Q: I am having a terrible time finding a decent pair of slacks. I have purchased several pairs, and after three or four wearings they begin to acquire those dreaded fabric knots that need to be shaved off. Can you suggest why this occurs and what fabric blends have the propensity to do this so that I can avoid them?
Secondly, I cannot seem to find the particular style of slacks that I like: slightly baggy slacks with a long full pleat that doesn't pull out when you put them on. I like my slacks to have a slight taper at the ankle; I cannot stand pants that flare out covering up the shoe -- like something from the sixties. I like 30s and 40s styles, with a 90s update. Can you possibly recommend a store in San Francisco where I can purchase these slacks? My price range is from $50 to $100.
A: Fabric blends that contain even a small percentage of polyester will develop the little "pills" that you (and the rest of us) hate. Read the contents label. Fabrics made of 100 percent natural fibers, such as wool, cotton, linen, or silk, will not pill.
They will maintain their texture throughout their useful wearing life. You can save your razor for your face.
The reason some trouser pleats pull out when you put them on: They are not cut with enough fabric. Most trousers are made with pleats that are not deep enough. It costs a lot more to make a deep pleat; about 1/4 yard extra fabric is required. Manufacturers looking for places to cut costs often make skimpy pleats.
Q: In regard to your comment that the best shirts have only one button at the cuff rather than two: Turnbull & Asser, the world's greatest shirtmakers, only make French-cuffed shirts or ones with three buttons in line, all of which button. If that's good enough for HRH/the Prince of Wales, moi, and 3/4 of the world's well-dressed men, why not you?
A: Wow! That's some group. You are certainly in good company with His Royal Highness, Prince Charles.
But allow me to clarify a bit. First, the point I was making had to do with the standard barrel-cuff (that is, non-French-cuff) shirts. The single button I described at the cuff appears on fine quality shirts made in exact sleeve lengths. The two buttons, on so-called "adjustable" sleeve length shirts, are arranged around the wrist (cuff), not up the arm. There is only one buttonhole, so only one of these buttons can be buttoned at a time. It helps compensate for a less-than-accurate sleeve length and an uncomfortable fit at the wrist. The extra button and imprecise size are cost-cutting devices that allow manufacturers to make shirts in only two sleeve lengths (either 32/33 or 34/35) rather than in five exact sizes (from 32 through 36 inches).
You are right that a recognizable Turnbull & Asser trademark -- the three buttons (all lined up with the line of the sleeve) on a somewhat showy wide cuff -- are all worn buttoned. Although the British Turnbull shirt is indeed top-of-the-line with magnificent fabric and superb tailoring, it is not to every American man's taste. The collars tend to be on the high, stiff side, with a most English spread that does not suit the new trend to softer European (Armani-inspired) tailoring in suits and sports coats. Nor could they be worn with soft Brooks Brothers type shoulders. Their exaggerated cut almost requires the formality of a Savile Row suit with shoulder padding. These shirts are gorgeous, but a bit, er, mannered.
Four-quarters of the world's well-dressed men do not need to pay $150 for a cotton shirt. The finest quality American hand-cut cotton shirts, such as those by Kenneth Gordon, Gitman, Ike Behar, and Ralph Lauren are available in prices ranging from $50 to $85.
Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today iStyle, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.
Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.