Style Police: They come with strings attached

Drawstring trousers are loose and elegant - just be careful to keep those nasty trainers away, orders a stern

Is there some kind of fashion e-mail chain that says, "It's safe to wear your summer pants"? Like a proud parent at sports day, we've watched you daring to bare a bit of calf in three-quarter-length pants. Love it. The alternative summer pants, your basic linen drawstring numbers, are proving more problematic. No, you can't rough them up with trainers, it just isn't working. Drawstring pants are pure Riviera. If you're going to wear them well, then you've got to go all the way.

The return of drawstring pants every summer is as predictable as rain in July. The Salvatore Ferragamo show for spring/ summer 99 cut them wide and high in purest white linen. Ferragamo accessorised with white leather thong sandals and a midriff-revealing white ribbed silk knit cardigan/coat. Style Police has no truck with fashion editors telling you not to wear white in the city. What the hell do you think Persil was invented for? Unless you have the social graces of a baboon and dirty your clothes on a regular basis, then of course you can wear all-white.

White, coffee-cream colours and silver grey are the coolest colours for this season's drawstrings. For finer linen pants, we urge you to think about your underwear. If you do insist on wearing black underneath white linen, then you'd better make damned sure your pants are La Perla.

How to wear them

Contrary to popular belief, a good pair of drawstring pants shouldn't slouch. They aren't cut to be worn as hipsters. If you try to make them slouch, then the hem is going to hit the pavement. Drawstring pants are always generously cut so try a pair a size smaller than your usual. This should make the hems hover at ankle length. That's fine as long as your hips don't look like flying buttresses in the smaller size. Style Police bought a great pair of cream linen drawstrings from French Connection and had a natty little backstreet tailor take the hems up six inches. Why? Because you can't wear drawstring with trainers; they look naff with heels so your only option is flat strappy sandals or cute little flip- flops. Flatties are fine but there is nothing worse than pristine linen pants with hems like mudguards. Take 'em up. And don't start bitching about the cost of alterations. If your drawstrings are high street, then you haven't broken the bank and a few quid alteration fee at Sketchleys is a small price to pay for perfection. Better still, thread that needle and DIY.

Where to buy them

You've got to make a decision about your drawstrings. Are you going to wear them and trash them in a season? Or do you travel enough to make drawstring pants an evergreen piece in your wardrobe? We're only asking because the business class of drawstring pants are pounds 165 pure linen at Margaret Howell whereas your economy class is synthetic mix for pounds 29.99 at Jeffrey Rogers. It's horses for courses, as we said only last week to Sir Henry Cecil in the Royal Enclosure.

If you want finest grade linen then naturally you go to Margaret Howell. The drawstring pant is one of her signatures and you've got to pay for expertise. Howell understands just how much tailoring - yes tailoring - it takes to make a relaxed pair of effortless drawstring pants.

The best high street cut does come from French Connection in cream linen for pounds 45. Style Police had to take them up a notch or two but they are working great with flat leather sandals from Russell & Bromley or plastic sandals.

Marks & Spencer has taken one hell of a bashing over the past few months. Of course Gap is going to beat them hands down for funky khakis but Style Police knows you can always rely on Auntie M&S to solve the quality cost equation when we're talking white 100 per cent linen drawstring pants for pounds 50. You were surprised when Austin Powers II beat The Phantom Menace at the box office. Mark our words, you'll see M&S bite back soon.

Address book

French Connection: 0171 730 2449.

Jeffrey Rogers: 01923 474 400.

Margaret Howell: 0171 627 5587.

Marks & Spencer: 0171 963 2236.

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