Man About Town: The Dress-Pant x Denim Hybrid — Coming to a Guy Near You
When Frank Herbert launched Frank's Pants in December 2016, he began by offering premium U.S.-made khakis. He still does, but his new hit item came as a total surprise.
Retailers were telling him they'd had increases of up to 375 percent in their five-pocket jeans and chinos category. "I think jeans with a sportcoat is a terrible look," he recounts, "so I said, 'What about a five-pocket dress pant that's fully alterable?'" His customers said sure, why not?
Herbert spent more than a year developing it, specifically choosing a difficult, spongy fabric knowing that if his factory could make a wearable five-pocket from it, they could make one with anything. Armed with this sample and a few swatches, he unveiled it, and nearly every single customer placed an order. "It was odd and amazing, but it was a hit, even with traditional stores. In seven months I've had two stores say it was too out-there for them. Everyone else is jumping in, from either one microfiber fabric to a full-blown program."
Based in the "middle of nowhere" town of Macomb, IL, Herbert has previously held executive positions at Maine-based Rambler's Way and the Louis Raphael trouser brand, and served as national sales manager for Kenneth Cole. His business partner for Frank's Pants is Cotswold Industries, and manufacturing is handled by three factories based in El Paso, TX; Lebanon, VA; and Chicago, IL.
The five-pocket dress trouser can be approached from the dressy side going down, or the casual side going up. The five-pocket or khakis wearer can upgrade to a dressier fabric, while the daily dress-pants wearing guy can tone-down with five-pocket styling. Herbert says a guy hesitant to show up to his golf club for an early-morning round can wear the pants knowing he can then throw on a sportcoat and go straight to work. "Men's wear is an item business, and you've got to find things that get people's interest," he says. "It's also a repeat business, so you've got to have new things. The cotton khaki category is shrinking, as most consumers want something with a little movement. When Levi's starts putting stretch in its 501s, you know it's time."
The stretch component throughout the Frank's Pants collection is so slight, he says, that customers don't even know why the pants feel better, and retailers — especially ones with traditional customer bases — don't even mention it. "Plus, the stretch stabilizes the fabric," he says. "If you take 100 percent cotton poplin, it wrinkles worse than linen."
The five-pocket dress pant comes in half-a-dozen or so microfiber options, mostly in dark basics such as gray, including one that feels like flannel and another that feels like denim. The other five-pocket model, called the Heritage, comes in dozens of colors and various cotton twills. Better men's stores are asking Herbert to do the dress pant private label, to which he's agreed. They want to sell their version for $395, he says, based on his wholesale price of $76 with a suggested retail of $195, "which is still a good margin."
Frank's Pants sold to 170 stores in its first season, "which is incredible," says Herbert. It was followed by a tough correction when a competitor came roaring back to life, but is back on track thanks to the new hybrid dress pant. He's back to stuffing his pockets with orders — all five of them.
Christian Chensvold is an Apparel Contributing Writer and the founder of Ivy Style.