Drainpipe Trousers

AKA: cigarette pants (again), stovepipe pants

How to say it: as it looks

Traditional Features: 

body template

  • narrow leg, but not skin-tight
  • tighter fit though the hip and backside
  • no belt loops
  • no pockets on the front
  • ankle length
  • traditionally the cuff opening is less than 15″
  • leg shape is cut straight so that it looks like a drainpipe
  • women’s drainpipes had slightly more shape to accommodate the female figure


…of the style: The Drainpipe trouser came into fashion in the 1950s thanks to the Teddy Boys in Britain.

The pants were originally part of a suit designed by a group Saville Row Tailors, who based the style on Edwardian fashion and created them for the upper class men of London in 1948. In the early 1950s the style crossed the tracks and was adopted by the working class men of the East End and South London. These new adoptees made a few modifications to the suit and it became known as the Working Class Edwardian, consisting of a drape jacket, drainpipe trousers, suede shoes, a skinny tie and brightly coloured socks.

These Working Class Edwardians were essentially Teddy Boys, although the term wasn’t coined until 1953 when the Daily Express Newspaper shortened the Edwardian moniker to ‘Teddy’ (Ted or Teddy is a traditional nickname for Edward).

The Teddy Boys (and girls) were the first group of youths to distinguish themselves as teenagers – they loved rock and roll, and wore their suits as a means to shock their parents and set themselves apart from the older generations. Teddy Boys often ran in gangs and through the late 50s there were many violent clashes and riots involving these gangs. This negative image became linked to the Edwardian or Teddy Suit and it was seen as an indicator of teenage rebellion and delinquency.

After the Teddy Boys, the drainpipe pant was adopted by the Rockers in the 1960s who were a group of youths that loved rock and roll music and motorcycles – many Teddy Boys from the 50s went on to become Rockers. This group of youths also leaned towards violence, anti-authoritarianism and anti-domesticity, continuing the rebellious connotations of the drainpipe trousers.

In opposition to the Rockers were the Mods (or Modernists), who also wore the drainpipe trouser, but as part of a finely tailored suit inspired by the sophisticated look of Italian and French men. They wore military parkas over their suits whilst riding scooters and were extremely obsessed with their image, lifestyle and fashion. The Beatles are an excellent example of the Mod look.

In 1967, there was a Teddy Boy Revival and the drainpipes lived on, but by the 70s the hippie culture took over and pants got wider. Punk bands of this period who wanted to distance themselves from the Hippies did adopt the drainpipe, but the style was nowhere near as popular as it had been.

It has been said that drainpipes were worn by heavy metal and hip hop bands but these pants were often a lot skinnier than the original drainpipe and so not exactly the same style, although the lifestyle and beliefs of the wearers were often in line with those of the Teddy Boys and Rockers.

Women began wearing drainpipes around the same time as the boys (50s and 60s) and some of the most famous women to portray the trend were Marilyn Monroe and Sandra Dee. Women have continued to wear the style on and off until modern day, although like the men’s version, the drainpipe trouser seems to have become into a significantly skinnier style.

…of the name: The pants are called ‘drainpipes’ because the straight cut of the leg makes them look like two well made drainpipes.

For more info on Drainpipe pants try Edwardian Teddy Boy, Wikipedia, WiseGeek or check out the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

Random Facts

  • Elvis Presley was a favourite of the Teddy Boys and is well known for wearing drainpipe pants
  • a true drainpipe should have a cuff opening of less than 15″

21st Century Drainpipe Pants

The modern men’s drainpipe pant seems to have maintained the original, straight leg design, while the women’s version is significantly skinnier. No surprise there really. I have tried to find examples that resemble the original as much as possible.

alexander mcqueen alexander wang

Alexander McQueen, Alexander Wang

rebecca minkoff emma cook

Rebecca Minkoff, Emma Cook


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