Clothes from 1837-1919,  Guys in Films

The Lighthouse: All Hail a High Waist Trouser

There are a couple of pieces already online about Linda Muir’s meticulous costume design for 1890s set The Lighthouse – see HERE and HERE. As such, anything we might add would largely be clickbait redundant. So, go and read those serious and informative articles and then come back here to join us in celebration of something those pieces don’t discuss, but is possibly even more important than all that painstaking period recreation and making oilskins from scratch: high-waisted trousers.

Out of all the trends that work their way into mainstream menswear, high-waisted trousers don’t seem to stick. Certainly they are popular in women’s clothing, where, with an apparently undetected degree of irony, they are largely employed to invoke masculine attire. Yet for cis-gendered menswear, high-waisted trousers remain primarily the preserve of the vintage community. There has been a pleasing revival for suits, especially on younger men, who are ditching their Stone Island polos for a night on the town and investing in a skinny plaid suit from Moss Bros instead. Most of these suits are insanely tight, made of horrible fabrics and in prints so loud they would make Billy Porter blush. But they are suits all the same. Thank you for that, Peaky Blinders – which, incidentally, features a LOT of high-waist trousers. Most off-the-peg men’s suits are now of the low rise variety, as are virtually all men’s ‘fashion’ trousers. If a gentleman’s penis is not sufficiently tucked into the recesses of his trouser pocket then he’s not doing it right. The higher-waisted pant is just not a commonplace thing and probably never will be. For some reason men are terrified of them, even more than flares. They are trouser equivalent of egg white cocktails. This is a pity because they’re actually very comfortable. Consider: The Lighthouse is one of the most uncomfortable films ever made, it is utterly drenched in misery, yet Robert Pattinson’s high-waisted pants sure do look relaxing.

Mr. Peggotty (Paul Whitehouse) in The Personal History of David Copperfield. An understandably happy man in his high-waist trousers. Image credit: Paul Tibbs Photography.

In The Lighthouse Robert Pattinson’s trousers sit above what we would presently call the natural waistline. Although, trousers actually worn on our natural waistline now would still be considered ‘high-waisted’ by most people. It seems the waist as a measurement is largely becoming redundant on the high street. Another great trouser movie to be released recently is The Personal History of David Copperfield, with Paul Whitehouse’s jovial Mr. Peggotty sporting a rise of such generous proportions it must have been teasing his nipples (perhaps explaining his mood). The film is waist porn for those so inclined. If you fancy some previous onscreen examples, try There Will be Blood and both of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies – smashing high rises all round.

It is unlikely that The Lighthouse or The Personal History of David Copperfield will do much for a high-waist resurgence. The market is too niche. Levi’s Vintage Clothing are always reissuing their classic jeans and coveralls from late 19th – early 20th century, most with original rise and braces buttons retained. However, being as they cost several hundred pounds, it is clear Levi are not willing to push this look for the mass market. Unfortunate when you consider just how comfy high – or natural – waisted trousers and braces are to actually wear. Plus it is really nice not have your chap glaring at every poor soul you pass on the street that day. In this manner, high waisted trousers are not just preferable; they are a public service.

The Lighthouse and The Personal History of David Copperfield are currently on general release.

© 2020, Lord Christopher Laverty.