In short: The French fly is a hidden button closure attached to an internal belt. It provides a flat outer appearance to the wearer’s waist area while also ensuring no tightness and pressure.
“Hey, your fly is down.” Or open.
Have you ever heard of a French fly in men’s pants? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. It’s a term that’s not commonly known outside of the fashion industry.
However, if you’ve ever worn a pair of high-end dress pants or trousers, you’ve likely encountered a French fly without even realizing it.
Whether you’re a fashion enthusiast or simply curious about the inner workings of men’s pants, read on to learn more about the French fly, including its history and purpose.
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What is a French fly?
The short answer is that a French fly is an additional closure mechanism for the front closure on a pair of pants. It’s usually a button inside the fly flap.
A French fly is an additional fastening, usually a button closure, hidden inside the waistband of men’s pants that holds the fly material in place.
It covers the zipper and is attached at the top with a button or hook and eye.
Not only does the French fly take some of the strain off the zipper, but it also helps the pants sit down smooth and flat in a more relaxed way to fit better and create a more relaxed look.
The French fly shouldn’t be confused with other buttons on the inside of pants. These other buttons, usually along the inside of the waistband, are for attaching suspenders.
Why is it called “fly” in men’s pants?
A “fly” is not the zipper on the front of your pants. The term “fly” refers to the opening on the crotch area of trousers, which is closed by zip or buttons.
The term “fly” originated in Victorian times. The opening on a tent was referred to as a fly. A fly is any flap of material attached on one side which covers a series of buttons or zippers.
The word “fly” has taken on various meanings throughout the English language’s development. One of those older meanings referred to something attached by one edge, like a flag.
The flap of fabric on your pants resembles that flag. There’s also speculation among linguists that has to do with the resemblance to a flapping wing.
Either way, when we refer to a fly on a pair of pants, it’s not the zipper (those Levi’s button-fly jeans commercials did a lot in the 1980s to make us all think the fly was the closure).
What about French fly in men’s pants?
A French fly is a type of fly used on men’s dress pants and trousers.
The French fly is a popular alternative to the traditional zipper fly. It consists of two fabric panels that fasten together at the center with a button or snap.
You’ll often see the French fly on high-end dress pants and trousers, although it’s been gaining popularity thanks to high-end dress pants, corduroy, and the latest in men’s fashion.
History of the French fly
The French fly is a type of fly used on men’s trousers that have been around for over a century. It was first popularized in the early 1900s as an alternative to the traditional button fly.
Originally, trousers didn’t have other openings, being pulled on and off over the legs. Later, a slit was cut in the front of the breeches, which were then fastened with a string or buttons.
It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that the modern fly was invented, where the first patent for the zipper, named the “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.” was issued in 1851.
The French fly is most commonly seen on high-end dress pants and trousers. It is an extra closure on top of the regular zip, most likely attached to the inside of an internal belt.
It isn’t a new innovation, but the French fly is making a comeback and gaining ground thanks to high-end dress pants, corduroy, and the latest in men’s fashion.
Advantages of using the French fly
Now that you know what a French fly is, let’s talk about its use.
Fewer people know about the French fly than the more common, single-closure fly because it is rarely used on mass-produced clothes. However, there are plenty of benefits.
- Comfort: The French fly is designed to take the stress off the top of a zipper, making it more comfortable for the wearer. It also allows the flap of the fly to sit down smoothly and flat in a more relaxed manner.
- Style: The French fly is almost always found on higher-end trousers and dress pants for men, making it a desirable feature for the well-dressed man. It keeps the front of the pants flat and smooth, giving a sleek and stylish look.
- Functionality: The French fly is a formal pant closure technique that secures the pants with hidden buttons on the inside, a zipper, and an outside button or flat-hook closure. This ensures that the pants stay securely fastened, even during strenuous activities.
- Alternative to the Zipper: The French fly is an alternative to the traditional zipper fly. It is a more sophisticated and elegant option that is perfect for formal occasions or when you want to dress to impress.
Much more often, the French fly appears on boutique and higher-end clothing. A pair of Kiton French fly pants can cost more than a mortgage payment.
When many men can buy a pair of khakis at a chain retailer for a tiny fraction of that amount, the elegance of a French fly might not seem like a true necessity.
But not every pair of trousers with a French fly is exorbitantly expensive. When visiting a tailor, men can have a French fly added to a current pair of pants.
And when having a suit or a pair of pants custom-made, the French fly will be one option the tailor will offer in addition to fabric, color, and cut options.
How to use the French fly
It’s important to note that not all pants have a French fly. If you are unsure whether your pants have a French fly, check the inside of the waistband for additional closure.
If you have a pair of trousers equipped with a French fly, you’ll need to learn how to put it on properly. Here are the broad strokes on how to use the French fly.
Step 1: Unbuttoning the fly
Before using the French fly, you must first unbutton the fly on your pants. The French fly is an additional closure that sits behind the regular button or zipper fly.
Locate the French fly panel, which should be located on the inside of the waistband at the front of the pants. It is usually secured with a button or snap.
Step 2: Using the French fly
To use the French fly, simply pull the waistband away from your body and insert the button or snap it into the corresponding hole on the opposite panel.
The French fly is designed to create a smooth, flat front on the pants. Once the French fly is secured, you can button or zip up the regular fly as usual.
Common mistakes when using the French fly
While the French fly is a classic and stylish option for men’s pants, there are some common mistakes that people make when using it. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Forgetting to button the fly: The French fly requires the use of an extra button to keep it in place. Forgetting to button the fly can result in an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.
- Buttoning the fly too tightly: While it’s important to button the fly, it’s equally important not to button it too tightly. Doing so can put unnecessary strain on the fabric, causing it to wear out more quickly.
- Not adjusting the waistband: The French fly often requires an adjustment to the waistband to ensure a proper fit. Neglecting to make this adjustment can result in discomfort and an unflattering fit.
Remember, the French fly is not always the best option for every occasion.
While it may be appropriate for formal occasions, it may not be the best for casual events. As with any aspect of fashion, it’s important to consider the context and dress accordingly.
Frequently asked questions about the French fly
Because the French fly is relatively uncommon in the modern fashion industry, many people have questions. Here are some of the most common ones.
What is a French bearer?
While “fly” and “bearer” don’t normally get used interchangeably, a French bearer is another name for a French fly. It seems “bearer” may sound more elegant than “fly.”
However, they are the same thing— an extra closure for a pair of trousers.
What is a faux fly?
While you might think a faux fly and a French fly are similar since “faux” comes from French, they are not the same. A faux fly is a term to describe a feature on a pair of pants that looks like a fly covering a zipper or button opening.
It is a decorative feature, as a faux fly doesn’t cover a zipper or any other closure mechanism. Pants with faux flies do not unzip down the front.
Are flies only found on pants?
Most often, flies appear on pants, but other items of clothing can employ them.
Think of the fly-front coat, which has fabric over the button or zipper enclosure. It performs the same function as the fly on a pair of pants.
Now you know what the term French fly means in men’s pants. Though not an everyday find in most people’s wardrobes, the French fly is an elegant addition to any pair of pants.
It adds panache to the wardrobe piece, and from a practical standpoint, it allows the front of the pants to hang more smoothly. It can also help prolong the life of the pants.