Pants up as men enter waist land

MIDDLE age, it often is said, is when your age starts to show around your middle. And for men, it seems, the moment is marked by the inexorable rise in the position of their trouser waistband.

A survey shows that the last time most men are able to fasten their trousers around anything resembling a natural waist is at the age of 39. After that, the only way is up, or down.

''Over-achievers'', as they are known in the rag trade, hoist their trousers so high by the age of 57 the waistband can be just 18 centimetres under the armpits. The ''under-achievers'', making up about 20 per cent, plump for below, fumbling to fasten belts, buttons and zips they can no longer see.

''The changing fortunes of a man's trouser waistband can often become a metaphor for his life,'' said Paul Baldwin, director of men's wear buying for the Debenhams department store, which commissioned the survey.

Boys wear their trousers around their waist, until the age of 12, because their parents buy their clothing for them, concluded the survey of 1000 males. But waistbands plunge with the advent of teenage hormones, plummeting towards the apex of the hips, and far below the underpants position by 16. Dressing for work sees a gradual upward creep between 16 and 20 years.

By 27, the waistband starts returning to the natural waist, a position largely maintained until the age of 36. The turning point is 39 and the demise of the washboard stomach. By 45, trousers will be worn at least five centimetres above the waist, rising to 12.7 centimetres by the age of 57.

GUARDIAN