Apologies for the radio silence. I’ve just moved house and didn’t have internet for a week or so. Here’s the first post from the new place (with a back yard, as you can see below!).
In 1964 Levi Strauss & Co. produced a brand of wrinkle-free trousers which could be worn straight out of the dryer with no need for ironing. These trousers were dubbed ‘Sta-Prest’, pronounced ‘stay pressed’. Adopted by some UK subcultures such as the Mods and the Skinheads, Sta-Prest became part of the uniform. Today in 2012, Sta-Prest trousers aren’t particularly easy to find on any average UK high-street and if you can find a pair they’re likely to be fairly expensive.
For quite a while, I’d been on the hunt for a good pair of slim fitting trousers for the office. Yes, there are lots of slim-fit trousers available on the high-street and there’s plenty of wool-blend ‘suit trousers’ in shops like Marks and Spencer, however it seems to be very hard to find the right fit and features: A crease down the centre leg, a waist that’s not low-slung, front facing pockets and durable fabric for every day ware. A combination of all these details seems not to exist… that is until I purchased a pair of Sta-Prest trousers in navy from Brighton’s Jump the Gun… well, as close as I could get to my ridiculously stringent specifications!
This long standing Mod wear retailer offers a range of Sta-Prest trousers here. The pair I bought were ￡45 but I believe if you want something fancy, like a hounds-tooth pattern, you’ll have to pay a bit more. Be warned – you’ll need to buy a pair that are one size bigger than your normal waist measurement – they sit quite high up, just above the hips, so you need to go a bit wider. I’m not sure that Sta-prest are genuinely wrinkle-free; they certainly hold the crease down the centre well, but every now and then I’ve taken a iron to them to rejuvenate the line so it’s nice and crisp.
All the sizes of Jump the Gun Sta-Prest trousers seem to be of an ‘average’ length; I had to have mine taken up / shortened at my local tailor and drycleaner (only £8 and done on an over-lock machine, proper!). Also, I found that these trousers where too wide at the bottom for me. I spent an hour on my hands and knees measuring and pinning and then sewing them down the outside seam with my sewing machine to get them slim at the bottom. I think I did a pretty good job.
Where to buy Sta-Prest trousers
There are a few places online where you can find Sta-prest trousers. If you want to follow my lead, head over to the Jump the Gun website here, or visit them in Brighton. Otherwise, you can get more affordable versions from Warrior Clothing, Mod Wear and Modfather Clothing (more Warrior), In With The Crowd, Viper London, CX London or go for the original Levis at their US site here, or Stuarts in the UK here.
Interestingly, the two chaps waring matching Sta-prest trousers in the photo above are sometimes known as the ‘Islington Twins’; a pair of very well dressed twins who live(d?) in the north London borough. I used to see them on the bus sometimes and wanted to ask if I could interview them about their clothing, but never summed up the courage. I haven’t seen them in a year or so but if I do, I’m going to strike up a conversation with them - starting with Sta-prest. Thanks to Janette Beckman for the image.
There’s a fair bit of talk on the Mod forums about Sta-Prest trousers, much of it more informed than my opinions. Most chat seems to suggest that it’s best to spend a bit more on Sta-Prest trousers than to go with the more affordable alternatives. However, I can only speak for the Jump the Gun pair I have. The Levi’s Sta-Prest that are available on the website are pretty pricey and as a user from The Mod Generation says, “last Levis Sta-Prest I bought definitely did not ‘Sta prest’ and ironing left tramline creases. I think they were 100% cotton though which would explain it. In the end I threw them in the bin in frustration”. I believe Levi also own Docker’s, which do some nice slim trousers here, but they ain’t Sta-Prest. Even Play.com sell a type of Sta-Prest, made by Relco.
On re-visiting my local drycleaner to have the trousers cleaned, he informed me that the alternation job I did to slim the legs is ok, but not the correct way to do it. A professional tailor would have split the trousers up the outside seam, slimmed them down and used an over lock machine to bring them in. I don’t have an over lock machine or the skills yet to carry something like this out but it’s a good challenge to tackle on my next pair.
To sum up; if you’re interested in getting yourself a pair of good Sta-Prest trousers, I would advise visiting Jump the Gun and be prepared to spend a little bit of cash on alterations. I’ve been wearing my pair for a good few months and they’re holding up well. I can confidently say that in my experience, they are the most comfortable pair of trousers I own.
If you’ve got a pair of Sta-Prest trousers, let me know and feel free to share some photos. I’m keen to get a second pair and would like some good tip
Thanks to these for the images…
Jump the Gun, the excellent blog Parka Avenue, Janette Beckman’s photos of Mods, Dashreed on Pingram, Modwear, Happy Valley Girls on Ebay, Play.com, Viper London, CX London and the forums of The Mod Generation and Film Noir Buff.