Let’s get a couple of ‘full disclosure’ statements out here first, concerning my preferences.
1. I’m becoming increasingly bored with jeans. For any male who grew up since the 1950s, jeans have been a near ubiquitous component of their wardrobe. This is understandable to a degree. Since the early career days of Marlon Brando and James Dean they have represented a cheeky rebelliousness for kids as they weren’t favoured by the earlier generation. They also stood up to the knockabout back-street lifestyle of a typical pre-teen whether coming up in the city, the suburbs or the country. And when that kid moved into adulthood, if he moved into a blue-collar occupation then jeans transitioned perfectly into workwear, due to being hard-wearing and somewhat protective. But after seventy years of this ubiquity I’m frankly bored to death with them even though I accept that in certain contexts, paired with certain other items, they remain appropriate.
2. I’ve never liked ‘cargo pants’. The side pockets look clumsy and unflattering to me and I’m left to wonder what people need to be carrying around with them that requires so many pockets. If the cargo pockets are there for aesthetic rather than practical purposes then my reaction is that this bulky look is totally at odds with the sharp, trim silhouette that’s characteristic of Mod style.
So in my search for an alternative to wearing jeans that does NOT include cargo pants I’ve noticed a general appreciation in menswear circles for what Americans call ‘OG pants’. The ‘OG’ refers to ‘olive green’, the default colour of American combat uniforms from the Second World War throughout the Korean War, Vietnam War and beyond. Anyone familiar with the TV show MASH will have seen uniforms in this colour worn by the cast in every episode.
As a kid I would often go away with the family stay to at a rented cottage in the Yorkshire Dales for ‘Blackberry Week’ (half term holiday in late October), and as the Army’s Catterick Camp was in the same area near Richmond we’d often see soldiers in uniform wandering around the market towns that we’d visit. In those days the British Army combat uniform was a ‘DPM’ (disruptive pattern material) woodland pattern camouflage jacket and ‘Lightweight’ trousers in solid olive green.
So in considering military surplus strides as an alternative to jeans, my Anglophile leanings caused me to check out the British version first.
I’m not really a fan of the button down belt loops, and some versions come with a large map pocket on the front thigh which is too close to cargo pants for my liking.
The American version is named ‘OG 107’ and they are available from military surplus stores as well as a plethora of recreations ranging in price from cheap to laughably expensive. Somewhere in the middle are Stan Rays reproductions which retail for about $85, but I recently scored a pair brand new with tags from eBay for $45 shipped.
I haven’t handled the military version up close so I can’t write about how close these Stan Rays are to their origins. Details-wise they have deep patched front pockets, zip fly, belt loops and button down patched rear pockets. They appear to be robust but lightweight 100% cotton which is exactly what I was hoping for, with a fine ‘hopsacky’ hand. Upon receipt I immediately put them in a hot wash and tumble dry to soften them up a bit and maximise any shrinkage in the cotton, then had them tailored.
eBay buyers are beggars not choosers and mine were sized 34-34. If I’d had a choice and a chance to try them on in a shop I’d have probably gone for 32 or 30 waist as even the slimmer versions are generously cut as shown above, so I had some slimming done in the waist and legs.
Advocates for Stan Ray OGs seem to enjoy wearing them in a loose and even sloppy manner, with the high waist allowed to sag and the hems casually rolled up once or twice. This of course is not my style so the tailoring allowed me to sharpen up the silhouette somewhat. In hindsight I think my tailor was a little over-aggressive in taking in the excess. I wouldn’t have minded a slightly more louche look and fit which might have been a benefit in hot weather.
The intention was to have strides that I can grab and don without much thought, for activities like the school run or a quick trip to the supermarket. I admit that it would be generous to suggest that strides like these have much of a connection or provenance to the classic 1960s Mod look, but in the interests of pushing the boundaries whilst keeping one eye on style they have a place in the casual section of the wardrobe alongside chinos, sta-pressts, five-pocket strides and cords, and provide a viable alternative to the ubiquity of boring jeans!
Sunglasses – Ray Ban Carbon Fibre Aviators
Breton style t-shirt – J Crew
Strides – Stan Ray
Desert Boots – Clark’s Originals