Basic Rights Trousers Review

Basics are an important aspect of a complete wardrobe, and many people take them for granted until they realize how these pieces play the fundamentals of your collection. The menswear community on Reddit is quite aware of their importance, oftentimes taking an hyper-extreme approach: they advocate the same pieces and colors so that users end up having a sort of basic uniform (which is a running joke).

For Styleforum members, it can be the same—seeing as how certain elements like a navy blazer or grey wool trousers, cotton chinos and blue OCBDs all get passed around as necessary to establish your wardrobe. As users of both communities flesh out their collection, they end up finding their own style, perhaps adding distinct pieces focused around their own aesthetic, or perhaps buying higher quality pieces with more character or detailing. When you begin without a set of basics, you oftentimes lose sight on what is important and you end up with a lot of clothing that you may realize down the line that you don’t like; I fell victim to this sham, believing that I was buying clothes that suited my tastes while in reality I was buying them because they were cheap or heavily discounted or–heaven forbid–cool without really understanding that they were not versatile or good quality.

Therefore, a lot of menswear lovers seek out basics from brands like retailers Uniqlo or Everlane or Suit Supply, all because these brands have something to offer in terms of basics that are priced reasonably for the quality and aesthetic. However, let’s say you are looking for something that is more particular, while still being a basic; perhaps you want something that is more refined, or with little details that are distinctly different from mass market wares. In either case, there are a bounty of options online that provide those basics, and Basic Rights ( visit the website here) is another brand to take a look at for your basics specifically because of their attention to small details.

To provide a bit of history, the brand Basic Rights was created by Freddie Cowan from the Vaccines (to be perfectly honest, I had no idea who that was until I looked him up) with a business model oriented around crafting staple garments focused around the small details. This mission is directly at odds with fast fashion, which aims to produce clothing that either falls apart or by rewarding constantly replacing your wardrobe. Their business model is not really even that strange, since logically it makes sense that you would want clothes that are able to be worn in most contexts while lasting a long time in your closet. This mentality is something that we might hark back to when we wax poetically of the clothes of old, “that vintage was better made,” “that you need to invest in clothes to last you a lifetime,” and is somewhat similar to why we focus so much having quality basics. While that is a debate for another time, this concept resonates powerfully with a lot of consumers, and rightfully so because most people who accumulate an interest in something want to see their investment last a while.

The brand was co-founded with David Chambers, who played an important part in creating patterns for their core collection, an example being the trousers. For those that don’t know David Chambers, he is a Savile Row tailor known for being peculiar about who he selected as his clients. Having made suits for many style icons like Manolo Blahnik and David Bowie, he seeks to create clothes with a character reflecting the individual wearing them. The clothes that Basic Rights makes holds that same ethic, providing visual or textual interest to the clothes by imbuing a touch of character in the small details like patterns, fabrics, or construction which differ from what you would find at most off the rack brands.

I was offered a piece from their collection to take a look at the quality, and so I opted for a pair of trousers for this reason. I will say that I am particular about how trousers should drape (you know us classic menswear guys), so I explained my concern since the trousers are described as having a slim, fitted leg, and they sent me two different sizes to try on. Living in California, I opted for a pair in the cream Polish linen. I selected these because cream or neutral colored trousers are considered a classic, and I was curious as to the feel of Polish linen since I wasn’t familiar with it. I can say I ended up being pleasantly surprised, especially since the drape and feel of the fabric is wonderful, reminiscent of something more springy like W. Bill Irish linen in that it rumples more than it wrinkles. It has a wonderful slubiness that makes them a bit more casual texture wise, and I can quite see these pants becoming a favorite of mine for summer months because of their smart appearance.

I ended up deciding to keep the larger pair, bringing in the top block (they have a nice split waistband and are constructed like real trousers rather than like cheaper chinos without any sort of seam allowance). While I was surprised that I could fit into the smaller pair (meaning they are not incredibly slim by any means since I do have larger calves and thighs), the leg line is more classic and I find that it drapes better especially from the front. They appear smart with a jacket, and because of the slight sartorial influences like the single rear pocket and the side adjusters, I felt I would prefer wearing these pants with tailoring. Seeing as a lot of men on do like more fitted trousers, I’ve included photos of the smaller pair so you can see how they fit. If you have larger legs or prefer a more classic fit, I would recommend sizing up and bringing in the top seat and waist.

I would like to say something about the cut/pattern of the trousers. While most trousers, if you look at them–especially cheaper ones, have a line that goes straight on both the front and back of the legs, the leg doesn’t really have any curve to it. As such, the trousers created by Basic Rights are more complex than that, featuring a nice curve that you would see on trousers like those created by a quality tailoring house.

The line on the leg reminds me of something that you would see from more expensive makers (the pattern compares rather favorably to pants I have from Isaia for instance). The trousers, while having minimal fabric to let out, are constructed in a way that permits ease of adjusting just like any tailored pants. They also are somewhat higher rise – not too high rise that they make me feel ridiculous, but just enough that they stay well adjusted for most men of average or slightly below average height.

In the end however, it is little things that make a brand stand out. For instance, they ship their clothes washed. If you buy clothes from a cheaper brand, oftentimes you end up you experiencing shrinkage which transforms a shirt from something that fits well to something that looks like you gained five pounds or grew an inch. In the case of Basic Rights, the fabric that sees shrinkage (like cottons or linens) are washed to prevent further shrinkage in the finished garments. The pants that I got did not shrink after washing them (they are machine washable!), something that I appreciate considering I would be concerned with having a tailor shorten them only to see the pants become high waters after the first cleaning.

basic rights pants review
Closeup of the linen fabric used for the trousers.

Other small touches include the textiles. The brand sources most of its fabrics from Japanese mills (in the case of my linen, the textile is from Poland). Finishing of the products beyond washing is also top notch; the buttonholes and buttons and stitching are all without flaws, and the shirts feature mother of pearl buttons rather than plastic ones for that touch of class found in most higher quality clothing. The fact that their pants feature side adjusters, something that you don’t see on most basics, is a lovely touch; they are having a moment for a lot of menswear aficionados since they provide a clean look.

Lastly, because the brand has a mission to produce products that are quality essentials, they are self-aware enough to understand their impact on the environment. As such Basic Rights wanted to produce ethically made garments. Part of their name, Basic Rights, reflects this—the right to water or to ethical working conditions. This meant for them, partly, starting off with a mind towards sustainability and ethical treatment of workers through their own business practices. For instance, they tried to reduce their environmental footprint by using dead-stock fabrics for many of their pieces, especially those that are outside their core collection. By using textiles that would otherwise go to waste, or possibly be burnt, they are decreasing the amount of water waste and carbon footprint for their brand by choosing not to have their own fabrics run. They use tencel or cottons that would usually be associated with luxury brands but were extra lengths that the brands did not use in their manufacturing. Likewise, they work with small boutique factories, which albeit they are unable to adhere to the auditing processes larger factories can, they work closely hand in hand with these producers to ensure that the needs of workers are being met. Similarly, by choosing fabrics from places like Poland or Japan, the fabrics are already seeing better treatment of workers. These things are reflected in their costs as a brand, contributing to the higher pricing but still being within a normal realm tat is accessible to the middle market rather than being strictly aspirational.

Because this article is running long, and by definition it was supposed to be a review, I will return to talking about this topic later this month for Fashion Revolution week. I feel that Basic Rights had a lot to say on the matter, which provided an interesting insight into brand awareness and social responsibility.

Personally, even if it is a basic (and perhaps especially because it is) I would rather invest in something that I feel is a good return on my investment. Part of this mentality is considering clothes as something that you would keep for a long time due to its construction or fabrics, that will serve you for years or that contributes a little less to the ecological damage created from the clothing industry.

Clothing like that from Basic Rights should be considered for basics, especially if the small nuances for style or their commitment to more ethical choices resonates with you and works with your budget.


This is not a sponsored article; to read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.

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e. v. Empey

e. v. Empey

Mr. Empey is the type of guy who prefers English style in the winter and Italian style in the summer. Or at least he used to. Now he's uncertain where he stands, since he travels a lot and has to visit a fair number of places where Americana workwear would be the best option. His appreciation of menswear stems more from a love of artisanship, so naturally, he also appreciates other crafts including cocktails and quality cuisine.
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e. v. Empey

About e. v. Empey

Mr. Empey is the type of guy who prefers English style in the winter and Italian style in the summer. Or at least he used to. Now he's uncertain where he stands, since he travels a lot and has to visit a fair number of places where Americana workwear would be the best option. His appreciation of menswear stems more from a love of artisanship, so naturally, he also appreciates other crafts including cocktails and quality cuisine.

8 thoughts on “Basic Rights Trousers Review

  1. Do not ever cuff these pants, or any linen pants for that matter! Linen pants by their very nature are “casualistic”. What I mean by that is that the very nature of linen fabric lends itself towards a more casual look, even when well tailored.

    • Thank you for your comment. While I respect your thoughts on linen pants and cuffs, I actually like the extra material added from cuffing the pants since it adds a bit more weight to them to drape better. If the linen was a really wrinkly, soft linen, or if it was a slimmer fit (like with the smaller size I reference) I would not likely cuff them.

  2. Sorry brother, while I appreciate your respectful disagreement, I’m going to stick to my point. As I previously mentioned, linen by it’s very nature is going to look “wrinkley”. I do agree with you that cuffing will add extra weight to the hem. However, large sized cuffs on the hem are going to make these trousers look more billowy over time and with wear. Linen, no matter what cut you provide will wrinkle and stretch over time.
    On another note, the side adjusters are a classy touch, for sure.

  3. Actually, the cuff does serve a purpose, it can be let down, then the length will be “basic right” (no pun intended).

    The straight line for creasing front and back of trousers is a basic drafting technique. A curved line often occurs when the cutter snips too much of the fabric from one side and hopes the elderly tailor can’t tell the difference. LOL

    I see we can’t stop the tan and blue machine. The darker blue appears not as atrocious as the powder blue worn by the preppy set. I’m still waiting for burnt orange from the 70’s to take hold of the new climate change generation.

  4. Glad you reviewed this brand, not that well known but have great basics – when I’m not dressed in CM, I’m typically wearing something by them- been a fan for a while

    • Thanks for your comment. For me it was a pleasure to review their brand. I got quite a bit of information from the managing director, and so I will be bringing up some content in another article talking about them. I really am considering getting some other clothes from them. More pants especially (both for casual wear and for tailoring down for a bit more elegant drape–I don’t find myself wearing suits often, so assorted more casual trousers would suit me well).

      I also have an eye on their field jacket in corduroy. Do you have any experience with their jackets and thoughts on them?

  5. Based on this article I tried three pairs of trousers from Basic Rights, and while I do agree that the fit is nice, they leave quite a bit to be desired. First, the finishing is and looks cheap and machined. That’s to be expected at thids price point, but certainly did not exceed expectations. A larger issue is tailoring. The trousers come finished at the hem and pressed. Letting out trousers of linen or cotton leaves an obvious line where they were altered. Lastly, I hand washed and line dried my first pair of trousers, and the lengh shrank more than one inch as well as the waist shrinking about three quarters. I have emailed Basic Rights and am waiting for a response.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your experience. I did not notice any shrinkage in the trousers having washed them repeatedly, but I only did try the linen pair.
      I do agree with you that it would be nice if the trousers came unfinished, but I think its because they are appealing to a different market segment than a classic menswear enthusiast who buys trousers unfinished. Additionally, you are correct about letting out trousers that are cotton or linen in that it leaves unseemly stitch lines, but I’ve never had that problem with pressed hems, especially seeing as how washing them relaxes the fibers and allows you to press them anew. The stitch marks are noticeable however should you let out the seat or waist. I do hope you find some satisfaction from the retailer.

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