Style police: Summer crops

We mocked Japanese tourists for getting the three-quarter length all wrong, says JAMES SHERWOOD, but there is a right way

I know what you did last summer: made fun out of Japanese tourists wearing three-quarter-length pants, that's what. It was the season of girls in pedal pushers and male Japanese-style tourists clearly wanted a piece of the action. OK, so wide denim jeans cut off at mid-calf weren't really a well-known look. But that's the problem with being ahead of the high street. Menswear wasn't ready for three-quarter length last summer.

I still know what you're doing this summer: consuming cut-off pants faster than bottles of Budweiser on a beach holiday. We're not talking about long, baggy lad shorts here. The three-quarter-length pant is tailored without being tight. Neither are we talking turned up to the ankle. The cropped pant sits just below the knee or hovers at mid-calf. This is a new look for the boys.

You've got to understand a fundamental rule in menswear. When a high street store takes on a catwalk trend - like the Gaultier mini kilt four seasons ago - it takes more than two queens with buns of steel and no inhibitions to wear it and earn mainstream acceptance. They've got to hit every level of testosterone on the high street.

Crop pants are setting the world on fire because they're being bought by men who think that Alexander McQueen starred in The Magnificent Seven. These guys don't know jack about catwalk fashion. Why should they? If Beckham wears white crop pants, then so can they. Fashion is no different from a stag night for lads. If one does it, they all do it. And the girlfriends aren't going to say no. No self-respecting woman wants to be seen with a lad poured into short shorts and swinging his credentials like a Gucci handbag.

HOW TO WEAR THEM

Three-quarter-length pants work for men because they don't veer too close to camp. When a womenswear trend translates to menswear, it's got to be butch enough to rough up and dress down. You don't wear them with little espadrilles. Three-quarter crops demand trainers (no socks), black single- bar leather sandals (no strappy brown Jesus numbers) or suede loafers.

Three-quarter crops are not Costa del Sol comes to town. They are an urban story to be worn with a sleeveless tank and a crop jacket rather than some nondescript sloppy T-shirt with a tacky logo. You wear 'em in black, white or beige. You buy them in cotton or linen. If they're too tight they look too Graham Norton. If they're too loose, they look too skate kid. Streamlining is key.

WHERE TO BUY THEM

H&M put a pair of white cotton three-quarter crops in its window last Saturday. They have a combat pocket detail and they are pounds 19.99. All sizes up to XL sold out in three days. Panic not because it's going to restock. White's right but Style Police particularly loves a dark grey tailored pair of H&M crop pants (pounds 19.99) with more fit and zero detail. If you're feeling particularly empowered by the new crops, try them on with an H&M acid yellow neon silk viscose sleeveless top. Fierce is the only appropriate phrase.

You know by now that we have a soft spot for Chris Bailey of Jigsaw Menswear. The man instinctively knows how to deflate the prissiness surrounding high fashion menswear. Bailey gives menswear balls and we love his three- quarter linen combats (pounds 79) and ice-blue laser-cut coated cotton pants (pounds 120 in the edgier Bailey collection). Laser cutting is a precision technique of cutting which burns hems and thick seam detail from these streamlined three-quarter crops.

If you're looking for a die-hard classic pair of crops, you have to enter the Nirvana that is Zara menswear. For pounds 43, Zara's crops are so spot-on you're going to buy them in cream, black and khaki cotton. They fit like a knife in butter.

ADDRESS BOOK

H&M: 0171 255 2031.

Jigsaw Menswear: 0171 499 2521.

Zara: 0171 534 9500.

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