Frailty, thigh name is...
April 19, 2012 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Why the heck am I always rubbing the thighs out of my pants?

I'm a guy in my 20s, and this has been happening to me for about as long as I can remember. After a mere few months, the thighs of my pants will become threadbare, and then come to rip open fairly quickly. It's a very wide, shallow deterioration of fabric, so it's basically unpatchable. This sucks! Here are a few possible theories I've had:

1) My thighs rub together more than the average person's. I'm overweight, but not obese. So, if this was a thing I imagine it'd affect a ton of people, and I haven't ever heard of anyone else complaining about this. I also have pretty strong legs and thighs, but I'm not some sort of Tour de France athlete or something.

2) I walk a whole lot more than the average American. Ok, maybe this is it? But I've never heard of a crotch-rubbing epidemic in rural Greece or anything.

3) I walk funny? I have no idea if this is even the case. But it's possible.

4) I buy almost exclusively second-hand clothing. I thought this was a pretty likely culprit until I bought a new pant or two, though, and had the exact same problem.

5) I wear a pair of pants more frequently than I imagine is normal. I tend to only have a couple of pants in rotation at a given time, so I'd say I typically wear a given pair of pants 2 or even 3 times a week.

...and that is definitely the most any human has ever written about crotchal holes, to date. I feel like one or more of those theories is what's causing the problem, but I wish I knew which, so I could correct it. It's hard for me to find pants I like, so having one shuffle off the mortal coil sucks. Has anyone had this problem and gotten to the bottom of it?
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a lady, so my body may be pretty different from yours, but I have had MANY pairs of jeans wear out in this exact way. You don't hear people talk about it because it mostly happens to those of us with larger thighs and it's embarrassing to admit to.

There's probably not anything you can do about it, other than wearing pants made of durable material, and buying a few more pairs so that you're wearing each pair less frequently.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:10 AM on April 19, 2012 [22 favorites]

When clothing gets dirty, it wears out faster. Dust and debris, even if you can't see it, when trapped in moving fabric will abrade and cut the fibers as it rubs together. So I suggest finding more pairs of pants and rotating them more frequently.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:11 AM on April 19, 2012

I have big thighs (I'm a woman) and the thighs are usually the first thing to become threadbare for me too. I usually throw away pants for other reasons before they rip completely but the couple times this has happened to me it's been the thigh area that ripped. So yeah, if you have proportionally bigger thighs and walk a fair bit (as I do) -- you can expect this. Lots of people have this problem, so you're not alone.
posted by peacheater at 7:12 AM on April 19, 2012

One other factor worth considering: have you tried using different (or less) laundry detergent? I think detergent is pretty hard on fabrics overall so you might see everything last longer if you switch things up in the laundry room.

Otherwise, yes, the problem is caused by the friction of your thighs. Whether this is due to weight, gait, or distance is hard to say, but if none of those factors are likely to change, then I'd resign yourself to finding more pairs of affordable pants that you like, and buying them often.
posted by juliplease at 7:12 AM on April 19, 2012

I used to have this problem a lot. You don't hear so many people complaining about because it's caused by a combination of being overweight and walking a lot, which is frankly not super common. So long as you keep the weight on and keep walking so much, you'll go through pants faster.

I'd say either lose some weight or up your pants budget, either way. But don't quit walking. Walking is awesome.
posted by 256 at 7:15 AM on April 19, 2012

Definitely a combination of 1 + 2 + 4 + 5, and maybe 3, though I have no idea how to assess that. Numbers 4 and 5 seem like the easiest to change, so maybe work on those? It might also vary depending on the type of fabric you favor. Try pants in a smooth, heavyweight fabric and see if those hold up any better.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:19 AM on April 19, 2012

I thought this was a pretty likely culprit until I bought a new pant or two, though, and had the exact same problem.

Where did you buy these new pants? If you're shopping at, say, Old Navy or the Gap or H&M, their pants are already borderline disposable, and if you're at the combination of both being overweight and walking a lot, you're putting them through a strain they were never designed to take (i.e. either a sedentary person with larger thighs, or an active person with smaller thighs.)

I'd suggest you invest in a single pair of quality-brand pants if you're not already. I'm not sure what you like or how you dress, so I can't recommend anything offhand, but if there's a Uniqlo around you, their stuff is surprisingly well-made. Spend maybe twice as much as you generally would, but them in the rotation, and see what happens.

If that doesn't work, buy more pants and get a gentler detergent.
posted by griphus at 7:20 AM on April 19, 2012

I'd guess it's a combination of all those things.

People whose thighs rub together firmly when they walk do tend to have this problem quite a lot. You may notice that some overweight men walk in a kind of "lurching from side to side" style. This is because they are habitually walk with their feet unnaturally far apart, which among other things has the effect of making their thighs rub together less. On the other hand, some people with smaller thighs walk with their feet very close together or even in a straight line. This, too, can cause thigh friction.

Regardless, it's probably better to think of how fast your pants are wearing out based on number of times worn rather than number of days elapsed. Someone who is rotating ten pairs of pants is going to get a lot more days elapsed than someone who is rotating three pairs of pants.

Also... how do your pants fit you? It's possible they might be a bit too tight across the thigh. My peculiar genetics have resulted in very low body fat below the waist (above the waist is, sadly, a very different story) but gigantic butt and leg muscles. I always have to make sure that my slacks have pleats and extra fabric so they drape properly and move with me when I'm walking (which I do a lot of, since I live in NYC).
posted by slkinsey at 7:20 AM on April 19, 2012

This has been a Thing since at least WW2 -- I was looking through one of the old "Make Do and Mend" pamphlets a while back, and one of their tips for making men's pants last longer is to patch them in the crotch area while they're still relatively new, before they start showing any wear and -- this is key -- on the inside of the pants. Whether you want to bother with this or just buy multiples when you find pants you like is up to you.

Various male friends of mine have the same problem. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with being overweight. Bike riding can accelerate the process dramatically.

Fabric for retail clothing is also poorer quality these days than it was even 15 years ago.
posted by stuck on an island at 7:22 AM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have had this problem too many times in the past. I am a woman and am also big-thighed.

One thing I used to do that helped for a while was to take the jeans to a tailor once the holes appeared and have them put a patch of fabric on the inside to reinforce it. Eventually, though, holes would reappear in different areas of the crotchal region and I'd need to get rid of them altogether. I imagine you could put the patches on before the holes appear, so the material there is a little more durable. But I've needed to up my pants budget too.

Either way, this does happen to a lot of people. You are definitely not alone.
posted by bookwibble at 7:24 AM on April 19, 2012

I'm a fatty and I happen to have read about this. I thought it was here..... but the solution is to wear a second layer of fabric underneath to mitigate the friction. Or ..something like that. Like lined trousers. Women wear petit pants for one of these reasons.
posted by taff at 7:24 AM on April 19, 2012

I'm a lady and this is how my pants wear out too. I think it's normal. It happens to me when I am at a healthy weight, just because of how I am built.

It sucks, but I accept that this is just how my pants wear out.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:24 AM on April 19, 2012

Mine wore like that when I was wearing them at work, constantly leaning over & pressing against the edge of a table. Now I just don't wear pants.
posted by Edogy at 7:25 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could be knock kneed.
posted by Jandoe at 7:30 AM on April 19, 2012

You just don't hear people complaining about it, that's all. I'm prone to inner-thigh wear-out, too, but it's the kind of thing you don't mention in casual conversation because you don't really want to draw attention to your inner thighs.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:38 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I have never had a pair of jeans wear out at the knee because the crotch is always the first part to go. It's always annoyed me because a knee patch is cute! A crotch patch, not so much. I'm not fat, but my inner thighs are one of the places where my fat likes to hang out and I do walk a lot.

Agreed with all those who say that less detergent, not using the dryer, wearing looser pants, buying higher-quality pants will all mitigate the problem, but ultimately, your pants are going to wear out at the inner thigh if you wear them long enough, because that is the way you're built.
posted by mskyle at 7:47 AM on April 19, 2012

Can I ask what kind of fabric should be used for thigh-reinforcing patches? Something silky, to reduce friction and contribute minimally to the bulk?
posted by Mila at 7:49 AM on April 19, 2012

I think it has to do with skeletal structure as much as it does with weight. As in, women who are thin but have narrow-set hips can have this problem. I would imagine that it happens to men a lot too, since they tend to on average have narrower hips.

This is probably stating the obvious, but the type/thickness of the fabric makes a big difference. I have kind of wide hips and skinny legs and usually never have this problem, but a few years ago I had a couple pairs of jeans that were made of a softer/thinner material that I wore a lot and this happened to both of them.
posted by beautiful spinster at 7:50 AM on April 19, 2012

I'm not overweight and I get this a lot too. I got it even when I was underweight, actually... It annoys me as well, because the pants are often otherwise perfect but oh well. This reminds me I do need a new pair of jeans because of this very issue.

And yes, I usually don't talk about it because it would attract attention to my "crotchal region" (love that one!), and I'd usually just rather not.
posted by neblina_matinal at 7:51 AM on April 19, 2012

Yeah, not only is this a Thing, it even has a name. You're experiencing "chub rub".
posted by anaelith at 7:52 AM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do you ever wear them when riding a bike? There are few better ways to destroy that area of a pair of pants.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:55 AM on April 19, 2012

I'm not even particularly giant-thighed, but I do walk a lot, and this happens to me. I find that it happens less if I have heavy-duty jeans or slacks that are smooth on the outside. I have sometimes had success wearing spandex under my slacks, but that is sometimes uncomfortable.
posted by Night_owl at 8:28 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

My pants do this a lot, probably from bike riding. My biggest improvement was, I think, from taking them out of the dryer when they were still wet and letting them hang.
posted by RobotHero at 8:33 AM on April 19, 2012

I know you just asked why this is happening, but in case you want some tips about how to make your pants last longer, you might find this question i asked several years ago to be useful.
posted by Kololo at 8:40 AM on April 19, 2012

I've found I can choose: if I don't like the chafed pants, I can have chafed thighs instead. Chafed pants happen more often if there's some elastane/other stretchy element in the fabric, and chafed thighs are more of a problem if I'm wearing very robust denim.

Having a small rotation of clothes really makes the problem stand out, but I don't expect adding to your wardrobe would change the pants' lifespans at all. They're not like shoes, which benefit from rotation because they regain some shape and dry out between wearings.
posted by pickingupsticks at 8:42 AM on April 19, 2012

I have this problem, and found that there are certain fabrics that resist it. I actually went into the bathroom to check, and the pair I'm wearing is 73% polyester/25% rayon/2% spandex. I've had no issue with these pants at all, and I've had them for a couple years, whereas I'll blow out a pair of jeans in six months. I walk 3-5 miles a day, and wear my pants a few times before I wash them.

The brand I've had most success with is the Worthington Modern Fit line at JCPenney's, but I don't know what a similar version would be in men's clothes.
posted by angels in the architecture at 9:03 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

This happens to me and I wear high quality denim that only gets washed once a month and ALWAYS air-dried. I think it is because I walk ~7 miles a day.

It also happens to my husband who also only wears premium denim and he is a skinny bastard, so it is not a fat person thing.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:52 AM on April 19, 2012

Some people's thighs just rub together. Sounds like you're one of them. People don't talk about it because what could be more boring (though women talk about it a bit more) but I can tell you from volunteering at a clothing bank that probably 25% of the trousers of all genders, of all sizes, that we received were wearing thin at the thighs.

One man friend of mine who had this issue dealt with it by getting trousers from outdoorsy places like Patagonia and Cabelas, and from places that catered to people who did hands-on work like Duluth Trading Company and Carhartt.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:37 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you bike at all? I am pretty sure my bike seat is responsible for eating the inner thighs out of several pairs of my jeans.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:54 AM on April 19, 2012

Just dropped in to say that I'm pretty skinny and suffer from this big time. Can't wear suits to work because I always end up killing the trousers. I'm told buying lined trousers is a solution - although I tend to buy two pairs of trousers when buying suits myself.
posted by prentiz at 12:20 PM on April 19, 2012

This is how my jeans wear out. The left inner thigh wears through. On every single pair.

When I lost weight, I thought, woo, now my thighs won't rub as much and my jeans will last longer.

Actually, no. *sigh*
posted by BrashTech at 1:09 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I lost weight, I thought, woo, now my thighs won't rub as much and my jeans will last longer.

Actually, no.

Bone structure is a bigger factor than thigh circumference in this for most people, I think.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:36 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Which is one of the reasons why "chub rub" is a misleading name.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:36 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

yeah - I see this on stick-legged men, too. Friction is bad for textiles.
posted by janell at 2:12 PM on April 19, 2012

As a male, I have this problem with denim in the scrotal stowage area. It definitely depends on the cut. It's not like I'm toting volleyballs around in my pants or anything.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:55 PM on April 19, 2012

this problem is the bane of my frugal existence. I have been in search of a solution for years and this is what I have come up with so far:

-- proper trousers last longer than jeans. I suspect it has to do with how thick the seam through the crotch is on a pair of jeans.

-- looser fitting pants last longer, as does quality of material.

-- I find pants last longer the less I wash them. I think it's because pants come out of the wash fitting slightly differently and breaking them in again is stressful on the material.

-- my greatest success involves a mixture of white glue and water (1 part glue, 3 or 4 parts water) applied with a brush to the inside of the problem areas. this one trick roughly doubles the lifespan of a pair of pants for me.
posted by spindle at 8:17 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not overweight, but very flat-footed/knock-kneed here, which could be contributing to your problem. Buying certain shoes fixed most of it for me. Spindle's glue trick works great too.
posted by skyl1n3 at 9:25 AM on April 21, 2012

Lady person but this happens to me with jeans, not so much my work trousers, which are a different fabric and cut and get washed on different cycle and not tumble dried. But eventually the work trousers also show wear in that area and get retired. So consider what material and cut your pants are and if there are more suitable alternatives. And consider that washing and drying also constitues wear and tear.

But if you wear your pants every other day for a few months that means you've worn them a lot by the time they do this. Not sure how long you expect your pants to last but perhaps your expectation is unrealistic - work out average hrs of wear by the time the holes appear and you may feel better about replacing them....
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:09 PM on April 21, 2012

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