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What is a Trouser Press?

By Mike Howells
Updated May 16, 2024
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A trouser press is a household appliance that is used as a rapid and more convenient alternative to a traditional iron. A pair of pants or trousers is placed between the two flat sides of the press, which heat up and come together to eliminate wrinkles and apply a firm crease to the fabric. The trouser press is a ubiquitous feature in business hotel rooms around the world.

The first trouser press was invented in the 1930s by John Corby, and was the extension of a simpler stand that merely held trousers flat when a full bureau or chest of drawers was not available. The Corby Trouser Press, as it was known, was immediately popular. By the 1960s, electric heating elements were added to improve the pressing process. This design has been emulated and copied by innumerable manufacturers. Early models were skinned with both real and faux wood paneling, but most modern units sport a brushed aluminum or flat plastic finish.

Working components of a modern electric trouser press include one pressing plate and one padded plate, in essence the same surfaces as an ironing board and iron. Once closed and turned on, the plates heat up to roughly 140° Fahrenheit (60° C). Depending on the fabric and the degree of crease desired, the process can take anywhere from ten to 45 minutes.

The benefits of a trouser press over traditional ironing include hands-off convenience and safety from scorching. Quality trouser presses have timers and thermostats that work to prevent damage from overheating. With the appropriate settings dialed in, the press goes to work and shuts itself off after the appropriate period. Typical risks associated with ironing, including dropping the hot iron or burning oneself, are also avoided when using a press.

On the flipside, the "set it and forget it" nature of the trouser press means that an improperly placed pair of pants may receive a misplaced or unwanted crease. The constant adjustments that are possible with hand-ironing are not possible with a trouser press. Convenience is therefore offset by a potentially less precise finish.

Trouser presses are also one-trick ponies. They are not meant for pressing shirts, jackets, or any other type of clothing. By their nature, trousers are generally laundered less frequently and so are more apt to simply needing a quick refreshing with a press. For business travelers on the go, this is one of the most useful appliances.

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