Q And Answer: How High Should I Wear My Pants?

February 19, 2010

Q and Answer: How High Should I Wear My Pants?

Alan asks: Where on a man’s waist area should his pant’s
waistband rest? Most all of my pants seem to naturally (and
comfortably) rest a little higher than halfway between the top of the
pelvis bone and the hip joint. Perhaps it depends on the type or style
or cut of pant. Maybe it all comes down to comfort and I should just
play it where it lies. My concern though, as irrational as it may
seem, is that if I wear them too low it’ll look douchey; too high on
the hip and people will take me for a bit of a milquetoast.

Until I can properly consult with a tailor, what’s the word on the
streets, as they say?

It does indeed depend on the pants.

One of the key measurements of a pair of pants is the rise.  That’s the distance between the waistline and the end of the crotch.  It can vary significantly between pant styles – which is why we use inseam (the length of the inside of the leg) rather than outseam (the length from the waistband on the outside of the leg) to indicate pant length.

Over the past twenty years, and particularly in the past ten or so, the waistline of men’s pants has been creeping ever lower, as more and more men have worn their pants in the way they might wear their jeans – well below their waistlines.  The dominance of flat-front pants and the stereotype of the old man with high-waisted pants have fed into this phenomenon as well.

Low-waisted pants have advantages and disadvantages.  They can look cleaner and more contemporary, for one thing.  They can make the torso look longer.  They also make it more difficult to keep one’s pants up, more difficult to keep one’s shirt tucked in a flattering manner, and can create a “no man’s land” between the waist button on a coat and the belt line.  And while they can sit more comfortably below a gut, they also can emphasize said gut.

So: take note of the rise on your pants, and how you look in pants of various styles.  Take note, too, of the fashion world’s preferences, because you’ll be seen through that lense whether you like it or not.

As for where to wear your pants – let the rise tell you.  Your pants are cut so that their crotch is immediately below your crotch.  If they have a longer rise, they’ll be higher at the waist.  If they have a shorter rise, they’ll be lower.

(Above: Tobey Radloff, “The Genuine Nerd”)

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