Article By Will Colman
The Modern Suit Trouser
Few would argue against the suit being THE defining expression of menswear. More than anything else, a suit is the one thing we men can truly call our own.
It is also one of the only items that has clearly defined rules, particularly with regard to fit. Unlike casual trousers, shirts, t-shirts or coats, there is an accepted standard within suiting that creates a clear division between a suit that fits, and one that doesn’t.
Traditional tailoring guidelines dictate one break at the front of your suit trousers and straight down at the back, with the hems just brushing the top of the heel, ensuring that the trouser drapes properly and maintains its shape.
But with each passing year tailoring evolves. Reiss, Zara, Topman, HE by Mango and Suitsupply are just some of the labels producing contemporary suits that are identifiably more skinny, and often shorter, than the fuller cuts of eras past, meaning the old rules and guidelines are becoming less relevant and, in some cases, obsolete. Besides, rules are meant to be broken.
Modern slim/skinny suit trousers sit higher up on the shoe, due to a slimmer hem opening, meaning the material bunches (‘breaks’) at a much shorter length. They no longer drape down the back of the shoe, so standard rules don’t apply. The solution is to opt for a smaller half break or no break at all. This solves both the issue of length and brings your suit bang up to date by challenging the time-honoured conventions of tailoring.
These shorter trousers look particularly great during spring/summer, allowing you to get playful with your choice of sock (or lack thereof) as well as really show off your shoes – perfect for those that are looking to embrace the colour-pop footwear trend. Furthermore, it shows a genuine understanding of fit in that you have made a conscious decision to step away from tradition in the search for something altogether more individual.
However, if you choose a half or no break, bear in mind that the trousers should, at the very least, be slim-fitting to keep the lines sharp and tight.
The Cropped Trouser
Cropping is in essence a development of the rule breaking going on above, although it can be applied to all styles, from chinos to tailored trousers.
When it comes to leg length, the idea is to reduce the amount of material gathering at the ankle to maintain and preserve the drape of the trouser. Leaving your trousers longer allows for hem rolling (discussed later) while cropping builds on the concepts already discussed – namely showing off shoes, socks or ankles and creating a pair of trousers that have very tight, defined and confident lines.
Although perhaps a little too informal for all but the most creative of office environments, when used in conjunction with statement or special occasion tailoring cropped trousers can be a real point of difference. A cropped leg is a much smarter alternative to rolling your trousers, which means they combine well with formal pieces such as blazers and sports coats.
Yet they are just as relevant for casual dressing. A pair of loafers, cropped trousers/chinos and a fitted tee is a superb summer look that strikes the ideal balance between dressing up and staying comfortable and cool.
Cropping works best on slim to skinny cuts. Wider legs suffer badly from the dreaded ankle swing and will require a lot of tapering. Classic cropped trousers should be slim from top to bottom, keeping a constant taper throughout. For an updated look, try tapering the bottom half of straight-legged trousers to create more experimental silhouettes and really push the boundaries – these slot nicely into Scandinavian work wear- or sportswear-inspired aesthetics.
The height you crop to depends largely on your choice of footwear. Around ankle height suits the majority of shoe silhouettes but don’t be afraid to crop higher if you want to wear them specifically with boots. For example, a pair of cropped wool trousers will look fantastic when paired with brogue boots or minimal leather hi-tops.
The Trouser Roll
Rolling your trouser hems is by far the most casual approach showcased today and also represents the easiest way to manipulate the length of your current legwear collection. Of course, rolling removes the need to alter the trousers in any way whatsoever, ensuring versatility if your footwear regularly switches between shoes and boots.
Despite the fact that the roll up will always give off a more relaxed air, it can work well in both formal and casual ensembles. In looks centred on tailoring, the roll helps to break up the lines and makes everything more playful – try combining with unstructured suiting for summer events or dress-down Friday in the office.
When it comes to the finer details, many brands have begun lining their trousers with printed or contrast colour fabrics, enabling you to consciously reveal the pattern/hue when the trousers are rolled – helping introduce a new point of interest and touch of character to any outfit.
Similarly, with selvedge jeans a roll up is almost a given as it shows off the instantly recognisable red stitching and selvedge edge, subtly signifying both your investment and knowledge of men’s style.
If you do decide that rolling is the best way to go, always bear in mind the size, weight and style of your shoes. Footwear that is slightly higher or chunkier, in terms of sole or general construction, will benefit from a roll that sits closer to the shoe. A large break between the two draws too much attention to your comparatively skinny ankles, distorting the proportions of your outfit and making the shoes appear clumpy.
With slimmer footwear styles you can take the roll higher because the shape is much tighter and you want to maintain the flow from trouser to shoe.