Are you looking to appear taller or shorter? Maybe you wan to look a bit thinner or bulkier? Or smarter? More casual? What will it be – do you want to fit in with the rest, or stand out more?
If you are one of the gents who care about any of these questions, then trousers cuffs are not a small detail to consider.
This article will walk you through whether you should wear cuffs or not. It sheds light on the Pro’s and it also explains you which type of pants you should always cuff, and which ones you should never cuff.
What are cuffs?
First things first, let’s get clear on what this article is talking about Pants cuffs, or trouser turn-ups, as they are also called, are the bottom edges of your pant legs folded outside rather than inside.
If they’re folded inside, what you’ve got are hems instead of cuffs.
When you’re out to buy dress pants, you’re like to find a lot of high-quality clothing stores that sell them in unfinished variations, with neither one of both. You can often get them hemmed or cuffed to your exact measurements right there in the store. It’s a fairly easy process. If that’s not the case, the idea is that you’ll take them to your Tailor (that’s us, right?)
A bit of history about the cuffed pants
If stories are telling the trust, pant cuffs were invented by the playboy son of Queen Victoria, the future King Edward VII, in the 1890s. He designed them to be worn during typical British weather, to raise the pant leg and avoid getting the royal trouser bottoms soaked with mud. Whether that’s true or not, this style innovation made it to America in the early 20th century, and it’s been in and out of fashion ever since. Pant cuffs were ‘IN’ in the 192os and 30s, ‘OUT’ with the fabric rationing and austere style of the 40s, back IN in the 60s, OUT in the 70s, back again in the 80’s, and so it goes on.
Now let’s get into the advantages and disadvantages of cuffing men’s trousers.
Advantages of the pants cuffs
1: Extra Fabric
Why is extra fabric an advantage? Simply, because it’s damage insurance. If the hems of your trousers get frayed, stained, torn, trodden on, or chewed, you’ve still got more trouser where that came from.
2: They add extra weight
Extra weight means that your pants drape better. It’s particularly good on pleated pants for giving the pleats their correct shape.
3: Casual Style
Cuffs add to a great look for casual suiting and trousers like grey flannels and tweeds. Even though they’re considered as too informal for tuxedo pants, they can actually make more casual styles look smarter. This is because cuffed pants take more work and fabric to produce, so they tend to be associated with better quality clothes.
4: They flatter Tall Men
Cuffed pants adds more weight to your shoes and better balance your proportions. If you’re a taller type of guy, opt for 1.25-1.5 inch cuffs to get everything in proportion.
Right now, most trousers available out there are cuffless, and this is a small detail to help set you apart from the herd.
Disadvantages of pants cuffs
1: Extra fabric, extra work
Yes, it’s also a disadvantage. Why is that? That’s simply because the extra fabric and work needed to produce cuffed pants come at an extra cost to the manufacturer – and they’ll not surprisingly pass that cost on to you.
2: They can fall down
If you don’t have your trouser cuffs sewn in place, they’re liable to come unfolded and leave you trampling in puddles of fabric and destroying it underfoot.
Never cuff black tie, and be careful with cuffing your interview suit or dark all-purpose suiting.
4: Could make you look shorter and heavier
If you happen to be a shorter type of guy, make sure you choose 1″ cuffs, so the proportions are right. If you want to avoid looking any bulkier, steer clear of cuffs. However, on the other hand, if you’d like to add some bulk to your frame, cuffs can help.
5: Less clean look
This point is a matter of opinion really, but according to some style experts, pants look sharper with no cuffs.
Advantages of pants without cuffs
The cuffless look is clean, crisp, simple, and perfectly suitable for formal wear.
No cuffs mean a lighter weight. This suits lighter fabrics like cotton, linen and thinner wool and shoes with thinner soles.
3: Makes shorter men look taller and leaner
Just like wearing suspenders instead of a belt, this avoids breaking up your height with horizontal lines.
4: Best for flat-fronted formal trousers
Cuffs are more of a British-American style, but flat fronts (as opposed to pleated ones) hail from continental Europe originally. This may sound irrelevant to you, but if you mix the two styles, it can look noticeably ‘off’. (That’ll be why no cuffs go well with Italian shoes.)
However, this rule isn’t set in stone – cuffs can actually work together with flat-fronted trousers, as long as you’re careful that the rest of your suit follows traditional rules.
Disadvantages of pants without cuffs
1: There’s no getting around a Tailor
With casual pants, you can just cuff them up to whatever length works for you and go. No need to involve a needle and a thread. But, if you’re not going to cuff the pants, you either should have to find some that are of a perfect length to start with, or you have to get the length altered to fit you.
2: They’re hard to adjust
Without that extra fold of fabric, once you’ve got your hems to your desired length, that’s pretty much it. You’re unlikely to be able to alter them much if the fabric gets damaged or if you change your mind about the length.
3: You can’t buy cuffed pants to then uncuff them
You can buy uncuffed pants and cuff them, but you can’t uncuff cuffed pants and expect them to look okay. It dramatically alters the look and proportion of the pants.
4: They make tall guys look lanky
Uncuffed pants tends to give you ‘legs for days’. If you’re a really tall man, that’s going to look as bad on you, as it looks good on your short friends.
5: They’re no good with double pleats
Double-pleated pants (which have extra pleats at the top as well as the main pleat running down the front of each leg) really don’t look good without cuffs. There’s so much going on at the top of the pants that they’ll end up looking unbalanced.
Although you could wear cuffs with flat fronts, a simple rule that’s often quoted is cuffs with double-pleated pants, no cuffs with flat-fronted pants, and whichever you like with single pleats.
How high should pants be cuffed?
If you have decided to go with cuffs, your next question is ‘how high’ should they be cuffed? To make this decision, you need to understand the three kinds of trouser breaks there are:
With no break, the pants barely touch the top of the shoes, so they don’t crumple at all.
While this looks razor sharp with uncuffed pants, it’s even better for cuffed pants. If you iron a strong crease into them, they’ll rest in a nice pointed shape that looks just as good as an uncuffed pair’s break.
With a half break on the trouser cuffs, the pants rest lightly on top of the shoes and have a slight crumple (break) to them – this is the most common and safe choice.
Cuffed trousers break a little differently from uncuffed ones, so if you go for this with cuffed pants, go for a ‘light break’ where they just brush the shoe without creating any large creases.
Longer still, the full break alternative is a bold casual look but makes it difficult to pull off without looking sloppy.
A full break is not for cuffed pants. It looks awkward, and the cuff gets buried in excess fabric.
To understand more about the differences and how to choose your trouser break, feel free to get in touch with us today, so we can give you a free style consultation.