Here we’ll aim to cover off the remaining style details – including cuffs/turn-ups, belts vs side adjustors, and the various designs of waistband.
If there’s anything you think we’ve left out, please do ask in the comments. It all helps with the comprehensive-ness and future reference-ability.
In America they’re cuffs, in the UK they’re turn-ups. Some even call them PTUs (Permanent Turn Ups).
Whatever the name, they’ve certainly become more fashionable in recent years. I rarely saw them when I was a teenager, and now 90% of my trousers have turn-ups.
Because a turn-up interrupts the line of a trouser – making it look less sleek and smart – it is generally seen as more casual than a plain-bottom.
It’s therefore more likely to look good on casual trousers: separates rather than suits, and casual materials and colours rather than smart ones.
However, all these points are heavily influenced by fashion and by personal taste. The effect of diminishing height is fairly small, and it’s really a detail that few non-obsessives will notice.
My general advice, therefore, would be to have them if you like them, but not if you don’t.
If in doubt, perhaps include them, as they are easy to remove but virtually impossible to add. (You need three times the height of the cuff as spare material inside, to make a turn-up properly.)
As to the best height, the modern standard is 5cm or 2 inches, which largely comes from the Italians. English tailors often have 1¾ inches as their standard.
I’d go for the former unless you are particularly concerned about your height.
Belts and side adjustors
Belts are bulky, thick things, and generally look more casual than just side adjustors or ‘strap and buckles’ (above).
The latter – which use a tab of the trouser cloth to cinch in the waist – mean that the front of the trouser is clean and uninterrupted. It looks considerably smarter.
I would therefore always recommend side adjustors with any smart tailoring.
And in fact, personally, I like side adjustors with casual trousers because they dress up a look rather subtly. For example: a pair of linen trousers with a knitted polo shirt tucked in, in the summer.
Again this is cultural and influenced by fashion. The Italians are much more likely to wear a belt with their suits. Though I still think it looks sloppy.
The best argument, for me, in wearing a belt is that it is an opportunity to accessorise. Men don’t have many of them, and perhaps it’s a shame to give one up.
This is particularly true when few people wear a tie, and perhaps pocket handkerchiefs are on the way out. A belt is practical (like all the best menswear) but can still be decorative.
If the new uniform is a sports jacket and trousers, a belt adds some nice detail. Just keep it slim, subtle and high quality. Anything with a logo on it should be trashed. You don’t have a logo anywhere else on your clothes – why would you have one on your belt buckle?
The other common type of side adjustor uses elastic and buttons: they’re often called ‘Daks’ adjustors, after the brand that became famous for them (shown above).
I know Daks adjustors have their fans, but personally I don’t want elastic in my waistband if I can help it. And in any case they never work as well as a side adjustor. Elastic stretches as you reach and as you move; trouser cloth on its own does not.
I therefore only have them on very thick trouser fabrics, where a normal side adjustor wouldn’t function.
Oh, and do try your side adjustors when you get a pair of trousers, to make sure they can hold the material and not slip. It’s amazing how many don’t work.
There’s also a whole area of different designs for side adjustors, from the very plain and short to the long and decorative – such as the ‘holster’ style used by Chittleborough & Morgan among others. But they mean nothing if the thing doesn’t function.
Sometimes people strive so hard to make trousers interesting. And their ideas can be attractive – but the appeal often fades.
I’d highlight three in recent years, all of which I’ve tried: wide waistbands, extended waistbands, and Gurkha-style waistbands.
On width, the standard size of a waistband is normally 3.5cm. This is pretty consistent, across makers and regional traditions.
But it became fashionable a few years ago to have them wider – normally 5cm but sometimes even more. These were then sometimes fastened with two buttons at the end, rather than one. The end could also be split in two, adding another unusual detail.
I had a couple in this style (eg the Cerrato cottons shown above), but reverted to normal after a while.
In retrospect I wish I hadn’t tried it. The style is too gimmicky. Perhaps a wider waistband with a normal fastening, with one button. But more than that risks looking silly after a while.
Extended waistbands were another thing – see my Ambrosi pair above. Having the end longer, and feeding through a loop of cloth.
This is less showy than the big waistbands, but still (for me) was a style whose appeal didn’t last.
And there are Gurkha-front trousers, where an extended waistband ending in a buckle is combined with a tab on the other side, feeding through the waistband from the bearer.
These have historical precedent, and aren’t as showy, but there’s still a risk of looking gimmicky. Personally (and it is personal on most of these style points) I think they look OK on shorts but I wouldn’t have them on trousers.
Finally, I usually prefer a waistband to finish in a button on slightly more casual trousers, but a hook on smarter ones – as it’s cleaner. But it’s more personal preference than almost anything else here.
What else is there? Coin or ‘secret’ pockets can be useful – in the seam of the waistband, usually on the outside but sometimes on the inside.
I find these more practical than sections sewn into the pocket bag of the trouser. Also sleeker.
But they can be cut too deep, making coins difficult to fish out. They should be shallower than the length of your finger.
Side pockets come in different variations, but I’ve found over time that slanting ones (above) are the best.
Vertical ones, running up the trouser seam, are sleeker but annoying to use. And cutting them directly into the trouser cloth (below) looks sleek from the front, but ugly from the side.
On the back, two hip pockets is more casual than one. Having none looks odd, and best kept for dress pieces like black tie. Flaps are more casual than buttons.
Hand-sewn tacks can look nice, but should largely be practical rather than just decorative.
And pick stitching in places like the side seams and pocket edges does look nice – but I find today I rarely want to pay extra for it.
As regards button or zip fly, buttons are more traditional, involve more work and arguably help the front sit slightly flatter. I’ve never noticed much difference, however, and after a few pairs with buttons, always go with a zip. It’s much easier and more practical – and was good enough for the Duke of Windsor almost a century ago.
By far the most important thing about a pair of trousers is the cut.