What are Drainpipe Trousers?

Mandi Rogier

Drainpipe trousers are a style of slim-fitting pants first popularized in the 1950s. One of the most famous celebrities to don these trousers was Elvis Presley. His slim fitting drainpipe style jeans soon epitomized the spirit of rock and roll that he was so well known for.

Sandra Dee was known to wear drainpipe trousers.
Sandra Dee was known to wear drainpipe trousers.

These pants come in a variety of materials and colors, though the original style was typically made from 100% worsted wool in black. Early drainpipe trousers had no pockets on the front or side, though they occasionally had pockets on the back. Belt loops were eliminated from this style of pant as well.

Jeggings are incarnations of cigarette pants, also known as drainpipe trousers.
Jeggings are incarnations of cigarette pants, also known as drainpipe trousers.

The signature aspect of this look is in the cut of the pants. Drainpipe trousers fit snugly through the backside and the legs. The bottom of the pants are cut to hang straight down. Unlike most pants, those with a drainpipe cut do not flare or taper at the bottom. For this reason, zippers are occasionally included at the bottom of the pants to help the wearer get them on.

The name "drainpipe trousers" is fitting for these pants, as the legs resemble a straight, evenly cut drain pipes. This style has also been known by a variety of other names. These include stovepipes, pencil pants, and cigarette pants.

In the 1950s, as increased consumerism began to reach the UK following the war, the "Teddy Boy" emerged. This class of youth adopted a signature style intended to shock their parents, and it set the Teddy Boys apart from the older generation. The Teddy Boy uniform typically consisted of drainpipe trousers, a drape jacket, and suede shoes. A brightly colored tie and white or colored socks completed the ensemble.

At the trend spread, these trousers could be found on a variety of musical celebrities. Both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones donned this look in the 1960s. Women occasionally wore a similar style of form fitting pants, and the look could be found on the likes of Sandra Dee and Marilyn Monroe.

Though the mass popularity of drainpipe trousers faded by the 1970s, these pants have been adopted by various subsets of culture over the decades. Punk bands striving to distance themselves from the hippie look wore drainpipe trousers in the 1970s. Jeans with the cut of drainpipe trousers were found on heavy metal and hip hop bands of the 1980s and 1990s. Through the 2000s, some indie bands have incorporated this straight-legged style as well, keeping the concept of drainpipe style pants alive and well.

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Discussion Comments


I am looking for drainpipe trousers for my husband to wear with his drape jacket. If you know where I can get any, please let me know. I don't want jeans; they must be trousers. Thanks --Teresa


@kangaBurg – No, they aren’t the same thing. Skinny jeans taper along the length of the leg, so the top of the leg is wider than the bottom. The legs on drainpipe trousers are the same width all the way down. They’re still really form-fitting, but just a little loose in the calf area.

Try asking for pencil pants and the other names that listed in this article. Make sure you mention that you don’t want “skinny pants”. I would call around beforehand because I don’t think many stores sell drainpipe pants.


@indemnifyme - I've seen some videos of Elvis and I don't think the drain pipe trousers are very scandalous either. Now his dancing, on the other hand...

Those skinny jeans can be pretty sexy looking though. I bet there are a lot of parents these days that only wish drain pipe trousers would come back in!


What’s the difference between drainpipe trousers and skinny jeans? Are they the same thing? I want to get a pair of drainpipe trousers and I need to know what to ask for when I go shopping. I’m sure they don’t call them “drainpipes” at the mall.


I don't think I've ever seen this type of pants in a store. They kind of sound like skinny jeans only a little bit less skinny. I've definitely seen skinny jeans in the store lately that have a zipper at the bottom of the leg as well.

I think it's interesting which styles are considered rebellious in different time periods. These pants don't sound very scandalous to me!

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