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Pants Pants Evolution

UNIFORM STYLE : MEN'S FASHION

May 04, 2008|Adam Tschorn | Times Staff Writer

The FRENCH cuff shirt had its fashion moment, followed by the jacket in all its velvet, corduroy and tweeded glory. Now, the menswear focus has gone south -- to the pants.

Leading the way is Bonobos, a preppy-influenced, laugh-riot line of corduroys, twills and dress slacks catering to guys who appreciate details like high-end fabrics and top-of-the-line imported Italian zippers and don't take themselves too seriously (how else do you explain pocket and waistband linings depicting tequila bottles, flowers and paisley patterns?).

But don't bother looking for them at a store near you, because Bonobos britches are Internet only.

Launched late last year by Brian Spaly and Andy Dunn, buddies from Stanford business school, everything about Bonobos sounds like a case study from marketing class: a line of pants named after a primate with a randy reputation, sold exclusively online in limited runs with an L. L. Bean-like return policy and website descriptions that read like something out of the Onion (for a pair of medium-weight stretch corduroys dubbed Crimson Ruggers: "These pants weren't designed in a fashion laboratory for runway models . . . unless of course said model is a 6'3", 230 lb. Italian Stallion who eats opposing out-halfs for breakfast.")

And rather than catering to the anemic ectomorph runway set, as most fashion brands do, Bonobos targets an underserved market: guys who have a more athletic build.

"I'm 5 foot 11 with a size 32 waist," Spaly said. "I have a narrow waist and pretty big glutes and quads -- I've played sports my whole life. Designer clothes don't fit guys like me."

A slightly curved waistband prevents "belt bunch," while a generous thigh tapers at the knee and flares into a slight boot cut. How slight depends on how tall you are, because the pants, sold in waist sizes 30 to 38, require hemming to the appropriate inseam.

Our test subject, an athletic lad who has a hard time finding pants that fit through the thigh, fell in love, claiming the stretch cords were the first nondenim pants that fit him well. The twill and wool-cashmere dress trousers weren't as flattering, which makes this a good place to point out the return policy: Return or exchange any pants, any time, for any reason.

Most styles, $100 to $140, are at www.bonobos.com.

Spaly says that since launching six months ago -- without advertising or marketing -- more than 2,000 pairs of Bonobos have sold.

That may not be J.Crew numbers, but it shows that a label named after an amorous chimpanzee is up to more than mere monkey business.

--

adam.tschorn@latimes.com

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