Cuffed Pants: How to Wear Dress Pants

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Dress pants may not have quite as many variations to choose from as dress shirts, but there are certainly some important decisions to make when choosing the best dress pants for you. One of those questions is whether to cuff or not to cuff. Dress pants or chino pants may either be cuffed or hemmed at the bottom. Which is better? It depends. Here is what you need to know about cuffed pants and hemmed pants.

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History of Hemmed and Cuffed Pants

When considering the material at the bottom of a pair of pants, there are really only two options. Either the material can be tucked underneath (hemmed), or it can be sewn up on the outside (cuffed). Historically, both of these techniques have been utilized, though  both have been separately popular with different cultures.

Cuffs and pleats come from Anglo-American culture, while flat printed pants with a hem come from a continental European tradition. 

It is believed that King Edward VII was the original creator, or at least proponent, of the traditional cuffed pair of pants, as early as the 1890s. Cuffs were designed to be worn during the wet, cold British weather. They allowed the pant leg to be raised up, so as to avoid having trousers soaked in mud. 

By the twentieth century, cuffed pants became an United States standard. Throughout the years since they were introduced to the United States, cuffed pants have gone in and out of style, popular in one century and forgotten in another, only to come back into popularity again. 

What Are Hemmed Pants?

Hems are generally more common than cuffs. When pants are hemmed, the fabric at the bottom is folded up inside the pant leg, creating a uniform appearance all the way down the pant leg to the bottom. 

Pants may be purchased pre-hemmed, or you can have a tailor hem your pants for you. Hemmed pants are the go-to standard for tuxedo pants. 

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Rules Of Hemmed Pants

Hemmed pants are the dress pants that most men think of when they are considering dress pants due to their sleek simplicity, but this doesn't mean that there are no rules to follow when wearing hemmed pants. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Two-pleat pants should not have hems: Two-pleat pants are appropriate for cuffs, not hems, so if you are considering two-pleat pants, make sure to seek out cuffs and avoid hems.
  • Single-pleated pants can be hemmed: Single-pleated pants can either be hemmed or cuffed, so if you aren't sure which way you want to go, these are a good choice.
  • Flat front pants should always be hemmed: Standard flat pants with hems are the standard go-to in dress pants, and high-quality flat-front hemmed pants like these from Twillory will look great on most men.
  • Best for Tuxedo pants: If you are getting all dressed up in a tuxedo, hemmed pants are the way to go.

Which Men Should Wear Hemmed Pants?

Hemmed pants are the most common design in dress pants for good reason. A high-quality pair of flat front pants with hems will make most men look good regardless of build or height. The one exception is men who are extremely tall and slender, who may benefit from the bulkier appearance of two-pleat pants and cuffs.

If you need dress pants but don't want to look overly formal, hemmed pants are a superior option to cuffed pants, since cuffed pants generally have a fancier appearance than hems. 

Finally, hemmed pants tend to be a little bit more affordable than cuffed pants, so if you are looking for great dress pants but don't want to spend more than you have to, hemmed pants are the way to go. To find the right fit for you, take into account your inseam measurement so that the hem hits you on the right point on your leg. 

What Are Cuffed Pants?

In cuffed pants, the fabric at the bottom of the pant leg is folded up onto the outside of the pant leg instead of the inside. Cuffed pants are often considered a mark of quality both in off the rack clothing and in clothing that is tailored. In general, cuffed pants are the dressier option for standard suits or trousers. They can even dress up more casual outfits. They are not, however, appropriate with formal pants that are part of a tuxedo.

The Rules of Cuffed Pants

Part of the reason that cuffed pants are not seen as often as hemmed pants is that cuffed pants have some rules attached to them that may limit their applications. Like all fashion rules, these rules aren't strict, but they are certainly worth considering if you are looking for cuffed pants.

  • Flat front pants should not have cuffs: Flat front pants and cuffs come from different cultures, so they tend to clash when used together. It may look okay to most people to mix these styles, but anyone who has a strong sense of fashion will doubtless recognize your mistake.
  • Single pleated pants can be cuffed or hemmed: Single pleated pants are highly versatile and work well with cuffs or without them.
  • Two-pleat pants should have cuffs: Two-pleat pants should always be worn with cuffs and not hems.
  • Not for tuxedo suits: Even though cuff pants are generally considered more formal, they are never appropriate for tuxedo suits. 

Which Men Should Wear Cuffed Pants?

Cuffs can significantly change the look of your dress pants. They work very well for some men, but other men will be better served by hemmed pants. Here are the circumstances in which cuffed pants will make you look your best.

  1. Men with slender frames: Pleats and cuffs go together. Men with very slender frames often look their best with pleated pants because pleats give a fuller appearance to the pants and are less of a slim fit and more of a relaxed fit, which can make you look less slender. If you are wearing pleated pants, you also want cuffs. 
  2. Very tall men: If your build could be described as gangly, cuffs may be a good option for you. The line of the cuffs at the ankle breaks up the long line of the straight legs and can make tall men appear slightly shorter. This may be a good thing if it also helps your frame to look more proportional. On the other hand, if you are a shorter man, you may want to avoid cuffs, as they may make you appear shorter. 
  3. Men who are going for a dressier feel. In general, cuffs create a dressier impression,  so if you want to look a little bit fancier, cuffs are the way to go.

How To Wear Cuffed Pants

The hem of your cuffed pants should be slightly slanted so that the hem rests on the top of the shoe heel. If you are having pants made with cuffs, or are adding cuffs to existing pants, make sure that the tailor takes the slant and resting point into consideration. If you are buying cuffed pants off the shelf, make sure that they lay just right.

Cuffs should be long enough to cover socks while you are walking, and should be wide enough to cover the shoelaces of your dress shoe. 

Remember that you should only have cuffs on your pants if your pants are pleated. Either one or two pleats are fine. If you do decide to take a risk by wearing flat-front cuffed pants, be careful that the rest of your outfit is organized with traditional styling so that it will be clear that you have made a stylistic decision, and not a mistake.

If you want to invest in a pair of high-quality pants for the long-term, cuffed pants have another advantage for you. Life is generally harder on the bottom of your trousers than it is on the rest of your pants. If the bottom of your cuff becomes frayed or worn, you can utilize the extra fabric tucked into the hem to replace the worn-out fabric and make your pants like new again.

Cuffed pants are also a great choice for casual styles that you want to endow with a sense of luxury. You can cuff a pair of denim or twill pants paired with t-shirts to  dress up your casual look and give it a more refined look. You could even pair these more casual styles with a sports coat or a blazer to further enhance your look. Because cuffed pants require more effort and fabric to make, they are associated with higher quality and can dress up any style. 

Can You Add Cuffs To Your Existing Pants?

Provided that your existing pants have enough fabric at the bottom, you can add cuffs to any pants. If you are shopping for pants with the intention of having a tailor add cuffs, make sure that you choose pants that are several inches longer than you need. 

One way to test whether pants are long enough and whether they’ll look good with a cuff is to fold up the bottom of the pants as if they were cuffed and see that they lie with enough room for the tailor to sew and trim.

Give Cuffed Pants A Try Or Stick With Hemmed Pants--It’s Up To You

The choice between cuffed and hemmed pants is really up to you. There are advantages and disadvantages to both styles, and either may work better for your body type, lifestyle, or fashion goals. 

If you're on the fence, try out both types of pants, or ask your tailor to show you how your pants would look either cuffed or hemmed. Whichever style you choose, be sure to invest in high-quality pants that are well worth your money.