Trouser turn-up: Level of men's waistband a clue to age

Tell-tale marks

A survey of 1000 males shows that the last time most men are able to fasten their trousers around anything resembling a natural waist is at the age of 39. After that, the only way is up, or down.

“Over achievers,” as they are known in the rag trade, hoist their trousers so high by the age of 57 the waistband can be just 7 inches under the armpit. The “under achievers,” making up about 20 per cent, plump for below, fumbling to fasten belts, buttons and zips they can no longer see.

“The changing fortunes of a man’s trouser waistband can often become a metaphor for his life,” said Paul Baldwin, director of menswear buying for Debenhams, which commissioned the survey.

Boys wear their trousers around their waist, between the rib cage and hips, until the age of 12, because their parents buy their clothing for them, concluded the survey. But waistbands plunge with the advent of teenage hormones, plummeting to 5 inches towards the apex of the hips, and far below the underpants position by the age of 16. Dressing for work sees a gradual upward creep between 16 and 20 years.

By 27, the waistband starts returning to the natural waist, a position largely maintained until the age of 36, and influenced by factors such as career growth, marriage and impressing prospective in-laws. The critical turning point is 39 and the demise of the washboard stomach. And by 45 trousers will be worn at least 2in above the waist, rising to 5in by the age of 57.

The frailties of old age bring some benefits. With 65-year-olds, waistbands are 3 inches above the waist, and for those aged 75 just an inch.

Baldwin said the research would help designers produce better-fit trousers for men regardless of their age.

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