How do I stop my "chub rub" wearing holes between trouser thighs?
September 26, 2018 2:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm an active man with a large waist size, and my fatty+muscular thighs rub together when I walk or cycle (which is often and a lot). This rubs holes just behind the inseam on the crotch of all of my trousers that don't have smooth fabrics. It's not usually visible to the public due to the location, but it's embarrassing and it lets cold in. How do I prevent this?

I've taken to buying inexpensive £20 Dickies RedHawk trousers and replacing them often, but it's a shameful waste given the state of the rest of the pair after this happens. I'm a 48" waist, 31" inseam, so the fact that I could get the Dickies so cheaply still stuns me (most trousers in my size start at £50). Is there another brand that would not have this problem?

I do notice that my lightweight convertible hiking shorts/trousers seem to have no wear in this spot compared to my other clothes, but they're made of thin rip-stop nylon and seem to be engineered to survive friction. I find work trousers are pretty tough against abuse, but the inexorable tidal force of the chub-rub just frays the threads out of the fabric's weave.

I've tried to look into patching, but it seems like that would just reset the clock slightly, as I wear through these things every six months. Are there any fabric treatments that could prevent this, or repair techniques that would strengthen against this phenomenon?

Also, yes, I'm a sucker for cargo trousers. I love thigh pockets!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is probably only a partial solution, but I ended up buying bike shorts/pants for my bike trips because I kept wearing holes in my pants from the specific wear spots the seat was giving them.
posted by quaking fajita at 4:38 AM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should probably point out that I cycle in ordinary clothes, rather than dressing up like Tron Guy; but I specifically have a seat without a nose to avoid adding more friction to the mix. I don't think cycling is causing this in any way other than making my quads bigger and changing the fit of my clothes.

It's just about my thighs rubbing together when I walk.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 5:28 AM on September 26, 2018

I don't know if this would work but if you are willing to try, there are fabric sprays for waterproofing and UV and stain protection of upholstery and outdoor wear. They are no-show so you can probably re-spray them on just the target area repeatedly without compromising the garment visually. Just an idea.
posted by rada at 5:48 AM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have this same problem. I now preemptively patch trousers before I wear them-- I get an iron-on repair patch and zigzag stitch over it from the inside of the crotch. This extends the life of the trousers by a good while. The hole develops anyway, but it's easier to patch over if there's a second layer of fabric there already.

I have tried a roomier fit, tailoring, etc. and it doesn't seem to matter.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:50 AM on September 26, 2018 [8 favorites]

I have the same problem and solution as blnkfrnk. If you're constantly buying the same pair of shorts, I wonder if you could use bits of matching cloth from one already-deteriorated pair to make something like an easily-replaceable codpiece-section... sort of like zip-offs but with the crotch replaceable instead of the legs.
posted by XMLicious at 6:10 AM on September 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

Seriously consider using bike-specific shorts for riding. I know you say you don't think that's a big contributor, but it really is.

If you're uncomfortable with the bike-person look, consider mountain bike shorts with built-in liners. Lots of folks use these to start out, especially if they're a little heavier (I was, and I did). The bonus here is that you will be MUCH more comfy on the bike. Truly.
posted by uberchet at 6:15 AM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Maybe buy pants that are meant for cycling but don't look it?
posted by dobbs at 6:16 AM on September 26, 2018

Response by poster: blnkfnk: do you stitch before the problem occurs, to reinforce it? Does the stitching then absorb the friction? I'm tempted to do this, but I tend to wear greens and greys so I'd have to match the thread closely.

XMLicious: I'm not wearing shorts, but cargo trousers. The convertible trouser/short combo are the ones that don't have the problem. Also, the codpiece area isn't the problem, but more like the spaces just below the perineum.

uberchet: I don't really see how this would help, as my stance is actually wider when I cycle than when I walk and I don't feel anything rubbing against the problem area while I ride. I appreciate that this is a likely spot for rubbing against saddle noses, but I found that I'm best off without a nose on my bike seat.

I point out again that I do not have a saddle, but a seat. I ride a "sit-up-and-beg" Royal Dutch Gazelle, and I'm not going to change my trousers just to go to the shops. You wouldn't expect people to change their clothes every time they get in their cars, and I see no reason to do so when getting on a bike or a bus or a train.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 6:46 AM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: dobbs: I've looked for those in the past, but as you'll note most of those models stop at a 36" waist. I'm a solid foot longer in the waistline than that (mainly to make room for my thighs, as I end up cinching the actual waist down again), so I'm unlikely to find anything in that line made to fit my endgame dad-bod.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 6:50 AM on September 26, 2018

I've got big chubby legs that rub together and the rough cotton duck fabric of dickies and the like (carhatt, etc) all seem to wear out in the crotch faster than smoother trousers made of other fabrics. In the winter I cycle with a pair of wool trousers that are quite smooth and I've not worn the crotch out of them. I picked up them up from a second-hand shop.
posted by glip at 7:09 AM on September 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ah... well, if you're buying an entire pair of trousers each time, that leaves you more cloth to work with. I guess it's just a matter of developing a patch design which doesn't look weird.

My longest-suffering work-out shorts are actually a cheap article of American football advertising merchandise which seem to be made of about 110% nylon cloth, but are adequately comfortable if the weather isn't too warm. I've made patches from the rear pockets twice now, but it my case I'm not too concerned with leaving them looking presentable so I just did a quick job of hand-sewing on the patch in approximately the correct place.

Just another note... the sewing machine I have access to has a special "darning" setting and mechanism foot-piece which basically just embroiders a rectangular region of cloth. I've used this to reinforce regions of clothing which are wearing out. You can use a higher-artificial-fiber-content thread than the clothing article is made out of to compensate for the rapid wearing of cotton fabric glip describes.

Again, though, the difficulty is making the result look presentable... I'm partially color-blind so I can't match up thread color to the cloth, and have little aesthetic sense, so I don't try this with anything other than clothes I exclusively use for working out or clothes I wear around the house. But perhaps you would have better luck in that regard.
posted by XMLicious at 7:34 AM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

This might help.
posted by DanSachs at 7:35 AM on September 26, 2018

Could you try pants like these from Duluth Trading Co.?

Seems like you need more durable fabric as opposed to just reinforcement.
posted by jraz at 8:06 AM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am not larger, but am athletic and bike and walk a lot and have the same problem you describe. Biking definitely accelerates it. I can get about a year out of daily wear jeans before they wear through below the perineum. I tried biking-specific jeans that claim a "gusseted crotch for reduced wear" but as far as I can tell the reinforcement just moves the excess wear to the edges of the gusset, which is less hidden! I've tried patching to no avail.

If the convertible short/trousers don't have the problem, is the difference that they don't have the same kind of large folded seam that most jeans have?

One idea is motorcycle jeans with kevlar or dyneema woven into them for abrasion resistance in a fall.
posted by MonsieurBon at 8:09 AM on September 26, 2018

Response by poster: DanSachs: I don't need chamois creme for my skin. This is a "chub rub" on the duck fabric of my trousers!

XMLicious: the darning setting is tempting, and it's hard to look worse than the shredded pills of fabric I get now!

jraz: those are a bit harder to get in the UK, but I've been tempted by the Duluth Trading Company in the past.

MonsieurBon: the issue isn't actually the seam, but the fabric behind it. The duck panels rub together and wear thin, which is why I'm thinking a patch is probably my best bet. This is also why i suspect it's just that the other trousers are a smooth nylon so they avoid this problem. They're only good in warm weather, though, so I can't keep wearing them into the autumn.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 8:33 AM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, here's another idea... during the cold winters where I live, when I'm working out I'll wear my high-durability plastic shorts over warm felted cotton pantaloons that would normally shred to pieces at the crotch in no time flat. So if you don't mind looking weird while you're cycling, perhaps you could similarly wear a pair of fancy specialized-fabric shorts over your trousers and take them off and put them in a pocket when you stop. Maybe accompanied by a satin cape so that you look like a superhero.
posted by XMLicious at 9:06 AM on September 26, 2018

Sounds like a patch made from smooth nylon in a suitable colour might fix the problem. I would head to a place where they repair clothing and ask whether they can do that for you.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:32 AM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, I reinforce it prior to wearing them more than once. (Once to determine if I like them enough to put the work in.) It is the same process as repairing the holes but before the holes happen. Unlike you, synthetics also get the same hole-- it just takes longer-- but those I'm not able to patch.

Since the location is relatively hidden, your patch and thread just have to be close, not exact. It's not a problem for me because I already take in the legs and sometimes the waist (I'm short and not shaped like the designers are expecting so jeans are usually a DIY project of some kind.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:59 AM on September 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I think I shouldn't have mentioned cycling at all in this question, as I think it definitely gave the wrong impression.

Thank you for that link, blnkfrnk. I have just ordered a set of replacement trousers, but I may experiment with the ones I'm wearing now to see how I can reinforce that area with iron-on patches and darning techniques. I think I just need a good strong moss-coloured thread and I'm good.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 1:08 PM on September 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yeah, i’m going to have really enforce what others are saying.

It really sounds like you’ve just gotten used to get constantly punched in the nose, and are asking about how to deal with second order effects of constantly getting punched in the nose, and also pushing hard against people who are saying :“have you thought about perhaps not constantly getting punched in the nose?”

Cycling specific shorts are truly the right answer.
posted by sideshow at 2:11 PM on September 26, 2018

You don't have to believe it blindly. Next time you buy a new pair of pants, buy two. Wear one as usual, and wear the other as usual except never when you cycle (I dunno, mark the label or something). A few months later you'll have your answer about whether cycling is a factor. I can tell you that with some of my cheaper pants, you could literally see the dye rubbed off in the exact spot you describe after a single time cycling in them for ~1hr, with no visible spot before cycling.

If you don't want cycling-specific clothes which would solve the problem (which I would really recommend at least for longer rides), you'll just have to get more durable regular clothes. Thicker fabric, stronger materials like denim, etc. There isn't really such a thing as a treatment that makes clothes more durable.
posted by randomnity at 2:29 PM on September 26, 2018

As the other answers have said, it's definitely the cycling. But I can understand why you don't want to change your trousers for cycling shorts—it's very convenient to cycle in ordinary clothes. So an alternative approach is to change your saddle. For minimum friction you would want a narrow and fairly hard racing saddle, like a Selle or Charge, but a racing saddle probably wouldn't suit your upright riding posture, so perhaps consider something like a Brooks B17 instead.

(I had the same problem, and solved it by switching to a Charge Spoon saddle.)
posted by cyanistes at 3:56 PM on September 26, 2018

For what it’s worth, I am not a cyclist. I just have chub rub. Bike shorts help me zero. Perhaps they would help the querent, I don’t know.

I meant to mention: wash your pants cold and line dry, no iron, if you can; heat damages fibers more. Also, I’ve heard it said that you can either a) sew in a partial lining made of nylon to see if you can intercept the rub with the liner and not the trousers, or b) wear loose boxer shorts for a similar liner effect.
posted by blnkfrnk at 4:25 PM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Did you see previously?
posted by oceano at 6:53 PM on September 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: This happened before I started cycling. It's caused by walking.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 12:25 AM on September 27, 2018

Response by poster: Again, this isn't about fabric rubbing against my skin, but about the two pieces of fabric between my legs rubbing each other and wearing holes between them. My skin is just fine, thanks.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 12:25 AM on September 27, 2018

Response by poster: cyanistes: I don't know how else I can explain that I do not use a saddle. I use a Selle Rok seat that has no nose, and nothing sticking between my legs.

I feel like everyone here who is saying "it's deffo cycling" thinks I'm using some kind of taint-poking saddle that's rubbing my trousers. I have nothing between my legs when I ride, and I get better clearance than when walking because my knees are further apart. If anything, I feel the cold air more through the holes because my legs aren't held together when I pedal.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 12:28 AM on September 27, 2018

I think what you need is to reinforce the trousers and/or reduce friction.

Easiest and least aesthetic: get some ripstop nylon in a similar color and sew patches on each high inner thigh where you see the friction appear.

More pricey but looks better: go to a tailor and ask them to line the crotch/upper thigh area. Regular lining fabrics are very thin, slippy polyester satin, usually. Do you have any lined suit pants? Recall that when you wear them, you can feel the lining moving along with your legs while the outer fabric tends to move less.

Some people report reduction in this sort of wear by wearing boxers or similar underneath the trousers. Perhaps especially very smooth slippery boxers?
posted by oblique red at 7:29 AM on September 27, 2018

Best answer: My jeans wear out in that exact same spot, and I don't cycle at all, it's entirely from walking. I recently salvaged my favorite pair of maternity jeans by buying a pair of rectangular denim iron-on patches and ironing them onto the insides of the holes, with the long edge of the rectangle flush up against the inseam and the corner of the patch as tight as I could get it into the corner where the inseams meet the crotch seam (because of the shape of the jeans fabric panels that's not quite a 90-degree corner, but pretty close). Then I stitched all around the edges of the patches to keep them stuck down; maybe I did a crap ironing job or something, but the edges of them started peeling up after one wash. Lastly, I ran lines of straight stitching back and forth across the holes/worn areas, until the worst of them were covered, in the direction of the long axis of the rectangle (so, parallel to the inseam). This is perpendicular to the direction the original fabric was starting to split in, so hopefully it adds some good reinforcement.

It felt a little scratchy when I put them on at first, but softened right up with a couple of washings. The area is stronger now than when the jeans were new, they'll outlast the rest of the pregnancy, and I'll definitely be repairing any future favorite pairs of regular jeans the same way.
posted by octothorp at 12:36 PM on September 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I just took delivery of five pairs of trousers yesterday. Three are the standard RedHawk (in black, grey, and green) and I plan to try ScotchGard™ (I think we have an old can from a long-ago project) on the black pair, an inside patch (without stitching, just yet) on the grey, and keep the green as control.

Two of the pairs are this "action" model and they are built differently in the affected area. I wore one pair for a day and can already feel a bit of fuzzy surface "pilling" in the relevant spots, but perhaps these will be easier to repair given how many panels there are there. I will probably patch these as well, and may try stitching because the seams are already busy so it won't be quite as distracting.

If I'm ever back stateside (which would mean the neo-nazis are no longer in power) I'll give the Duluth Trading angle a go. It's just a lot to spend on speculation when the shipping and duty costs are so high.

I'm not going to change my clothes just to pootle to work or the local shops, but thanks everyone who suggested the specialist technical clothing. I'm sure they work great for your type of riding. I think I'll have better results from patches, as that seems to be the solution most people who suffer this problem have reported long-term success with.

Thank you all for your answers, and especially to oceano for succeeding where I failed in the search for prior questions.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:45 AM on September 28, 2018

« Older Isn't This Just a Glorified Cover Letter?   |   Calming, Relaxing, Empowering music for labor Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.