Whether you buy a pair of trousers off-the-rack or you have a suit custom made, you’ll need to decide how you want your pants hemmed. Though many casual pants like jeans and chinos come pre-hemmed, more formal options need to be hemmed post-purchase. The decision herein is predominantly length, and though that seems relatively simple, small adjustments can completely change the appearance of your outfit.
A good baseline is a trouser that stops at the top of your shoe, and from there you can tweak the length to reflect your own taste. “An inch higher gets very fashion forward and an inch longer gets very conservative,” said Kirk Miller, founder of NYC-based tailoring brand Miller’s Oath. Miller’s garments have a timeless quality, and his experience in the industry gave him a wide perspective on tailored clothing. “I worked for a Thom Browne very early on so I used to wear things at my shin,” he said. “I also worked at Paul Stuart where guys have pooling breaks where there was never any chance of sock being shown. So, I’ve been on both sides of the extremes.”
Along with length, one must choose whether or not they want a cuff. Miller recommends committing to a healthy-sized cuff if you want one. “If it’s smaller than an inch-and-a-half, then why do it?” he asked. Choose between a cuff or no cuff, but don’t try to find some middle ground between the two — it won’t end up looking good.
Many arcane Rules of Style will tell men how they should or should not hem pants based on their body types, but Miller thinks this antiquated and unfounded. “There’s very little that I’ve ever seen that someone can’t do if they wanted to do it because of their body type,” he said. “It’s much more about learning how to do it properly as opposed to not doing it because you aren’t allowed.” While proportions can be more acute on shorter men, it doesn’t mean they can’t have shorter pants or wider cuffs. They should just be more mindful of their entire wardrobe, ensuring their jacket isn’t too long either. “Every suggestion and every ‘This is how we like to do it’ isn’t the only way,” Miller said. “It’s just about owning however you want to do it.”
“We like to be really, really clean,” Miller said. “Our recommendation is the top of the shoe.” Hemming a pant so that it stops at the top of the shoe preserves the silhouette of the trouser and is timeless. “You won’t offend anyone with it being too long or too short,” he said.
For a more conservative look, you can ask for a longer length trouser that rests upon the shoe. How much the pant bunches up on itself is defined in simple terms: slight break, medium break or full break. Before you decided to hem your pants with a break, it’s good to consider the silhouette. “If you have a more narrow trouser, if that ends quickly, you kind of have a lot of fabric that doesn’t have anywhere to go,” said Miller. A slim trouser will end up looking like an accordion at the bottom if it is too long, giving a sloppy appearance. That said, there’s more room to play if you have a wider pant. “If you have a wider leg, even if it’s a break deep, you have enough room for it to open and move,” Miller said.
“If you want to be a little fashion-forward and come up a bit, it’s totally acceptable,” said Miller. While Thom Browne popularized a very short trouser over a decade ago, a shorter style hitting at the ankle or above is still very forward-thinking. Browne’s trousers are “a good litmus test” for Miller when gauging how high customers may want to hem their pants. While the style works with a range of shoes, it works well if you’re dressing a suit down with more casual footwear. “If you are wearing it with sneakers, I like it a bit on the shorter side,” Miller said. “Why are you trying to hide your sneakers?”
Kirk Miller worked for Paul Stuart, NYC-tailoring brand Seize Sur Vignt and designer Thom Browne beforing co-founding his own brand Miller’s Oath in 2010. The brand offers ready-to-wear tailored classics including suits, sportcoats, trousers and more, along with bespoke garments upon request. Read the Story