[DEEP DIVE] BONTAN PANT
Welcome back to "DEEP DIVE." This installation examines the Bontan Pant, a pleated, wide style that debuts in the Engineered Garments Spring Summer 2023 season.
Each Engineered Garments collection is a palette, balancing fabrics and silhouettes that remain the brand's ethos. This season's theme centers around Senegalese artist Issa Samb, whose multiform artwork and vivid personal style challenged convention and opened the door for Engineered Garments designer Daiki Suzuki to introduce types that typically lay beyond the boundaries of the brand's traditions. Among these is the Bontan Pant, a wide style pant derived from mid-20th century Japanese school uniforms.
Following countless features in movies, books, and comics, Japanese school uniforms are now fixtures within Western pop culture. In Japan, these garments are a national symbol - a physical reminder of youthful, carefree school days. The gakuran is one of the most recognizable of these uniforms. Adopted in 1879, during the Meiji Restoration - a period of extreme modernization and Westernization - the gaukran was designed after a Prussian cadet uniform, consisting of a jacket with a stand collar and gold buttons and a matching set of straight-lined trousers.
In 1968 mass protests erupted across Japan. Spearheaded by university student body organizations like Zenkyōtō and Zengakuren, demands for progressive policies and increased student autonomy colored the demonstrations. As a result, many schools loosened restrictions on dress codes, leading to modifications like the flared-hem rapa and mambo pants rather than eradicating the uniform. This increased freedom trickled down to high school and junior high, not worn by idealist protestors but by delinquents.
The bontan zubon was the pants of choice for this unruly bunch, sometimes called yankees. Although made by the same manufacturer as the straight-lined gakuran pant, the front pleats of the bontan gave an enormous amount of volume below the waist before tapering sharply toward the hem. Flouting school rules, rowdy pupils wore these as a badge of honor. Although he did not wear them himself, Daiki recalls rival factions of students wearing bontan pants and engaging in skirmishes while attending school in Aomori.
As Daiki searched for a wide-leg pant for the Spring Summer 2023 collection, he considered previous silhouettes like the Balloon Pant and Emerson Pant but felt these styles lacked cohesion with the theme. Thinking back to his middle school years, Daiki began toying with the idea of using the Bontan pants in the collection, wanting to take this piece of academic gear and give it a sense of formality.
Pleats are at the heart of Engineered Garments' Bontan Pant. Pleats give more space near the waist of trousers when needed and fold away when not in use. Though the original version had just two pleats, Daiki placed the equivalent of 3 pleats on this updated version, with a reverse pleat and a kissing pleat, for extravagant volume. There are even more twists, including a crisscross belt loop, notch on the rear waist, and back pockets that feature double welting - like a besom pocket - but have a tuckable flap. Like the Engineered Garments WP Pant, the Bontan is constructed with half a waistband (front side only), with the pleats tucked beneath, while the stitching for the rear four darts continues up the pants on the back. Designed for wear higher on the waist, they have a higher rise, longer inseam, and a slight taper, meaning they easily integrate into dressier outfits for a bold look.
The Bontan Pant is a fascinating mixture of worlds, taking a style associated with rebellious students and imbuing it with elements of fine tailoring.
The Bontan Pant is available in the following fabrics:
Dark Navy Highcount Twill
Khaki Navy Highcount Twill
Natural Linen Cotton
Navy Linen Twill
Navy Seersucker Stripe
Olive Polyester Sharkskin
Grey Tropical Wool
Available in-store and online at nepenthesny.com