The wide trouser, a fashion not likely to last – archive, 1925 – The Guardian

By on May 14, 2019

Oxford, Wednesday
Fashions, like rumours, are not easily traced to their source, and there seems to be no certainty as to the origin of the wide, baggy trousers so much in evidence in Oxford at present, which have attracted so much critical attention on all hands.

It is not even definitely established that the designation of the “Oxford” trousers, by which they have come to be generally known, is a strictly accurate one, for the rival University of Cambridge has also, it appears, laid claim to the distinction of having begun the new vogue. However that may be, the wide trousers flaunt themselves very freely in the streets of Oxford in these days. The great majority of undergraduates have succumbed to the prevailing fashion. Some have done so in greater and some in lesser degree, for the law of the baggy trousers is a very flexible one and admits of many interpretations.

An aesthete or other leader of advanced thought in tailoring may wear trousers which flap about his feet with a width of 25 inches around the ankle – the width of the ordinary trousers is 16 inches. Apart from such extreme cases, trousers assume more modest proportions, varying in accordance with the daring and enterprise of the wearer.

Scottish singer, dancer, Jack Buchanan wearing Oxford ‘bags’ circa 1925.

Scottish singer, dancer, Jack Buchanan wearing Oxford ‘bags’ circa 1925. Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty

The majority of the trousers which are being made in Oxford this term have an ankle width which varies between 20 and 24 inches. It is needless to point out, perhaps, that when the latter figure is reached trousers do not admit of being creased. In their more moderate form they still bear evidence of the trouser-press; in their exaggerated form they merely hang undulating, baggy folds.

Colour and prices

In the matter of colour the fashion allows an even wider range for individual tastes. Pale pinks and blues are among the more noticeable tints, while at the moment a spring-like suggestion of delicate green appears to be in some favour. Somewhat less pronounced, but more generally popular, are the range of fawn, buff, mauve, slate, lavender, and an infinite variety of grey and brown colourings.

The price of a pair of Oxford “bags” ranges from about two to three guineas and this is declared to be a very moderate figure when the purchaser takes into account, not only the large amount of cloth used in every pair, but also the more important fact that the tailoring factories have not yet made arrangements for turning out these articles in any large quantities. In that, no doubt, the factories are well advised, for the general opinion among leading Oxford tailors is that the fashion will be only a short-lived one. Indeed, one of them expressed the opinion that the fashion is already nearly played out. He believed that the wide trousers would go out as quickly as they came in, and said there was already a tendency among the very smartest to wear narrower, striped trousers, without a tun-up at the bottom. Another university tailor considered that the present vogue could not long survive the ridicule of the press and parodies of the stage. “All this publicity will kill it,” he prophesied.

Finally, the Isis, the principal organ of undergraduate opinion in Oxford, in a humorous leading article on the subject which it publishes this week, is mildly sarcastic at the expense of those who have written of the baggy trousers vogue as if it were symbolic of changing masculine ideas, or even important as a definite development of fashion. Of such writers the Isis says: “One and all they have discovered our clothes to be symbolic of a tendency. Nobody quite knows what the tendency is, but, as you understand, the only thing a respectable journalist can do with a tendency is to deplore it. And they do.”

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