Summer means vacation and that means it is time for fun. Clothing used to be one of the main ways that was used to communicate to others that you were not working. However, times have changed. With today’s dress codes being so relaxed the ability to distinguish office wear from casual wear is difficult. I am not going to go down that rabbit hole in this post, but instead focus on a classic piece of resort wear the Batik sport coat.
Batik sport coats were popular party jackets. They are loud. They are colorful. They are fun. They are not for the timid and no they will not work in the office not even on GTH Friday.
The exact origin of Batik fabric is unknown. What is known is that it is ancient art form has existed in Egypt, India, the Middle East, China, and West Africa for over 2,000 years. Traditional Batik is made using a wax resist dye process which gives it its distinct look and it has a very distinct look.
Club Monaco 3/2 Batik Sack Sport Coat (Southwick Cambridge Model?)
While the demand for Batik jackets is close to non-existent they are still being produced. The inspiration for this post was not a vintage image of a man on vacation, but rather the Batik jacket that I found on the site of the often overlooked (and under remembered) member of the Ralph Lauren family Club Monaco. It is a great looking jacket. They do offer pants, but I would not go whole hog. I would do one or the other.
O’Connell’s Navy and White Batik-ish Sport Coat
Club Monaco was not the only brand with a Batik offering. I also saw a great looking Batik-ish jacket offered on O’Connell’s website that was not new old stock. Last, but not least I spotted a Batik pocket square on Sid Mashburn’s site for those who aren’t ready to dive right into a sport coat.
Sid Mashburn Batik Pocket Square
Batik may never again experience the popularity that it did in its heyday, but it is not gone yet. It can still be comfortably worn in a party or vacation setting, but be warned that it will draw attention. I have aspirations to wear one at some point. I think that I will wait until I reach senior citizen status and don’t have to worry about getting too much attention. At that point in my life I will be most likely be ignored by almost everyone and those that do notice my fancy jacket will just chalk it up as something that was popular back in my day.
I used to never crease my chinos. It seemed too fussy. Not that it looked overly fussy, but rather that it said to others that I spend an excessive amount of time thinking about and prepping clothing which is exactly the opposite reason that I am attracted to a classic American style. However, in pursuit of the perfect pair of chinos I began experimenting with the crease…and liked it.
Far and away the biggest reason that I liked the crease is the tapered silhouette that it creates. This makes perfect sense when I started to think about it. Ironing pants without a crease actually increases the amount of chino visible from the front presenting the viewer with the widest possible leg. By ironing a crease down the middle of the pants the amount of visible chino is reduced and instead of a flattened chino the viewer is presented with the edge of a diamond shape. The tradeoff is that profile of a creased chino is wider which is more than a fair exchange in my book.
For comparison, here is a picture of the same pair of chinos featured above, but without a crease.
There is another reason that I am growing fond of the crease and that reason is formality. A crisp pair of chinos ironed with a knife blade crease is better suited for a blazer than those without. The crease takes the chinos from casual to business casual (see blazer picture above). This can be a double edged sword as it can make a casual rig look off. When wearing a pair of chinos on the weekend I would avoid a knife blade crease (or any crease).
I now tend to crease more chinos than not. It helps to create the tapered silhouette that I have been in search of without having to go through round after round of alteration. It also communicates a more professional image especially when worn with a blazer or sport coat. I am still learning when to crease and when not to crease, but the biggest lesson that I learned is that I need to be flexible and not live by absolutes.
With a box of unhemmed chinos staring at me for well over a month I finally broke down and decided to something about it. My dry cleaner takes at least two weeks to turn this around. My tailor takes one week, but he is an hour away. So that something turned out being learning how to hem them myself …with a cuff.
My first step was to learn how cuffs were constructed. I could have searched the internet for the perfect answer, but having a few pairs of chino with cuffs coming apart on their own I just looked at how they were constructed. That is all to say fair warning. There may be better methods out there.
Here is the formula that arrived at:
X” for cuff
X” for cuff
1” for hem
.5” to turn under
Amount of material required
I wanted 1.5″ cuffs.
My formula looked like this:
1” for hem
.5” to turn under
4.5” of material
Next, I had to get the proper tools. Luckily my mom who has helped me out of more than one sartorial jam with her alteration skills agreed to help. She put together a simple sewing kit for around 10 dollars. This kit included everything (listed below) that I would need to hem my pants. She also volunteered her tutelage for the sewing portion of the project. A big thank you goes out to her for the help!
- Seam ripper (I didn’t need this, because my chinos were unfinished.)
- Measuring tape for cloth
Creating the Cuff
- Mark chinos at desired length for wearing (if the pants are not unfinished like the ones I began with this is where I recommend letting the hem out.)
- Measure down X inches of material that is required for desired cuff size
- Double check measurement
- Cut off excess material
- Fold material up toward the outside by the amount of material that you added for the cuff (see bel0w)
- Iron material
- Fold the material down toward the bottom of the pants. The material will now pass the bottom of the pants by 1.5”.
- Iron material
- Turn the material inside of the pants by 1” and iron. You will now be able to see what the finished pants will look like.
- Pin the bottom of the cuff. I would put at least two pins in. One on each size.
- Turn the pants inside out
- Turn .5” of the extra material down behind this material
- Iron the material
- Take a break
Hemming the Cuff
- Thread the needle with 2-3 ft. of thread and tie a knot at one end of the thread
- Now we are going to start sewing. Take the needle and place it through the extra material pulling the know so that it will get stuck
- Next run the needle through a little bit of the main chino material. You don’t have to worry too much about the thread showing because we are sewing low enough that it the cuff will cover our marks. See the picture below to better understand the sewing method I described.
- Continue sewing like this until you get to the other seam
- We will now attach the top portion of the cuff to chinos so that they are secure
- Push the needle through to the outside of the pants
- Next going back and forth between the inside of the cuff and the main leg of trouser 4-6 times so that the thread is not visible
- After attaching the top portion of the cuff to the chinos push the needle back through into the inside of the chinos.
- Knot the thread and pull tight the thread tight so that you have enough thread to keep sewing
- Continue to sewing as you were in Step 3 until you come to the seam on the other side
- Repeat Step 7
- After completing Step 7 add 2-3 knots and then cut off excess thread
- Enjoy your freshly cuffed and hemmed chinos!
Finished Product (Undisclosed Chinos)
Learning how to hem pants may be one of the most useful skills that I have learned. I feel liberated. No longer am I dependent on my tailor or the dry cleaner to hem a pair of trousers and the timeline to turn them around is now up to me. Plus, I save $20 for every pair that I hem myself. If you have any question about the process please don’t hesitate to ask. While creating this post I learned just how challenging it can be to write step-by-step directions.