Cuffed pants have rotated in and out of fashion countless times over the past couple centuries, they are a mark of class, style and power that men today are choosing to bring back. Choosing whether to buy cuffed pants or go without is a key decision, it will impact the style of the pant, how they fit and how they should break across your dress shoes.
In this article we’ll be looking at what cuffed pants are, the history of them and whether you should have cuffed pants or not. Then, we’ll finish off by looking at how you should wear them and conclude with a few images.
What are Cuffs?
As they are known in America, cuffs are the rolled-up portion of your trouser bottom that is secured into a layered cuff that forms a strong cut off point for the eye. They have a practical purpose of prevent longer trousers from brushing the ground and getting muddy when you’re not wearing a heeled shoes.
They became popular in England around the late 19th century and came to America a little later. Ever since they arrived they’ve been considered a sign of quality tailoring and many men will demand them on all of their suit pants.
Although they have a practical purpose, they are mainly regarded as a style choice that signals wealth. It costs a little extra to get them turned-up into a cuff and this would have been a sign of luxury.
It helps to give a definite line between the pant and shoe, preventing the need for a true break that is considered sloppy and unstylish by some. Clearly, the cuff is more formal than a loose pant and is generally reserved for formal suits. However, it’s not appropriate to wear on pants that you would intend to wear as part of your black or white-tie attire.
Should You Wear Cuffs or Not?
When doing research for this article I was surprised to learn that some men suggest that you avoid cuffs if you’re wearing a flat-front pant, that is, if it doesn’t have any pleats in it. Instead, they suggest that a single pleat is versatile and can be worn with or without cuffs, whereas a double pleat should always be worn with a cuff.
Following this, I took a deeper look into some of my favorite designers and found a lot to contradict that. I would agree that in general, it’s best to avoid clashing cultures i.e. European flat-front pants with Anglo-American cuffs. However, these rules are starting to fade and mainstream designers are ignoring them completely.
My favorite ‘famous’ men’s wear designer is Tom Ford. Looking at some of the suits he’s created for men like Daniel Craig and John Hamm, the best looking ones have cuffs, but they are also flat-fronted.
Pleated trousers don’t suit every body shape and they also aren’t as versatile or popular right now. However, cuffs can still look great on a flat-fronted pant, you just need to be careful to not have an exaggerated cuff and to still have a trouser break.
Break or No Break?
The reason that you want a break with cuffed flat-fronted pants is because without a pleat the trousers feel boxy and they need to have movement and flow that you can create with the break.
In general, the rule of thumb with cuffed pants is to either use a half-break or no break at all. No break works great with double pleated pants and looks good on single pleats. However, flat-front pants are best suited to a half-break if they have a cuff.
What Size Cuff to Choose
Once you’ve decided to put cuffs into your newest pair of pants, you’ll want to decide exactly how tall you want them to be and that will depend on your height and how you feel about your size.
When you rollup the bottom of your trousers you are going to make your legs appear shorter by cutting out part of the length of the trouser, which is going to make you look slightly shorter. This is why you need to figure out how much height you are willing to sacrifice.
In general, if you are a shorter man then you’re best opting for a cuff size of 1.25 inches. This will give you a decent sized cuff without taking too much of the length out of the trouser, retaining as much height as possible.
If you are average height then you should choose a standard cuff size of 1.5 inches, this is a regular sized cuff.
Finally, if you’re a taller man, you’ll want to opt for a cuff length of around 1.75 inches. This will give you a thick cuff that is in proportion to the length of your trousers. It will take a small amount of height off you, but is unlikely to be noticed because of your height.
Cuffed pants are still a style choice that thousands of men are using to stand out from the crowd. Fewer men wear them now than in the past which is unfortunate because they can add a lot to an otherwise plain suit.
Don’t fall for the idea that a cuff can only be worn on pleated pants, instead, judge each suit on its own merit and talk to your tailor to discuss what they think would work best. You might want to look at fashion designers around the world for inspiration and to see how they’ve used cuffs on all different types of pants.
Once you know the type of cuff you want you should talk to your tailor about the length that you’d like and let them guide you to finding the perfect balance. With a cuff in place you’ll want to either wear it as a half-break or no break, depending on the style that you’re going for and whether the pants are pleated or flat-fronted.