Wearing the trousers: Edward Sexton Hollywood Tops
Aleks Cvetkovic goes talks you through our new Hollywood top trousers
If you’re at all interested in the sartorial world, the phrase ‘Hollywood tops’ may well have crossed your radar at some point in the past year. This fabled style of trouser has become a cult hit among sharp dressers, thanks in no small part to Edward Sexton.
The house starting cutting them around 18 months ago for bespoke customers and I was lucky enough to be among the first curious recipients. Historically, I’ve always worn tailored trousers with braces, but my dress sense has relaxed over the past year and now I wear a lot of knitwear under tailoring. Heavy box-cloth braces tend to rub and pill merino knits, so I needed an alternative solution.
Quite apart from the fact that you don’t need braces, the strength of Hollywood top trousers is two-fold. Firstly, the lack of a waistband makes them very comfortable, and secondly, the addition of a belt (woven leather belts work best) adds a modern, relaxed edge to a tailored look that’s easy to dress up or down. Hollywood tops are quirky, but they’re not tricky to wear. A pair in mid-weight flannel suits anything from a washed denim shirt and suede blouson, to a matching suit coat, pin-collar shirt and tussah silk tie. Essentially, they’re just a different, design-led take on a go-to flannel trouser.
Of course, Hollywood tops go back quite a lot further than 2016. They belong to a family of trousers called ‘whole tops’ – trousers cut without a waistband. Instead, the waistband is ‘grown on’ and forms a part of the trouser itself. This means that the trouser is formed simply from two front panels and two back panels, all cut with an extended top edge. Whole top trousers were the first kind of trouser to catch-on at the turn of the 20th century, following the Victorian preference for fall-fronted trousers. At a time when men exclusively used braces to keep their trousers up, there was no need for a waistband. The top of the trouser was always supported by braces and hidden beneath a waistcoat.
As dress codes relaxed during the 1910s and ‘20s, men started to experiment with their whole-tops, affixing dropped belt loops rather than brace buttons, and so the Hollywood trouser was born. Its name comes from a long-standing association with the wardrobe departments of the big American movie studios. Attaching the waistband to a trouser is one of the lengthier parts of the making process, so costume seamstresses used to skip that bit and turn-out batches of whole tops instead. The name stuck. Spend some time watching old silent movies or black and white ‘talkies’ and you’ll see a fair amount of whole top or Hollywood trousers on show.
That’s the back-story, but in Sexton’s hands, Hollywood tops have come a long way. The house cuts its trews with two deep forward-facing pleats and signature jet-slant pockets that sit flush against the hips and don’t gape. Because the trousers are band-less, the pleats have to be pressed and turned into the top of the trouser, hiding beneath the internal lining. Not only is this technically tricky to get right, it has to be done in such a way that the folded fabric of each pleat doesn’t show on the inside of the trouser. Then, the house delicately top-stitches the impression of a waistband around the trouser, before belt-loops are sewn-on. It’s a lot more work than is involved in conventional trouser-making, but that’s what makes them special.
Edward and Dominic prefer a generous, flowing leg that compliments the trouser’s higher rise, but if you’d like something more fashion-forward, we have been experimenting with crisp mohair trousers cut to the ankle with a sharply tapered leg. These look great dressed-down with a pair of suede sneakers or slippers. Of course, that’s one of Sexton’s strengths – the house has a distinct look – but Edward and Dominic are always open to playing with proportions if that means their clothes stay relevant.
Hollywood tops are not like any other trouser I’ve tried. They’re relaxed for a tailored trouser but make a subtle statement. Given the Sexton treatment they have a nostalgic quality to them, but they also feel like a relevant choice for today’s fast-moving world. They’re easy to wear, feel soft on the waist and hips and make for a distinguished look. I’ve not gone back to conventional trousers since I tried that first pair last year, and I doubt you will either.
They’re available for bespoke and offshore-bespoke customers, but the house is also offering a capsule collection of sophisticated ready-to-wear Hollywood tops, cut in Italian woollen flannel with all the signature Sexton trimmings. These are a great way to plug gaps in your trouser wardrobe, when commissioning something isn’t practical.