Trouser Tuesday: Whillas & Gunn "Charles", unusually retro

Working our way around the world reviewing trousers sees us arriving in Australia today. Whillas & Gunn, a family company supplying fine, rugged menswear since 1972, are something of a favourite of mine, having made both one of the very favourite waistcoats (which says something) and the backpack I use on a daily basis.


Todays offering is a pair of the new “Charles” trousers, described on their website as “high waisted vintage inspired pants”. Now, high waisted and vintage are both excellent trigger-words to capture my attention, so given my previous good experience with the good company of Whillas & Gunn, these trousers obviously required a closer look.


The most obvious feature is the material used. I just love the fancy-looking stripes, very reminiscent of my vintage suit from the 40’s.  Described as “mattress ticking canvas”, it is a densely woven cotton of low weight. This is not a thick twill or wool fabric, but more of a summer weight.

Mattress ticking canvas would in previous times have been used to cover a mattress, with the fabric dense enough to prevent feathers from poking through. We learn something every day, eh?


The second most obvious feature is that there are no belt loops. Nor are there any buttons for braces (though we’ll return to that a little further on). You may be wondering how on earth these britches will preserve your dignity? We do have two decent rear pockets though, with welted edges and a button a piece.


What we have instead of provision for belts and braces is a a rather innovative adjustable waist tab feature. I’m not sure if this is a new innovation, or a vintage idea that seeing the light again, but it’s certainly different!


Using two tabs and 4 buttons, there are basically two waist sizes possible. Or three, if you’re not a stickler for symmetry, though that may look a bit off if you’re showing the front of the trousers. First one tab passes through the waist-lining and fastens to the left side, then the other is fastened to the right. It’s actually a pretty clever idea.

Thankfully the fly has a zipper, which means that a gentleman need not unbutton the waist tab when only partial access is required. The buttons are of the metal tack variety and should wear in nicely for a bit of vintage patina.


The silhouette is a classic tapered look with double pleats. Not extremely tapered in a hipster style, but enough to give them the suitable retro style. The waist will be set to be an exact fit, but the hip area is generous.


I suspect that the fabric on these will really start working once they’ve been washed and soften up a bit. Ideally I’d like a pair in an even thicker fabric, but in a quite similar style and striped pattern.

The inside of the pockets is in a comfy blue cotton. Stitching is primarily of the overlocked type, utilitarian more than the last weeks tour de force lapped stitching by Thoroughstitch.


I’m still a little uncertain about the tab waist compared to a more traditional solution. Especially as the only way of setting the waist size. While adding belt loops would be entirely wrong, I will be adding the necessary buttons to let me use a proper pair of braces with them.

If I was to offer a final improvement to be made, I’d like the waist-lining to be made of a stiffer fabric, so that the handsome profile of the waistline would show a bit better. There is a tendency for the waistline to get a little crumpled when you’ve been sitting around, as a gentleman is wont to do.



For version 2 I’d also like to see a little thicker fabric, more of a twill. Same stripes, but more rugged. In the style of my old Whillas & Gunn waistcoat, which is a lesson to most others in how to make a superb waistcoat.


Production details:
  • Fabric – Unknown
  • Trousers – China

Score (1-5, 3 being average):

  • Assembly: 3
  • Details: 4
  • Quality: 3
  • Value for money: 3
  • Cool-factor: 4

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