MCC Members queue to enter the grounds
MCC Members queue to enter the grounds

Country Life magazine wants to reclaim red trousers for posh people

The traditional trouser of posh countrymen is threatened by prejudice (and hipsters). But, after a difficult few years, the Sloanes look set to win back their colours, says Simon Usborne


Simon Usborne
Thursday 03 March 2016 21:42

There is hope for the country gentleman and the growing threat to his preferred threads. After years of ridicule and cultural appropriation, the déclassé red trouser, once worn proudly by posh people as diverse as chillaxing Home County Tories, Henley Pimm's guzzlers and Sunday lunching minor aristos (when these aren't the same person) has received a stirring boost.

Country Life, the weekly rural bible, has launched a defence of RTs, as the ruddy garments are known, whether chino or corduroy – and wherever they fall on the rouge spectrum between salmon and plum.

"It's time to take back the red trouser, to reclaim and celebrate it before it becomes as debased as the Burberry check once was," the plea reads. "Our menfolk will wear them on the beaches (yes, even in 32˚C heat). They will wear them in the fields, in the streets of Fulham and Putney and in the hills. May they never surrender them!"

Red alert: Justin Bieber has adopted the modern style of red trousers, which are a different cut and not made of corduroy, unlike the more traditional wearers

The magazine charts the decline of the RT against its rise far beyond its natural habitat. When the red trouser, albeit of a snugger cut, became a familiar sight among the box parks and street food stalls of our cities – paired with sockless deck shoes and Red Stripe rather than navy blazers and black labs – a certain sort of chap could be excused for hesitating at his wardrobe.

Indeed, Country Life reports a dip in demand at gentlemen's clothiers. "I think the specific kind of red-trouser wearer in Bristol means we have seen sales drop off," Hannah Thielen of Pakeman Catto & Carter tells The Independent. The shop, in the heart of RT country at Cirencester in Gloucestershire, sells a range of chinos and cords in plum and brick, as well as olive and corn.

Peter York, the chronicler of toff style and author of The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook, is quick to distinguish the modern RT, of the sort worn by Tinie Tempah, Justin Bieber and Rio Ferdinand, from the genuine article. "Those people who are younger and more Shoreditchy are wearing completely different things," he says. "They're tighter, shorter at the bottom and not made of corduroy."

York traces the true RT to the battlefields of yore, where they were uniform for several European armies as recently as the First World War. Scarlett breaches were fashionable on civvy street for centuries, meanwhile, and latterly became a symbol of leisure. "It's a way of being jaunty and a bit dashing," York says. "It says, 'I am not a wage slave, I can be a bit cavalier – everybody else can be as wound-in as they like, but I'm a bit pre-Victorian'."

Tinie Tempah's modern style of red trousers are tighter and shorter at the bottom (Rex)

York, who owns trousers in bottle green and mustard but not red, pities the RT wearer who is more exposed to their social co-opting and ridicule. The Look at my F**king Red Trousers photo blog, anonymously compiled by "Monsieur Henri de Pantalon-Rouge" between 2011 and 2013, expertly reflected and inspired a backlash. But York doubts that the rural wearer is overly bothered.

"Once you're in a certain sort of house with quite mature people, they're not worried about what people are wearing in Shoreditch," he says. "In the yacht clubs of the Isle of Wight, the whole thing goes on untroubled, but people at national broadsheet newspapers don't get to yacht clubs in the Isle of Wight, I suspect." Perhaps not this one, Peter.

There is hope for the RT defence, though. There are signs among urban interlopers that interest is already waning. A non-posh colleague of mine once ridiculed for wearing red trousers says he bought them at TK Maxx (albeit the Kensington branch) for £29.99 one summer a few years ago. "But then the weather turned, I saw Michael Portillo wearing a similar pair on his telly programme about trains, and the trousers were put away," he adds. "There they are, hanging in the wardrobe, waiting for an outing that probably won't come."

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