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Pants for Provence

Looking for suggestions on the right pants for Provence in May/June. I'm traveling with my wife, this is definitely more of a take-it-easy trip. In other words, we won't be hammering out miles on the trails or slugging a backpack around. We intend to walk around the markets and major cities down there. Basically, our goal is to immerse ourselves in the culture and try our best to be "locals." So, that being said, I need suggestions on the right pants to wear. Last year I did two weeks in Ireland and Scotland, and I wore a pair of Arcteryx nylon pants. I liked the fact that I could wash them in the evening and pop them on in the morning, but wasn't a big fan of the sh-sh-sh sound as I walked, and they definitely could not be "dressed up" for an evening meal. Besides, the wife has already made it clear that she will not allow them on this trip (says I look "ridiculous" in them). Cotton just sounds like a bad idea in terms of trapping heat and sweat and being nearly impossible to wash-and-wear. Should I go with linen? I'm not a linen guy, necessarily, but could become one if that's the way to go. Maybe there's a nylon option out there that can work. Maybe shorts are the answer (though, it doesn't seem like the French are fans of strutting around in this attire). Looking for help here. Thanks!

Posted by
2876 posts

First of all, no one in Provence will care what pants you wear. That being said, I've been VERY happy with Tilley travel clothing. Their clothes aren't cheap, but they're all wash-and-dry overnight and are great quality. I wore their "AdventureCloth Classic" pants all over Provence day and night last year. www.tilley.com

Posted by
3313 posts

Go to Target. Buy some cheap khakis and be done with it.

Posted by
693 posts

Travis, linen feels cool but mostly looks like you slept in it - wrinkles like crazy and will not look fresh long. I'd go for Dockers or try LL Bean or Lands End for khaki pants, maybe a cotton/polyester mixture or even a linen mixture. A nice pair of khaki slacks worn with an attractive shirt will make you look really good. If you take two extra you may not have to do laundry. It's perfectly alright to wear your stuff more than once; alternate them - take a Tidestick for spot cleaning; it works.

Posted by
263 posts

I go with Eddie Bauer wrinkle and stain resistant khakis.... I wear them for one day, switch off the second day, then go back to them. Because they are wrinkle and stain resistant, they look cleaner longer than regular pants. By the way, if you happen to spill red wine on them, they do stain until washed.

Posted by
709 posts

Hi Travis, First off, you'll never sell yourself as a local, so don't try to hard. We're all American, and the real locals can see us coming from a mile (kilometer?) away. With that being said, I've taken cotton pants, nylon pants, convertible pants, linen pants, and shorts to Europe over the years. What I've found is that the synthetics are easiest to care for and keep looking fresh. They're prone to the swishing that you mention, though. Cotton are the most comfortable, but they can look worn after a few days, and they take a while to dry (especially if it's humid where you are). Linen look fresh for until you sit down, then you're done. Alway's wrinkled. Convertibles scream "tourist", but they do save you some packing. After many trips, I've gravitated to a pair of light cotton khakis and a pair of shorts. Provence is pretty warm, so I wore shorts a lot while down there (again, we're american, and they know it), and used the pants for church visits or dinners when appropriate. Don't fret it whatever you bring. Focus on Provence and try not to think about what you're wearing or how you look.
Have a great trip!

Posted by
340 posts

Hi Travis, Undeniably, I am sometimes the wife who says, "Honey, are you really going to wear that?" That being said, we have found pants that both my husband and I approve of for comfort, looks and versatile wearability. They are affordable, come in a variety of colors and many manufacturers make a version of them. Look for pants made of microfiber, which is essentially polyester or sometimes a blend with rayon or lycra. You can find them in Macys, Steinmart, Pennys, etc. and sometimes Target. Usually they are in the casual pants or golf-wear section. They wash and dry great, require no ironing, are extremely lightweight for packing, dress up or down, and stay reasonably cool. My husband usually takes 3 pair: khaki, black, and olive. He tried cotton khakis before but they dried too slowly and wrinkled easily so he has eliminated them from his traveling wardrobe. Also, last summer he took cargo shorts and that ended up being what he wore most days (and so did many of the men we saw, American and European). This would once have been a big "no-no" but the world is changing. As long as you don't do the baggy t-shirt and mesh shorts thing (please!) be comfortable and have a good time!

Posted by
5668 posts

This is another vote to check out Tilley. I find that the Tilley Clothes that I bought to where in Europe are darn handy when traveling in the US as well. ; ) Pam

Posted by
4370 posts

Travis, I hear ya. Not literally, but...LOL! I have some 'travel pants' from Royal Robbins that have the 'swish-swish' sound IF I'm walking fast, but not at all if I'm just strolling...and they CAN be dressed up. Perhaps the thickness of material is the difference?!? Some are more 'sturdy'; mine are thinner... It IS great being able to wear a freshly-washed pair in a few hours... Linen, in MY experience, requires much more attention to care that I want to bother with in Europe. My husband has traveled with cotton Dockers for several years; it takes 24+ hours for them to dry (after being rolled in a dry microfiber towel and stood on!), so it can be done...and Dockers makes some pants from other materials ('microfiber'?) that are an option...they would dry much faster, but perhaps leave you with the 'swish-swish' again... The slower you walk, the less the 'swish-swish'...;-)......Take it REALLY easy this trip! Good luck...

Posted by
55 posts

All I saw for weeks in Provence and the south of Italy was capri pants last year. All ages, all styles.

Posted by
38 posts

Some GREAT suggestions, guys. Thanks a lot. I will check out Tilley, for sure. Have to admit, I'm especially fond of Eileen's idea of walking REALLY slowly. Great idea!

Posted by
1284 posts

Travis - If you REALLY want to look like a local, you need to wear crop/capri pants. European men of all ages wear crop/capri pants in the summer, American men never do. Get some crop/capri pants and you'll fit right in. Trust me on this. EDIT - Jo, I was speaking of Provence.

Posted by
8064 posts

I don't have much to add except to say that this is my favorite thread title. I smile every time I read it as it just has that special officialness to it. "Pants for Provence!" Forget the capris and cropped pants. I am not sure where Grier has been going, but this is NOT a universal European look for men of all ages. I barely see them at all and even then, it is only very young, very fit guys.

Posted by
38 posts

Again, thanks for the feedback. And I'll settle the capris debate now. That's a negative, Ghostrider.

Posted by
16 posts

I agree, I have spent a lot of time in Provence and I can personally testify that cropped pants for men (and women) aren't a big hit. Here's the simple rules: Men in Provence do not wear shorts. Short pants are for for boys, not men. Men wear pants, or trousers as they are called. Linen trousers are a very good bet. For ladies, women do not wear shorts in Provence. Women wear skirts or sundresses with stylish sandals. No, not walking shoes, but sandals. Not high heels but stylish. Buy a pair of non-travel cotton pants - not from Tilley, etc. but from maybe Gap. If you want to be local, here's the biggie list: 1. No runners. Dead-giveaway. For either sex. Please no runners. Try sandals (no socks) for a casual look. 2. No Tilley hats. Please no Tilley hats. No baseball caps. 3. No fanny packs. I hope I'm not offending anyone. 4. No nylon pants. Think real - cotton or linen. You'll thank me for it. NO SHORTS! Have fun,
Diane

Posted by
9110 posts

'but from maybe Gap' You mean I have to drive to a mall (where I'll probably loose my truck and have to set off the alarm to find it), fight my way to the directory, then go in a store full of silly middle school girls. All to buy a pair of britches that have to be worn inside-out so the label shows so real people won't look down their noses at me? Hrumph!

Posted by
16 posts

HI Ed, What I meant to say is you don't need to look like you're on safari while in Provence. So I wouldn't recommend wearing Tilley hats and nylon pants. Provence style is casual but stylish. The Gap isn't about the name brand but they have pretty good casual pants occasionally. Hope this helps,
Diane

Posted by
8064 posts

Darn it Ed, here I was, looking forward to seeing you in some capris. Hopes dashed.

Posted by
690 posts

Too bad you won't try the crop pants, Travis. We saw them all over Italy although they could have been worn by German, French and Italian tourists. I knew they weren't American because crops for men aren't "in." They're a-comin' buddy! Shoes - I took photo after photo of shoe stores throughout Italy selling all manner of tennis shoes. In Italy, they absolutely are "IN" and worn by all ages except maybe the elderly. But, you're going to Provence so...maybe not in Provence. For lightweight pants, you could also try Cabela's. Like others have said, there's no way you will blend in. No way. So be comfortable, carry your backpack, and enjoy visiting the beautiful sights of Provence. The people are glad to have you there.

Posted by
38 posts

Tried the Tilley pants. No offense to the Tilley-lovers, but these were not for me. Too "big" everywhere. Tried a pair of Kuhls, but my wife smartly nixed those. It seems she doesn't want to tour Provence with a Jack Hannah look-a-like. Tried some Greg Norman golf pants. Had a nice cotton-like look and feel, but a little too dressy for my taste. Nice for casual Friday at the office, though. I had just about decided to bring my favorite JCrew lightweight cottons when I stumbled upon a pair of Thomas Mathew golf pants. I'd never heard of this brand, but they look exactly like the JCrew flat fronts. They are a poly-cotton blend and come in just a tad lighter than the JCrews. They don't shimmer like other synthetics and there is no swooshing when I walk. I also love that they have a more "modern" fit. The search is over!

Posted by
365 posts

One word: kilt. Show those capri-wearing nances how a real man enjoys free-e-e-e-e-e-dom!

Posted by
1631 posts

Haven't read all of the replies, so this may have already been suggested. My husband likes to wear the zip-off, nylon pants at REI. I don't hear him swish, swishing behind me. They're comfy and wash and dry quickly. Have a blast on your trip!

Posted by
53 posts

Well, shoot, once again Interpol has failed to send me their annual "Eurpoean Fashion Laws" newsletter. I moved last year, so maybe the post office is still holding on to it. If someone coud, forward a copy to me, I'd appreciate it ;)

Posted by
38 posts

Well, just returned, and the Travis Matthews were fantastic. Light, easy to wash, and dry, and looked great. A few observations for those agonizing over which pants to wear in Provence: 1. Don't wear shorts. I think this horse has been beaten enough, but just don't do it. Respect the culture and adapt. 2. Don't wear the synthetic, zip-off leg pants. You'll stick out like a sore thumb, but worse, you'll look like you have no idea how to dress yourself. They just look bad, people. 3. Don't wear capris. Yes, you will see people wearing them (though, it's the exception), and yes, there were times when I would have loved some circulating air on the ankles, but they're best left for the under 30 crowd. Provence has a more...discerning taste. If you must wear them, never ever wear them in the evening. 4. Don't wear the Tilley pants. Nothing says "I just don't care anymore" quite like a stiff, ballooning pair of these. The French - no matter their age - want to look good, and no one looks good in Tilleys. In the end, folks, cotton would have actually worked fine. I brought a pair and wore them to dinner a couple of nights. Would have been a little warm in the day, but mine were a good lightweight cut, so they performed better than I would have imagined. Happy travels!

Posted by
1820 posts

I was in Provence last month. It was hot and I wore shorts (down to my knee type) during the day and didn't feel out of place at all. My wife is very fashion conscious and she would have said if it was out of place. At night I wore jeans or cotton/grey khaki pants. If it was July/August I would have brought linen. Nobody but you cares what you wear. Wear what you wear at home the most and could stand wearing for a week straight.

Posted by
78 posts

I am in Provence right now. I've been to about a dozen Luberon towns as well as Avignon & Arles. The place is loaded with men wearing shorts and "man capris" (as my kids would say). They are everywhere. There are also people wearing tennis shoes, hiking shoes, the sporty looking dressier sneakers, sporty sandals, etc. Of course, there are also plenty of people that are very dressed up. I wouldn't wear shorts and tennis shoes to dinner at an expensive restaurant but they are very, very common. What I have taken from the experience is that whatever you choose to wear will likely be fine. If you wear shorts you most certainly aren't going to stick out in a crowd. If you don't look like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, you probably aren't going to get noticed here anyway.

Posted by
38 posts

Didn't mean to imply that you can't wear shorts. Several "locals" had mentioned that the French typically reserve shorts for sports and the beach. In my travels across Provence, this seemed to hold true. I did not see many people wearing shorts (I spent most of my time in Arles, Aix, and the Luberon). I'd say 50% of those that were wearing them were obvious tourists. Less than 10% of all people were wearing capris. Maybe you guys were there on National Capri and Shorts Day. Again, you can wear anything you want in France. You will NOT get arrested, nor will you be denied service. I do believe that you will stand out as a tourist in anything other than pants, and that you will most likely be classified as tacky by the locals. Based on the responses here, I think many of you are not bothered by this. J'aime pantalons!

Posted by
27413 posts

please note that aside from the one line post above this thread is from March ... 2011, 3 years ago!!

Posted by
988 posts

Three years old - but still relevant......and tres amusant!