Here at Who What Wear UK, we want to take all the stress out of shopping, and to help us do just that, we're launching a new series, We Try Before You Buy, where we'll be road-testing new trends, fresh labels, the latest drops and key buys.
When Gisele Bündchen wore a pair of high-shine vinyl trousers last year, I remember quickly concluding nobody other than Gisele could wear them. But now, less than 12 months later, retailers are experiencing something of a national shortage of vinyls, as pairs from Saint Laurent to ASOS are selling out fast. Even Alexa Chung, who dared to wear them to Glastonbury last summer, took to Instagram during a mid-vinyl meltdown, writing in desperation to the brand Tripp NYC: "hiyyyyyy, can you make the high waisted vinyl pants again? Mine split up the back and now I can only find low rise ones :-(."
A few weekends ago, I was out for a coffee, and over a two-hour time span saw three girls wearing vinyls. (Admittedly, this was in Broadway Market in Hackney, but still.) I mentioned this observation in a team brainstorm, and the next thing I knew, I was tasked with putting plastic pants to the test and finding the best pair, the worst pair and the ones most likely to cause a powder-lotion-paste moment similar to what happened to Ross on Friends. Meaning you, hopefully, won't have to endure the same when stepping into this trend.
The first challenge was actually getting hold of a pair of the high-shine pants in my size, as many are almost all but sold out. I begged, borrowed, and almost stole, and when my selection of squeaky trousers was finally assembled in the Who What Wear office, everyone's interest piqued. First lesson learnt? Maximum under-desk space is required for the leg-kicking needed to get them on, and so the office's disabled loo became my personal changing room—so far, not so chic.
After a number of tense trying-on sessions with vinyls stuck around my ankles, I managed to find four pairs fit for my experiment. If you are tempted to try this '80s trend, see below for my conclusion on the pair you should go for.
Scroll below to see my trial of the four best vinyl trousers on the high street.
The cost: These are £45 from ASOS, but you'll have to move quickly to get a pair, as they are already selling out.
How they fit: These were the most true-to-size out of my vinyl haul, so I'd advise buying these in your usual jean size. The zippers on the hip and the cropped ankle make them more flattering than a straight-up-and-down cut.
Ross from Friends moment: The cropped trouser leg makes them much easier to pass over the ankle, so I managed to whip them off in 18 seconds. Yes, I took my experiment very seriously and timed this on my iPhone.
Overall rating: 4/5. Although my colleagues didn't think these looked as good as the Topshop pair, these were my favourite to wear, as they were the most comfortable and felt like I was wearing a pair of jeans. Oh, and I could sit down in them too.
The cost: These Jamies are £55 from Topshop.
How they fit: These were a tight fit, so I went two sizes up from my regular jean size. My usual, 28, left me Whatsapping my friends in a group chat from my disabled-loo-turned-changing-room with panicked messages that I was going to be trapped in my vinyls forever or have to leave with them around my ankles.
Ross from Friends moment: When I tried a pair in a roomier size, these went over my feet in an impressive 15 seconds.
Overall rating: 4/5. My colleagues—who weren't the ones sweating in these—all agreed that this was the best pair of the lot, as they are a flattering fit and have the desired ultra-glossy, shiny finish. But these aren't to be worn anywhere warm, else you'll feel like you're in a Bikram session. So make the most of this glacial weather.
The cost: £40 from H&M.
How they fit: These are a baggier fit and are extremely high-waisted with a pegged leg.
Ross from Friends moment: The fabric is much lighter than the rest, so there is no risk of a stuck-over-the-ankles emergency. The haute bin bag–esque fabric does, however, make them particularly noisy: I can confirm my crotch made an unfortunate squeak with every step. People—both style-conscious and -unconscious—actually turned around when I walked past their desks.
Overall rating: 2/5. These are more comfortable but aren't as flattering as you want from a tricky trouser trend. (See the above picture of my bum to understand what I'm talking about.) I also felt like they might split at any moment thanks to the thin fabric and high waist. But if it happens to Alexa, it could happen to any of us.
LA REDOUTE X WANDA NYLON
The cost: These are on sale from £69 to £41 and are still available in all sizes.
How they fit: These are what you'd expect (or fear) from vinyl trousers, as they are very tight. I'd advise going up a size. They are also very long and therefore aren't ideal for petites.
Ross from Friends moment: Since the fit is very tight, in the "changing room," I had to lie down on the tiles to stretch them over my thighs. Fastening the button was also a real challenge. No pain, no gain?
Overall rating: 3/5. These were the most uncomfortable, but they did get the most, erm, reactions. When I went into a corner shop in these to buy myself a celebratory chocolate bar for completing the challenge, I received a number of Oh hey, nice trousers (wink, wink) comments.