(via) (Thanks, Stephen)
Should I Cuff My Trousers?
Cuffs (called turnups by the Brits) are a curious phenomenon. They seem to have emerged from country clothing - an innovation to keep one’s trousers out of the much and mire. They grew popular, though, for entirely different reasons. Cuffs add a bit of visual interest to the end of your trousers, but perhaps most importantly they also add some physical weight, which helps your pants hang attractively. They even help your trousers hold their crease.
To Cuff Or Not To Cuff?
So: should you cuff your pants? It’s really a matter of personal choice. The traditional answer is that cuffs go with pleated trousers, and plain hems with flat fronts. To some extent, that’s true. I think a pleated pant really cries out for cuffs. The American traditionalists, though, have long cuffed their flat-front pants. I say cuff pleated trousers, and decide whether to cuff flat-fronts based on personal taste.
What Should I Cuff? When Should I Cuff?
There’s also the matter of formality and aesthetics. A cuffless pant is generally more modern and sleeker. A cuffed pant is more traditional and a bit fuddy-duddy. (That gets mixed up a bit when the avant-gardists are also pseudo-traditionalists, like Thom Browne.) Thanks in no small part to Mr. Browne, fashion has swung towards cuffs. I personally prefer cuffs - for the weight and visual reasons listed above - so I’m happy with that turn of events. I’d just caution against cuffs on casual pants. They fit on what Derek has called “dress chinos,” but on run-of-the-mill chinos, they look out of place.
What’s Height Got To Do With It?
Traditionally, alterationists have advised taller men to wear cuffs, and shorter ones to avoid them. I’d say that while shorter men might do well to avoid a large break when they’re chosing their trouser length, they should feel fine wearing cuffs. Traditionally, cuffs are worn with at least a small break, but recent fashion has allowed for cuffs worn without break. Our friend MistahWong, pictured above, is 5’7” and wears breakless two inch cuffs as a matter of course. He always looks great.
How Big Should My Cuffs Be?
If you chose cuffs, what size should they be? The boldest fashion-y types are proclaiming to the world their two inch cuffs. I’m fine with that (I like cuffs, after all), but two inches is really a sign around your ankles that says “I AM TRENDY, SEE?” If you’re cool with that, I won’t stop you from wearing two inchers.
Traditionally, the size of the cuff is determined by the size of the man. This is reasonable, I think. I personally wear 1 3/4” cuffs, and I’m a long-legged 6’3”. I think they look strong but not outrageous. 1 1/2” is also a very reasonable choice. I’m not personally a huge fan of cuffs smaller than that, but it’s your choice - some choose 1 1/4” cuffs. Look and see what looks like it fits your body and your sensibilities. After all, the very short (and very sharply dressed) Matthew Fan wears two inchers, and he looks great, but he’s self-assured enough to carry off a statement.
So, Let’s Summarize!
- Cuffs are a personal choice.
- I prefer cuffs on pleated trousers - they help the trouser hang better. On flat fronts, it’s your call.
- Don’t cuff your most casual pants.
- Shorter men should be careful not to wear their pants too long, but shouldn’t worry too much about wearing cuffs.
- There was a time when all cuffed pants had a full break; that’s no longer requisite.
- 2” is huge, 1 3/4” is big, 1 1/2” is moderate, 1 1/4” is small. Wear what looks and feels right.
Photo: Most Exerent
The Second Best Color for Flannel Trousers
I recently picked up a new pair of flannel trousers, despite having promised myself that I wouldn’t buy any more dress pants for the rest of the year. I have too many pairs as is, and I’ve come to realize that one only needs five or six odd trousers per season, each in that season’s appropriate fabrics (e.g. heavy flannels and cavalry twill for fall/ winter; tropical wools and linen for spring/ summer). Maybe a few year-rounders such as chinos and jeans to boot, but any more than that, and things just collect dust.
However, I couldn’t resist these these tan flannel trousers from Howard Yount. I’ve been looking for this fabric for months, and being that Howard Yount makes pants that fit me better than most, I figured I could break my promise just this once.
Turns out I’ve been wearing these just as often as my grey flannels, which I’ve always considered to be the most versatile and useful trousers in my closet. The pale, tan color here goes very well with dark blue or brown odd jackets, as well as antique tan or dark brown shoes. They’re easy to wear once you realize they’re about the same color as khaki chinos, but with the added texture of worsted flannel.
Tan flannel used to be more common before men only wore grey. Today, one can hardly find them. I know Barney’s has a version, though I’m unsure of how they fit. Ralph Lauren and Orvis used to as well last season, but not anymore. That leaves Howard Yount, which I can say is now stocking the second best color for flannel trousers: tan.
The WSJ on Pleats
The Wall Street Journal published a piece last week about the possibility of pleats coming back in fashion. Author Ray Smith writes:
“They’re pushing pleats – again. It took years, numerous tries and sometimes, coaxing from girlfriends and wives, to get men to part from their pleated pants and squeeze into flat front pants. Now, just as men have finally gotten comfortable wearing the style, many menswear designers are bringing back pleated pants.”
Smith then goes on to write about the various eras when pleats have been fashionable (and likewise, unfashionable), and suggests that because of what we’ve seen on designer runways and in high-end boutiques, perhaps pleats are coming back in style.
I genuinely have no problem with fashion or even trends. Even classic men’s style is a lot less timeless than many of its adherents believe. But articles like this make me think that menswear too often adopts one extreme before it swings towards the other, declaring everything else before it bad. Like how slim flat fronts have long been said to be the only kind of trouser every man should wear, you can imagine pleats one day becoming such the rage that deep folds will be put on every trouser in every store. At that point, some writer will then pen an article declaring, “flat fronts are coming back in fashion again.” And the cycle starts over.
Pleats serve very specific, useful functions. For heavy men, they can accommodate the natural widening of the hips and seat when the wearer is sitting down. They can also help the trouser line drape cleaner and more sharply, and as Mark and Ethan at The Armoury noted, if a man likes to wear higher-waisted pants, they can help visually break up the expanse of cloth that takes up one’s lap. For these reasons, heavier men will actually look slimmer in pleats, while men with washboard stomachs can go either way. What one should choose depends on one’s proportions; the kind of trousers at hand; how much one values that cleaner, sharper leg line; the types of suits and sport coats one likes to wear; and one’s own sense of personal style.
Unfortunately, too many fashion writers have written off pleats, rehashing that terrible advice that slim, flat fronted trousers are the only kind of trousers men should wear, regardless of who they are. That has left a lot of men who aren’t even that large look heavier than they are. Beware of such advice. Neither flat fronted nor pleated trousers are “the thing” every man should own this season. It depends on what flatters you the most and your own sense of personal style. Obviously the latter partly depends on fashion and trends, but don’t ignore what you look like in the mirror in favor for what you’ve read in magazines.
Every time I see a menswear enthusiast in tight pants, I think of my friend Brent Weinbach’s bit about wearing tight pants to substitute teach in Oakland public schools. “Mister Weinbach, your pants DOIN TOO MUCH.”
Luciano Barbera says this is the perfect cuff. Who are we to disagree?
Grey, Grey, Grey, Grey, Brown
Your first, second, third, maybe even fourth pair of dress pants should be grey. Get them in different shades, fabrics, and weights. Light- to mid-grey are the most versatile and can be worn with almost any jacket without you needing to put too much thought into it. Charcoal is much less wearable, but once you already have a large wardrobe of trousers, I suppose one pair can’t hurt. You can pick these up in an assortment of flannel and twill wools. The former looks and feels better, but the latter will be harder wearing. Flannels worn day in day out won’t last long, but if you plan to wear them often, get them in worsted flannel instead of woolen. Finally, you can pick up a few seasonal greys, such as an open weave tropical wool for summer, so that your legs can breathe, and an extra heavyweight wool for winter, so that they’ll stay warm.
At some point, however, you’ll have enough grey trousers and need some variety. I suggest turning to a solid brown first. Like how brown is a wonderful color for sport coats, I think it exhibits the same richness and warmth in trousers. You can go as light as tan, or get something as dark as the golden-cast pair you see above (no longer in stock, unfortunately, but the company does have something similar). These can be worn with sport coats in navy, olive, or if the shade differs enough, even brown. For example, the dark pair pictured here could be worn with some kind of tan checked jacket for a nice autumnal look. Regardless of the kind of jacket you choose, dress shirts should probably be kept to a light blue if you’re going to the office. If it’s the weekend, try putting on a navy flannel cotton shirt or maybe even a long-sleeve polo.
Either way, pick up some brown trousers at some point. This and grey are really the only colors you need.
Q and Answer: How Should I Wear Suspenders?
Joe asks: I really want to start wearing suspenders for work. It is a shirt and tie shop but not necessarily the suit crowd. I have one pair of pants in my closet of 20 that actually has buttons. Do I really have to replace the other 19 pair of pants or can I get the clip on suspenders?
We’re big proponents of suspenders here at Put This On. As a general rule, they’re more comfortable than a belt, reduce the amount that you have to mess with your pants, and pretty much keep your shirt tucked. They’re not for everyone, but I certainly wear them as frequently as reasonably possible. Suspenders are particularly comfortable if you carry a bit of weight in the middle, since your gut (be it small or large) doesn’t push down your trousers. (One note: generally in the UK, what Americans call suspenders are called braces. Typically “braces” is a bit of a fancier way of saying it, but generally, they’re interchangeable.)
There is a catch, though: suspenders are generally underwear, not outerwear. Nobody wants to be a Larry King. Suspenders are best hidden under a coat, or at the very least a sweater. Some say no one but you and your beloved should see your suspenders. I’m not that dogmatic - I take off my coat when I sit down to work - but I think they should be worn in a situation where you can reasonably expect that they’ll mostly be covered by your jacket.
Furthermore, suspenders work best with higher-waisted trousers that fit a bit more loosely around the waist than their belted counterparts. Belted pants must grip your hips with sheer friction. Pants with braces hang cleanly from the shoulders. The best pants for suspenders, of course, are fish-tailed pants. They’re designed to take the back central buttons a bit higher than the waistline, which gives a clean line to the back of the trousers. You probably won’t find those, though, unless you’re buying custom clothes.
As a result of this convergence of small reasons, most ready-to-wear clothing simply isn’t prepared to accept braces.
So where does that leave you?
First of all, clip-on suspenders are only appropriate if you’re on a work site. Even then, you can get a pair of Carharrts with metal fasteners for your suspenders that’ll hold those pants steadier than any clip. In an office environment, do not wear clip-on suspenders.
Second, you can convert non-suspender-supporting pants into ones that will work with your choice of holder-upper by having a tailor or alterationist add a few buttons. Again, this is more appropriate for pants with a longer rise and higher waist, but it’ll work on pretty much any pants. It’ll also be cheap - maybe $5 or $10. You can even have them remove the belt loops while they’re at it if you like.
Most likely, your best bet will be to wear a mix of belts and braces for the time being, as you add buttons to your trousers and add trousers designed for braces.
(Photo by Akeg)
Three Types of Chinos
Khaki chinos are not, as they say, just khaki chinos. Though they’re always casual, they come in different flavors of informality, and it’s good to be sensitive to these differences when you’re choosing the right pair to wear for the day.
I think of chinos as being of three varieties. The first is your standard casual pair, which is what you most commonly find in shopping malls. These are distinguished by visible stitching on the inseams and outseams (the seams going up and down both sides of your legs). They’re also often made from cheaper materials, sit lower on your hips, and sometimes feature some kind of “wash” or “distressing.” That means they look a bit more beaten up – faded around the lap and slightly frayed along the pockets and leg openings. These, in my opinion, are best worn with casual shirts, such as those made from a rougher cloth (e.g. oxford) or feature bold patterns (e.g. bright madras, plaid flannels). They’re also fine with things such as t-shirts, polos, cardigans, and sneakers. If the length of your shirt permits, you can wear it untucked. They’re less optimal, however, with dressier shirts – such as shirts made from smooth poplin, have no chest pocket, and feature French fronts. Those would be too dressy for this kind of pants.
Your second type is the workwear variety, which differ from the first category in their material and fit. Workwear chinos are made from tougher twill cottons and allowed to fit differently. Whereas traditional men’s pants should fit in a certain way, workwear chinos can have a bit more rumple in the leg line and seat (though they don’t necessarily have to). In short, these should feel and look a bit rougher. They are, after all, supposed to express a certain workwear sensibility. Such chinos can be worn with chambray shirts, plaid flannels, rugged outerwear, and heavy boots. In a way, some of the things you can wear here aren’t too different than what you can wear with standard casual chinos, but the effects will be different. A chambray shirt worn with RRL Officer Chinos or Left Field’s, for example, will look very different than if it’s paired with something from J Crew.
Finally, the last type is what I’d call “dress chinos.” As oxymoronic as that sounds, dress chinos are distinguished by hidden stitching along the inseams and outseams. They sit higher on the hips, are made from nicer materials, and are generally made to much higher quality standards. They also typically come “unfinished,” meaning the lengths aren’t pre-hemmed. These are arguably the most versatile. They can be worn with casual shirts such as oxford cloth button-downs or proper dress shirts; long sleeve polos or cardigans; traditional sweaters of almost any variety; and even sport coats and ties. They shouldn’t be worn, however, with cheap, beat-up t-shirts or rugged outerwear, such as motorcycle jackets.
The photos above demonstrate good uses of chinos. Something like this, on the other hand, is a bit too incongruous, at least to my eye. It would be better, in my opinion, if the gentleman had worn dress chinos, a pale blue shirt, and some brown calf derbys. Or he could have ditched the double-breasted and tie, and picked a more casual shirt to wear with his very-casual chinos and suede chukkas. As is, the look is too formal up top and too informal down bottom. To be sure, clashing formal and informal things can make a very fashionable statement, but if one wanted to dress more harmoniously and less conspicuously, it would be good to be sensitive to the different kinds of sensibilities garments have, and then pair them accordingly. For chinos, that would be standard casual, workwear, and dress.
Green Corduroys for Fall
I’m personally not one for unusual trousers. Some men can pull off loud colors and vivid patterns with aplomb, but they’re few and far between, and I’m not one of them. The one exception I make, however, are green corduroys in the fall.
If you’re just getting your first pair of corduroys, I recommend ones in a dark shade of russet brown. These can be successfully worn with almost any kind of autumnal clothing you can imagine – grey shawl collar cardigans, green waxed cotton Barbour jackets, navy flannel shirts, and brown suede shoes. They’ll be soft, comfortable, and a touch warm.
If you’re getting your second pair, I recommend wheat. Anything that resembles something like the muted color on your standard pair of chinos to ones that are just a touch more golden. If you hit the right shade, and be sure not to veer into something too yellow, these should be about as easy to wear as your dark brown pair.
Once you’re on your third, however, I suggest considering green - something like British racing green or olive. These are slightly more daring colors, but still feel reasonably conservative. Like dark brown and wheat, green is an earthy color that feels very seasonally appropriate in the fall. I wear mine with navy or grey sweaters, the kind with a very heavy texture such as Shetland or lambswool, or with a gun club sport coat, pale blue oxford cloth shirt, and brown slip on shoes, like you see above.
If you’ve never bought corduroys before, take care in paying attention to the size of the wales. These are the ribs that make up the fabric’s signature texture. Something with thicker, more widely spaced, plush wales will look a bit more old-fashioned; something very fine will look close to velvet. A mid-sized wale is a safe bet, though I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wide wales either. Those will look quite comfortable and traditional, and if you don’t wear them in an overly baggy cut, they won’t look too frumpy. My green corduroys are somewhat wide waled, actually, and cut on the fuller side of slim. Corduroys are of course a country garment, but in green I think they’re especially rustic. Country clothes, in my opinion, always look better when they’re cut slightly fuller than city clothes.
You can pick up decent corduroys at any number of places. Cordings, Pakeman, and Hoggs of Fife have very nice traditionally cut models, while Epaulet’s and Howard Yount’s will run slim. There’s also Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers, who will have different models for different fits. The upside to them is that you’re more likely to live near one of their stores, so you can check out their products in person. However, I’ve also found that the other suppliers are happy to give you measurements if you enquire.
(As an aside, if you haven’t read Jesse’s address to the Corduroy Appreciation Club, you really ought to read it. It stands out in my mind as one of the funniest clothing-related things I’ve ever come across. Corduroy Now, Corduroy Forever!)