Trouser Tuesday: Extraordinary strides from Nigel Cabourn

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Welcome to part four of the 4-part mini-series presenting different takes on tweed trousers. So far we’ve had a look at a good pair from Toast, a reasonably priced pair from H&M and a rather special pair from SEH Kelly. What could todays instalment possibly be? What possible angle could I find to justify the inclusion of another pair of wool trousers? Apart from boldly announcing a full 4-part mini-series and then only delivering three parts?

Todays trousers are quite likely the most commented upon trousers in my collection. Don’t get me wrong, I quite rarely find my trousers are so splendid or provoking as to bring on comments, and I certainly don’t carry a notebook around to tally the comments, yet these trousers do just this, and the comments peg the needle at both ends of the scale. The reason being that they are both splendid and provoking, and various shades in between. Oh, and quite stupendously silly as well, but we’ll get back to that one.

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The trousers in question are the Bombay Pants by Nigel Cabourn, in a fetching Navy blue Harris Tweed. They are definitely in the upper reaches price-wise, retailing at 450 pounds, or more than twice the asking price of the previously reviewed Toast trousers. So what does the whopping asking price deliver? The first thing that springs to mind is exclusivity. While I don’t have exact numbers, I can’t imagine many pairs of these were made. They very rarely come up for sale and are rarely discussed, even among the aficionados of the brand.

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They are in a style said to be inspired by trousers Nigel’s father wore in the British army in Bombay (or Mumbai, as we know it today) way back in time. Hard to tell if that is a flight of fancy or real, but the trousers have a definite vintage army feel to them. They were part of a collaboration Cabourn did with ARN Mercantile, where ARN basically created the trousers and Cabourn produced them. The design has been used in other materials and variations since and is often referred to as Bombay Bloomers.

The extra front pockets, the odd fastenings that may find use if you need to hang tools or a small shovel off your trousers. And this is as straight a straight cut as you will find. The only place that determines the size is the waistline, the rest of the fit is so comfortable that it defines comfortable. If you consider sweatpants to be a little too hipster tight for you, you’ll adore the fit of the Bombay pants.

The very straight and wide legs mean that you need to be fairly tall to look right in trousers like these, if you’re going by conventional standards. If you’re more ideally sized, such as me, you’ll find your legs look quite boxy and short, and the massively thick turnups don’t help matters! This is the style Nigel Cabourn himself favours though, with a baggy and oversize fit. Many will disagree, but I like it.

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And the tweed is sublime. As with all the best Harris Tweed this is one where you keep noticing new hues. I was certain this was an almost solid navy blue, until I tried to take photos of it and discovered it was a subtle blend of many different colours. Until you are up close though, it does look navy blue.

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Notice one difference between this label and the one found in the Toast trousers? If I hint that the Toast label was somehow missing something? Yes, while Toast had used a generic Harris Tweed label, Cabourn has used the label marked with the pattern code for the tweed used. Possibly not of any significance to most, but if I wanted to have my tailor make me a jacket and waistcoat in the same tweed, this code is what I need to refer to when I telex the Outer Hebrides to see if they can weave me a length. Without the code this would be very much more difficult, if not impossible.

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So far, so good. We have swathes of gorgeous tweed, and not just any tweed at that, this is double brushed for added softness and comfort. A step above the common or garden variety tweed, no doubt about it. This softness means they can, to a certain extent, get away with not lining the inside of the trousers, as has been a major point in regards of the other trousers reviewed. When the wool is like a brillo pad against your skin there has to be a layer of cotton to keep you from scouring your legs. In this case though, this isn’t the case. Most of the abrasiveness you usually find has been seen off, apparently by brushing. Twice. I’d be interested to know what this does to the longevity though. And there is some pilling, although you have to get up close to really notice this.

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The side-entry front pockets are cotton though, solid and deep. There are no back pocket, but there are the army-style extra front pockets, one on the right hand thigh without a flap and a huge one on the left hand thigh. The seriousness of design is displayed on the large pocket, as there is decently made strengthening on the inside to ensure the pocket flap doesn’t damage to fabric.

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The fly is properly buttoned, and there certainly are enough buttons. To cope with the length of the fly on this high-rise trousers a grand total of 6 buttons are needed. All polished horn, sublime and shiny. All in all there are 14 buttons used. Each unique and wonderful. I’ll not say all the buttons were stitched on with absolute skill, as I’ve had to go over an securely attach a few of them.

Oddly though, only one of the seams inside the leg is felled, the other is just overlocked. This is quite disappointing, as it wouldn’t have been much more work and certainly relevant to the high price point of the trousers. Last weeks trousers by SEH Kelly had both seams felled, and cost around half as much.

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As all proper trousers should be, there are buttons ready for attaching braces, and to be plain speaking, these trousers need braces. There are belt loops, but I can’t see how that could look right. Plus, relying on a belt to hold them up would make them very much less what they are, and more just a pair of trousers.

And this is where I could go all wishy-washy and poetic, as I think you either adore these trousers, or you think they are the silliest trousers ever made. I can see the argument for both sides, but in my heart I adore them, where the engineer in me sees that in almost every technical and practical respect possible they could be improved.

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On a practical level though, I would caution against dark tweed or wool if you live with a dog or anyone with light hair. These trousers do the job of a hoover in collecting stray hair and dust and it’s a five minute job with a sticky roller to get them ready for wearing among the villagers.

At the end of the day though, these are on my top three list of trousers I would never sell. No, don’t even ask.

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The trousers are marked as 34″ waist, but the actual size is closer to 36″.

As with all items from Nigel Cabourns “Authentic” line, these are made in Britain.

I was hoping to have a couple of photos showing how these fit, but daylight disappeared before I could get set up in my outside, naturally lighted photographic studio. I’ll try again tomorrow, but for now I can show you a couple of photos Google came up with. They’re not of me, but the trousers look like the same ones. Even down to the turn-ups.

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This is part 4 of a 4 part series of tweed reviews. The full series is:

  1. A mid-range pair from Toast
  2. A bargain pair from H&M
  3. Something different from SEH Kelly
  4. Something extraordinary from Nigel Cabourn

 

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1 Comment

  • Lars Kræmmer 19/01/2016 at 11:23

    Tak, for en meget fin artikel. Jeg har, selv lige købt et par og er meget enig i dine tanker om, at enten elsker man dem, eller også synes man, at de er tåbelige.
    Venlig hilsen Lars

    Reply

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