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Bills Khakis

Jack Bettridge
From the Print Edition:
Morgan Freeman, Mar/Apr 2005

So often when the sturdy classics of the age before things were created for instant disposability—the telephone built to last a lifetime, the automobile made more from steel than glass fibers—go out of production, we have but a few choices: make do without them or horde the few that are left. Bill Thomas, founder of Bills Khakis, thought of another option. He created a company to make the redoubtable trousers that used to be available everywhere.

You remember classic khakis, the sturdy cotton pants that were made to wear well, but handsome enough to pair with a jacket and tie. Never quite in or out of fashion, they could be worn to kick around in or be ironed to a knife crease. Not made of delicate super fibers—but certainly finer than denims—they weren't in danger of being destroyed by an accidental snag. And when they did start to wear, they took on character and could slowly be demoted from the front of the wardrobe to the rear.

By the time Thomas and his college buddies discovered classic khakis (they bought Second World War models from a local army-navy store), they were on their way out. When the clerk told him they were no longer available, Thomas had them made as a cottage business and eventually made them himself in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Armed with the original military patterns, Thomas didn't change a thing. Same eight-and-a-half-ounce cotton twill, cut full with all the amenities, such as a 14-inch drill-cloth pocket. Originally they came as the M1 (flat front) and M1P (reverse pleats). Now you can also order the M2 and M2P cut with an inch less in the rise, seat and leg.

Inevitably, Bills has added product, but always with an eye for the classics. The twills come in colors other than khaki. There are lightweight poplin models and a "sports utility twill" that dresses up the original with a wool blend. The company makes shorts, women's cut trousers, corduroys and even limited-edition seersuckers and patterned twills, but never fear, the classic khaki will always be a part the of repertoire from Bills.

Visit www.billskhakis.com.

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