If I was to offer a final improvement to be made, I’d like the waist-lining to be made of a stiffer fabric, so that the handsome profile of the waistline would show a bit better. There is a tendency for the waistline to get a little crumpled when you’ve been sitting around, as a gentleman is wont to do.

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For version 2 I’d also like to see a little thicker fabric, more of a twill. Same stripes, but more rugged. In the style of my old Whillas & Gunn waistcoat, which is a lesson to most others in how to make a superb waistcoat.

 

Production details:
  • Fabric – Unknown
  • Trousers – China

Score (1-5, 3 being average):

  • Assembly: 3
  • Details: 4
  • Quality: 3
  • Value for money: 3
  • Cool-factor: 4

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