On crotch-pieces

The thing with the crotch-piece is that it can’t help sounding like a joke. It is, after all, a piece of cloth, and what it does is, it straddles the crotch. You can see, then, that there isn’t much else you can call it. And that is unfortunate, for make no mistake: the crotch piece, and the approach to trouser development which it represents, really is very serious indeed.

The crotch-piece is a strip of cloth two inches wide by four long. It is sewn by hand into the seat of the trouser, and serves as a cover for the seams which run along and intersect over one another in that part of the trouser. It makes the inside of a trouser neater and tidier; the thinking being that they should be as pleasurable to put on as they are to wear.

The crotch-piece is emblematic of a big effort to elevate the status of the bottom-half: to lift the humble trouser to a plane much higher than the perfunctory filler of space between shirt and shoe. Upper-wear, you see — your shirts, coats, jackets, and so on — hog the limelight, and look literally down upon that worn beneath them. But trousers done properly have a great deal going for them. Trousers done right are just as thought-about and thoroughly made as things made for top-halves, and the crotch-piece is just the start.

Proper trousers in cinnamon cotton-twill, with crotch-piece not on show.

There are, for instance, the lap-seams, which run down both sides of both legs. Not only nifty-looking tramlines, lap-seams are the most durable seams around. They are heavy-duty — excessively so, arguably, with four layers of cloth sandwiched together and stitched on the double. Lap-seam plus thick cotton is an unpopular combination for makers — necessitating as it does the hammering of the needle-head down through the cloth just to get things going — but there is no substitute. The unmistakable warmth of personal security they bring to trouser-wearing is furthered by a fly-guard and a three-button fly with tacks between each button-hole. Do it all up and, clunk-click, you’re in.

Propriety comes, too, in the cut of the trousers. Both the standard and proper trousers have a traditional rise, and therefore sit a mite higher on the waist than most casual trousers. Their seat is such that, when you sit down, shape and room in the crotch is upheld, the trouser-leg doesn’t rise halfway up your shin, and so modesty is preserved. Pleats at both sides at the front of the trouser, meanwhile, mean pockets can stuffed as full as wearers wish, and still you won’t see anything pulled or stretched out of shape.

Then you have the bar-tacks at the top and bottom of pocket-openings. Then you have the cotton which binds neatly the edges of all internal seams. And then, finally, the most slight but significant of all new trouser developments — then you have the crotch-piece.