In 1957, an innovative new technology was introduced to menswear when the first Sansabelt pants were released. The pants had elastic sewn into the waistband that made a belt superfluous, hence the name. (Any stoner knows that Sansabelt means without a belt in the same way that sinsemilla means without seeds.)
Mind you, the pants were never considered cool outside of a Del Boca Vista-like retirement community and were the butt of many jokes. But the idea of utilizing stretch fabrics in traditional menswear pieces that aren’t just sweats isn’t a bad one. Today, designers are incorporating performance fabrics into all kinds of garments from jeans to button downs to suits.
It’s easy to be skeptical. Most guys don’t want to step out in something that screams, “Look at me, I’m a science-y fabric from the future.” But modern garments with stretch have the same hand feel as traditional materials. In other words, your jeans still feel like jeans. And once you put them on, the difference is clear. There is no shuffling around and adjusting your clothes when you sit down, stand up, or walk around. If you notice anything, it’s that you don’t notice anything. The clothes move with you that naturally.
Equally important, is that the stretchiness of the fabric allows you to wear slimmer, more tailored clothes without feeling like the meat stuffed into a sausage casing.
At the risk of sounding too much like a yoga teacher, you need to embrace the stretch. To help you, we rounded up the best stretchy menswear styles out right now. This is the opposite of the no flex zone.
JEANS: LEVI’S 511
With Levi’s jeans, the 501 gets a lot of the attention, but for our money, it’s hard to beat the 511 with its slimmer silhouette. They have just the right amount of stretch that holds up even after the jeans have been through the wash a bunch of times.
PANTS: UNDER ARMOUR 35TH & O PERFORMANCE CHINO
Under Armour has taken knowledge its gained from creating athletic gear and is slowly starting to apply it to more traditional menswear. With a slight taper below the knee, these pants maintain a slim profile but are still extremely comfortable thanks to four-way stretch material and a flexible waistband that is very forgiving if you go H.A.M. on, well, ham.
SUIT: BONOBOS JETSETTER
If you’re a frequent business traveler who has to cram yourself into a tiny coach seat, you’ll appreciate how this mostly wool suit moves with you as you cram your carry-on into the overhead bin or get up to let the person sitting by the window get up to go to the bathroom for the 17th time. The stretch material also prevents it from looking like a wrinkly mess when you arrive at your destination.
DRESS SHIRT: UNIQLO EASY CARE
Most guys prefer how they look in more tailored fits, but get hung up because they think the clothes will feel constricting. The Easy Care dress shirt from Uniqlo should set you mind at ease. It is cut trim but has enough stretch that you won’t feel bound in. It also works better under a slim suit jacket or blazer than a traditional cut.
CASUAL SHIRT: UNDER ARMOUR PERFORMANCE OXFORD
It looks like your traditional oxford button down. It feels like your traditional oxford. But this shirt is not your average button down. It has moisture wicking material so if you have to ride in a subway car in the summer without AC you won’t look like you just got out of the pool when you emerge. The lightweight fabric flows with you as you move. (Go ahead do some jumping jacks.) And it’s cut at the perfect length to look sharp tucked or untucked.
BLAZER: PAUL SMITH STRETCH TWO-BUTTON
Face it, a blazer cleans up any look from jeans and a T-shirt to khakis and a button down. This blazer has a modern narrow lapel and a slim fit. The cotton fabrication has just the right amount of stretch and still maintains the structure that makes a sport coat a sport coat.