I struggle with pants. At 5-foot-6 and with a narrow waist, they don’t make any the right length for guys like me. Not good ones anyway. Which is probably why I’ve never figured out how long a pair of pants should actually be. My fellow man is all over the place on the subject, too. Some guys wear pants that cape over their shoes. Others roll theirs up to just below the calves. A third group prefers theirs to be flat in front without a break.
And that’s before we start accounting for all the different types of pants. I mean, jeans aren’t supposed to be the same length as suit pants, right? Or joggers the same length as chinos?
For clarity, I turned to, among others, the finely-dressed denizens of the Male Fashion Advice subreddit…
Let’s start with the easiest one first — suit pants, around which there’s considerable consensus. According to Art Lewin, a master designer of bespoke suits, for flat-front trousers (i.e., pants without pleats), the hem should lay right at the shoe with only a slight break. “A break is when the pants crease when they hit the shoe,” Lewin explains. “A single break should be one crease, without appearing baggy. A half break just barely creases. No break means the pants stop right at, or above, the shoe. Any of these is appropriate for today’s standard suit pants.”
While Lewin recognizes that millennials and Gen Z are wearing their hem at the ankle bone — “showing plenty of socks” — he still thinks there should be at least a half break when suit pants are involved. Not that they should get too crazy with the break, though. “The days with a heavy break are over for now,” he tells me. For you — whether Gen Z or not — this means buying a pair of suit pants that don’t have fabric stacked at the bottom of the cuff (or having a tailor exorcise all that extra fabric).
Consensus here is harder to find, in part because the hem of your jeans is also very much an extension of your overall style. “A short hem — or jeans barely touching the shoe or top of your foot — is a popular choice in r/MaleFashionAdvice,” writes one subscriber. “I like that on jeans with narrow openings — like fitted-ankle jeans (skinny or tapered) — because it shows off my boots. For jeans with a regular ankle fit (slim fit and straight), I prefer one break.”
Similarly, another MFA devotee tells me that as a guy with muscular legs, the latest trend in slightly longer inseams, resulting in stacked material near the hem, doesn’t work for him. “Stacks make my legs look even wider and shorter,” he says. “I prefer my jeans without a single break. I even have a few pairs that stop right at my ankles.”
As for the standard length of a pair of jeans, Logesh Pillay, an MFA regular, says that unless you want to deliberately stack the hem, jeans should either touch the ground right at your heel or just above it. “Not only is that your true inseam length, but it also allows you to cuff them, and when you wear shoes, they fall in a visually appealing way without stacking or showing too much skin when you’re standing,” he explains.
With chinos, there’s obviously a lot more room to play with. That said, Pillay still likes to keep things tight with nothing more than a single break. “When you stand straight up, the bottom of the pants should rest on your shoe, and the back should fall to the middle of your heel,” he says. “That’s the traditional way.”
Another MFA subscriber likes to go even shorter, so as to better delineate between the casual chinos look and jeans or suit pants. Generally speaking, most of the MFA crowd agrees that if there’s a narrow cuff opening at the bottom of the chinos, it’s safer to wear them on the shorter side. “Just slightly above the ankles,” says Pillay. “That way it won’t get scrunched up, which is going to look sloppy.”
There isn’t a ton of love for joggers on r/MaleFashionAdvice. But as one subscriber points out, joggers at least leave room for experimentation. If you want to be mainstream, though, “look at the intended length of the Uniqlo ones — just at or above the ankles,” he suggests. After all, per a different redditor, the whole function of a pair of joggers is “to draw attention to your dope-ass kicks.”
Which, in the end, is pretty good advice overall: The length of a pair of pants is kinda irrelevant to the pants themselves; it’s much more about what you want to show off.