It’s taken me years to find a decent pair of pants. I’ve toiled in hundreds of dressing rooms, squeezing my thighs into everything I could find (sometimes tearing seams—oops!). I’ve seen countless tailors to take in and let out waists. I’ve spent hours and hours scouring clothing racks and the darkest recesses of the internet for something, anything that would fit. But finally, after all of this time, I’ve found the perfect pants style: Behold, the good ol’ sturdy Wrangler Men’s Wrancher Dress Jean. While its name includes jean, it resembles more of a workwear pant than classic blue denim. (Fun fact: They were originally created in the ’70s for cowboys to dress up for special occasions.) I had seen a friend wear the slightly flared style in black and was so transfixed that I asked to try on her spare pair, and it was like slipping into a second skin: While they are actually made for men, they fit me—a woman—perfectly.
The pair is tight in all of the right places, supporting my butt with all the courage of Atlas holding up the world. The waist is deliciously cinched in, nailing that hourglass-body bloom, but also a little loose to allow for some breathability. The flare is the most stellar width on the smaller side, and it comes with a dagger-sharp middle pleat that just won’t quit. It also stays intact through rain and shine thanks to the permanently pressed crease, and the fabric is 100% woven polyester but feels more like indestructible Kevlar. I can wear them with everything in my wardrobe, for day or night: a vintage silk Gucci blouse or a lush cashmere knit sweater. They aren’t dry clean only; yes, you can wash them (on hot, even!). They won’t burn a $150 hole in your pocket either. A fit and feeling like this only clocks in at $38. It’s the Renaissance man of pants: They can do anything and go with anything.
Though this adulation may sound like an advertisement, it’s not. There is, after all, a universal charm in the utility pant—or rather, fashion’s best-kept secret. I’m not the only one hooked on the idea of this humble pant. Vogue fashion news and emerging platforms editor Steff Yotka voices a similar affection for the tried-and-true pant that both she and her boyfriend wear. “Dickies, Carhartts, and other workwear pants just have the right hip-to-ankle proportion,” she says. “It’s not too traditional straight leg but not too wide either. I don’t know the science here—it might just be magic. Either way, at an affordable price, these pants are pretty hard to beat when it comes time to trade in skirts and dresses for practical fall and winter clothing. I should also say that, as someone who really hates pants, Dickies and Carhartts are incredibly comfortable. The only pants I will tolerate, really!”
So why is the utility pant so magical? What gives? Well it’s actually the fabric that gives—and it’s what makes the pants so alluring. Vogue creative director Sally Singer notes that the “frisson” of the loose waist—or the slight gap between body and pant—makes the look feel exciting. “Perfect fit, which is what you get with the mom jean, is literal and never that interesting. When you insert curves into the right flat-front, straight-cut pant, all the gaps and strains make it quizzically sexy,” she says
Another reason people love the bulk-buy pant is that it is made to last forever and still look great. Vogue fashion news director Chioma Nnadi has long kept Carhartts in her wardrobe. “I’ve been a workwear and military-surplus fanatic since I was in high school,” she says. “Mostly it was an inexpensive way for me to get that slouchy, straight-in-the-hip look. Plus that stuff just gets better with age. The more you wear them, the better they look.” They might be great value anyway, but their long-lasting charm is priceless.
Originally Appeared on Vogue