Ask George

Wrinkles Happen

A reader asks…

One struggle I have (and an extreme annoyance) is wrinkles I get in my trousers from sitting at my desk or in my car for a period of time. Is there anything that can be done to help this, whether with tailoring or type of wool? Thanks. Tim.

Well, Tim… Wrinkles happen. We get them in our pants, our shirts and our faces. Many people seek out surgery to remove wrinkles and ultimately achieve their dream body. If a man makes it to age 50 without any wrinkles, he’s either got an ageing self-portrait in his attic or he’s putting a lot of money and effort into avoiding his mortality. And if a working man makes it to five o’clock without any wrinkles in his shirt or pants, it’s weird.

After hours of wear, pants get wrinkled, particularly in the crotch. Look at jeans. Whether they’re broken in by the wearer or pre-aged by the manufacturer, the wrinkles happen in the crotch area where the wrinkles marks occur (naturally or unnaturally) from sitting. As I write this, I’m sitting in a well-worn pair of 501s and I can look down and see how the folds in the denim created the pronounced fade marks that are visible when I stand.

Wool is a different creature, though. It’s a finer fabric that seems to hold dye better, as evidenced by the color retention of your laundered wool socks versus the cotton ones. It also holds it shape better, which is why a good wool suit usually just needs to be properly hung between wearings. We also don’t wear it as ruggedly as we do denim or cotton chinos.

Among suit wools, there are different levels of durability that can affect shape retention. Your lower “Supers,” like Super 100s, 110s or 120s are more durable and have a better “memory” than finer, thinner and more delicate wools like Super 140s, 150s or higher. The good news here is that advances in textile production have made Super 100s wool much finer than the most premium wools available only decades ago. And the most renowned suitmakers today rightly disregard higher supers as unnecessary nonsense. For an everyday suit, I would personally never go higher than a Super 120s, keeping the finer ones, like my new Super 140s navy suit, for more special occasions.

Along with those textile advances have come this popular phenomenon of wrinkle-free or wrinkle-resistant fabrics. I’ve written before about them (read “The ‘No-Iron’ and ‘Easy-Iron’ Dress Shirt Problem”), and I absolutely detest the idea. They can technically and legally be called “100% cotton” or “100% wool,” but companies neglect to mention the toxic chemical engineering that goes into them. As a purist, my philosophy with the fabric I wear is similar to my philosophy with the food I eat: the further you take it away from its natural state, the worse it is for you.

Another important thing to consider with your question pertains to sitting and standing when you’re in a suit. Whenever you’re on your feet, your jacket should always be on and buttoned (except, of course, for the bottom button, which should NEVER be fastened). While wearing your jacket properly buttoned, no one should notice the wrinkles in the crotch of your pants. If they are, you might be in the wrong business.

When you’re sitting in your car or at your desk in the privacy of your office, feel free to take your jacket off and hang it properly to avoid more wrinkles than necessary. While sitting at a meeting or a business lunch, keep your jacket on but unbuttoned (as you should anyway when seated in a jacket).

We live and work in real life, not in an ad or a movie. Gravity always wins. In the natural world, we get wrinkles on our suits, shirts and faces. In the unnatural world, newfangled frankenstein fabrics produce crappy no-wrinkle shirts and suits, while plastic surgery and injections produce freak shows who look like visitors in their own expressionless faces. With this new species of wrinkle-free fabrics and faces, we’re creating a new normal – a creepy, science fiction normal. I can only speak for myself, but I prefer to keep science fiction on the screen and live in the natural world… where wrinkles happen.

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10 Comments

  1. Derrik Ollar Reply

    Thanks for the info on the “super 100s.” I’ve always found that a bit confusing with the newer fabrics. Makes more sense now.

  2. I always thought wrinkles around the crotch when you sit are caused by the trouser thigh being too tight and custom tailor would solve this

    • George Reply

      Not true. Tailors, however magical, are constrained by the laws of physics.

  3. Tim Shannon Reply

    George: about 10 years ago I bought a Corby 7700 pants presser. I’ve subsequently bought 3 or 4 as gifts. I can’t believe how much time and money it has saved me over the years. It has a 15/30/45 min cycle–I always use the 45 min option. It is especially good to do before going to bed. In the morning it is like your pants just came from being pressed at the cleaners. I actually first saw them in European high end hotels and said I had to investigate. New they go for about $500 bucks but you can get them on ebay etc, for anywhere between $100 and $250. I think they last about 7-10 years with normal use. Fantastic. I ought to buy a franchise for them since I’ve told.so many good folks about them. Just and FYI for your readers. Tim

  4. George,
    I’ve been practicing these four principles:
    1) I never, ever drive with my jacket on. It’s always hung, even in cold
    weather.
    2) I’m fairly conscious of how I sit to avoid crumpling my jacket. It’s not
    difficult and it becomes second nature.
    3) At the end of the day I use my high-heat hand steamer to touch-up
    the deepest wrinked areas; they usually disappear by morning.
    (My clothes, not my face; which leads to):
    4) I take advantage of good skincare practices, especially in winter.

  5. George, this was great, I always tell my customers, good fabric wrinkles, but it also releases wrinkles, hang it up overnight and if the fabric is good a majority of the wrinkles should be gone by the morning.

  6. George, is it not too straight forward to say higher than super 120’s is not for work? It only tells you the fineness of the thread, not the fabric. So if you have a super 150’s but in a heavier fabric, say 350g, it would be extremely durable and quite resistant to wrinkles as well. Do you agree? Of course this kind of fabrics are pricier and are more likely to be found it the bunches of Loro Piana etc.

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