Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pants: Cuffs or No Cuffs?

When you buy a suit or a pair of slacks with unfinished legs, they need tailoring (astonishingly enough, I saw a pair of suit pants on a fellow the other day, downtown, which had not been hemmed at all).  You can either get a cuff, like this:

or no cuff.  My rule of thumb is this:

If the pants are pleated, get a cuff.  If they're flat-front, don't get a cuff. 

I think it is slightly safer to have flat-front pants with a cuff than to have pleated pants without.  That said, none of these options is outlandish, so if you have vivid fantasies of your new flat-fronts with a cuff, go for it.  That feeling of confidence and style goes a long way in making sure the feeling is infectious.


  1. Do these rules apply for khaki shorts? I thought you might know as I believe you wore them quite exclusively back in your Texas days.

  2. Why do pants have cuffs in the first place? What roll do they play or is it all fashion?

  3. Anonymous, it's true that I exclusively wore khaki shorts in Texas--and Oklahoma, too. It was always hot inside and outside. What else was I supposed to do? Now, if you take knee-length khaki shorts and roll the cuff, that could be interesting.

    Elliot, a cuff serves a few purposes. Its aesthetic purpose is to provide a nice visual intermediate between the pants and the shoes. Functionally, it adds weight to the pants' end and thereby helps to ensure proper drape and break.

    Tidbit: Fabric rationing caused cuffs to fall out of favor during World War II--they were considered nonessential.

  4. Great blog!! I know this is an older post.. but I would like to ask if you would do a angled cuff on your suit trousers or a flat cuff. For some reason, the flat cuff is giving too much of a break and my tailor thinks it looks okay. You have been one of the few that I find as particular about clothinig as myself. Thank you in advance for your opinion. Best Regards, Aaron

  5. Aaron, I know exactly what you're talking about, and it has driven me up the wall in the past. Basically, it looks like the cuff is lower in the front than in the back, yes?

    However, my tailor always said the same--that it looked normal to him. What we ended up deciding is that it was a Heisenberg Principle-esque issue. By shifting your back/legs/etc in the manner necessary to perceive the length of your pants cuff, you change the way the cuff breaks.

    So stand normally and have somebody take a picture of the cuffs. Mine look normal when I do this. If you still perceive the unevenness, you may indeed have a tailor who sews crooked and is trying to cover it up.

    Happy particularity!

  6. Cuffs are great, when your child grows another 2 inches.

  7. Also when you find a tailor who's never taken out pleats from slacks before and quotes you an unrealistically low price which ze feels obligated to honor after later learning how hard it is.


Questions, comments, and style ideas welcome, provided they are expressed respectfully.