This is the third article in the Suit Style series dedicated to trousers. We previously looked at pleats, and at cut, in hopefully comprehensive detail. 

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.

 

 

Cuffs

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. 

 

 

Waistbands

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.

 

 

Pockets

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

 

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Paul Boileau

Interesting post. The 5 cm turn ups is certainly a recent thing in the UK: the last 10 to 15 years I guess. During the 2nd World War when clothes rationing was in force, the civilian clothing restrictions banned turn ups in the UK to save cloth.
Some of these waistbands are overly fussy and complicated- the extended waistband comes to mind. I assume the waistband width XXcm was intended to have a figure: 3.5cm; 1.5 inches??
No mention of braces? I know you’re not a fan!

Anonymous

perhaps a comment on zip vs button fly?

Anonymous

There is an empty XXcm on waistband width.

Anonymous

A small point of detail, Simon.

Permanent turn ups is what they are properly called; turn ups is simply an abbreviation of this.

Anonymous

You may not call a jacket a coat, but but it doesn’t mean you’re correct.

Anonymous

I agree that language moves on, although it is a touch condescending to say you studied it, as it suggests this gives your argument more weight. I studied it too, and I learnt to speak Esperanto for fun!

It just seems to me that, if you are trying to be serious about what you write, and it is your goal to educate those who are interested but less knowledgeable than yourself, it would play well if you were to do exactly that.

So better to say “permanent turn ups, or more commonly just called turn ups”. In that way, readers would learn the both correct term, and that by which it has become more commonly known.

If “coat” was the original term for “jacket”, people might find it interesting to learn that fact.

Anonymous

Sorry Simon, but it is p[recisel;y because you did mention it that I raised the point. “Some even call them PTU’s”.

It would have taken no more space, nor more effort, to have described them in the way I suggested. The use of the word “even” I’m afraid undermines your reasoning in your response to me.

Paul Boileau

There are quite a few “tailoring” terms we use on the web that the tech un-savvy tailor may not have come across as the tailoring terms are different. “Quarters” is one- this seems to be an internet invented word. The tailoring term is forepart. Similarly, “Silhouette” is not a word used by any of the tailors I’ve used/ met although this one is easily understood.

Chris K

Great timing with this one Simon. Just about to have my first pair of odd trousers made, Cavalry twill (Charcoal from the Holland and Sherry Dakota selection). This has helped cement a few points I had floating around in my head. Thank you.

Anonymous

Am intrigued about your decreasing use of pocket squares which I think you mentioned in another piece. Is this driven by a change in fashion?

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

If yr considering eschewing breast pocket adornment, would you also consider having flapped breast pockets on yr sport coats and tweed suits and such, and entirely omitting a breast pocket on yr dressier/smarter coats and suits? Just curious. I always think that an empty breast pocket looks rather sullen and barren, and boring. My Father also used to tell me that the pocket was there for a reason and that I should always use it, even if just by the addition of a linen handkerchief, which is quietly dignified, and always correct, casual or formal. Just one man’s perspective and position. Great article!

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

Interesting. I cannot abide having an empty pocket. It always feels….naked, and a pen or glasses simply wouldn’t take up the space properly to my eye, though I have stuck those respective items in, upon occasion, behind pocket linen or scarves, ditto a tobacco pipe which I used to carry for my Father.

On sporting suits and coats, the flapped breasted pocket can be quite interesting.

Burt

Some tailors shape the waistband in a natural curve before it’s sewn. How important is that?
The same goes for the trouser leg, some tailors shape it almost like a letter “S” before it is pressed and sewn. I guess over time the shape gets lost anyway?

zo

very informative, thank you. What is your opinion on having turn ups on cotton/moleskin chinos with belt loops? i find on casual trousers, such as chinos, it looks ok at first but once the front vertical crease begins to ease, the turn up starts to look sloppy – is there a solution? i prefer to finish straight and turn up the trousers, like jeans. on the other hand, with smarter woollen trousers, i find a PTU holds well and adds some finnesse to the look.

Anonymous

Never had a problem with PTUS on moleskin.

Martin

For me the advantage of a button fly is that you have to button it from the bottom up whereas with a zip you close the button on top first and then the zip. That way there is always the risk of forgetting the zip since the trousers can feel closed when the waistband is buttoned even if the fly is still open.

RSH

Thoughts on lap seam? Maybe not for suit trousers but I have on a pair of beige whipcords (with turn ups) and think does help make them more casual.

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

I would argue that lapped seams on trouser legs are more casual, just as a lapped seam on a coat’s back, or sleeve is considered more casual, or an inset, over-stitched lapel edge or pocket flap is more casual. Bulk always implies casualness, whereas sleekness and minimalism imply dressiness, or smartness, as you choose. 🙂 Many of my vintage sport suits have lapped seams and welted or over-stitched edge detailing like this.

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

Well, traditional braiding aside, which is somewhat bulky, most modern trousers for Black Tie are inset and flush with the rest of the trousers, and by modern, I mean 1960s on. I have some older ones that have heavier braiding, and some which are newer which do as well, though they are essentially in a reproduction of a vintage style…..minimalism is the essence of formality, less pockets, less obvious seams, less bulk with regards to the silhouette and structure. I would say that a lapped seam is less formal though, than say a typical trouser seam where the two edges simply meet upon the same plane and there is no additional heft to that seam. Frogging originally was a more elaborate, but discrete method of having a fastening which did not require holes to be cut into, and buttons attached to a coat. Frogging is also much more luxurious in its own way than a button.

I have a very old Chinese brocade silk Mandarin jacket with silk frogged fastening up the front which is reversible, and I typically wear that over my evening wear at home when lounging with friends over a game of cards where cigarettes or alcohol may be present, in place of a smoking jacket. It is wonderfully soft!

Jonathan Kwok

Hi Simon,

Thanks for this hugely informative post, it couldn’t have come at a better time. I have just ordered 2 pairs of my trousers from my tailor, and I’m in favour of larger 2″ cuffs, and wanted to get a regular waist bands at 1.5″. My tailor however advised against this due to the fact that it would look relatively disproportional, and advised me to get 1.75″ waistbands instead. Would you agree with this statement that it would look disproportional with a wider cuff but regular waistband? Or do you think the difference is largely marginal. Thanks in advance.

Best,
Jonathan

TT

Would you mind commenting on the extended waistbands a bit more and why they have fallen out of favor for you? I would have thought that they would have offered up a more clean option when compared with side adjustors and less showy than a big waistband so they would be a good middle ground. I also understand they are fairly practical as I’m aware that Cerrato creates them with the ability to use two different buttoning positions so you would not have to worry about the side adjustor actually catching the fabric.

Matt

What about trouser hems? Should they have a curve, like the end of a jacket sleeve, or be finished straight? Or does it not make a real difference?

Brad Owen

I have trousers with varying rise lengths. I find that those with a medium rise sit at my natural hip, making a belt or side adjusters functionally unnecessary. Those with a higher rise will always eventually fall to my hip, even with a belt or side adjusters. The only way to prevent this is suspenders–braces to you. Since I prefer wearing suspenders with a higher rise trouser, I get the trousers made without belt loops or side adjusters and a little extra room in the waist.

Bob

I usually dispense with hip (i.e. back) pockets since I never use them. I don’t see why that should look odd when the area is always covered by a jacket.

Coin pockets are tricky to use. It’s hard to make them so they look neat, with an opening that’s comfortably wide for the index finger and thumb to squeeze through. I usually use mine for keys, and thank god for fobs.

Toby

Whilst he sounds a bit pedantic, I have to agree with your linguistic opponent on this.

If you are going to write about tailoring, you ought to use the right terms.

It might only be a small point in the scheme of things, but if you claim expertise in a subject you need to be able to demonstrate it.

Toby

Well its what every UK tailor I’ve ever used calls them. Good enough for me.

Patrick

There is no sense in which this is the ‘correct’ term. It’s antiquated, technical, and barely anyone uses it.
I’d much prefer Simon stay away from such terms and made this more accessible

Anonymous

Well Patrick I guess you are right if you accept that it is only Simon who can claim to have the authority to call something.

It seems to me there are plenty of contributors to this debate who know as much, if not more, about tailoring than Simon does.

Patrick

Oh dear. You have a real personal problem with Simon, don’t you?

This is nothing to do with him. I am saying – in my long experience – that you are wrong and that there is no sense in which that is the correct term.

And I would rather that a site like this stay relevant and not get bogged down in this pointless technical detail.

Anonymous

If I may add a bit of objectivity……….

I’ve been in nothing but bespoke for over 30 years. A tailor will ask you if you want turn ups (layman’s term), and if you say yes he will write PTU’s. Simple.

They were originally termed permanent turn ups. You can thank Edward VII.

Ty

I have several pair of trousers with side adjusters and while I really enjoy the look of the detail, I have so far found them totally non functional. An extra button on the waistband, as the Neapolitans like to do works well for cinching up the waist though.

Shaoul Sussman

Trouser rise.

Simon, I have been an avid reader of the blog and find it extremely useful- the following criticism is minute given my overall appreciation of your style. I find these particular pieces helpful, but I really hope that you will next publish a full piece dedicated to discussing trouser rise. In particular, I would be happy if you could explain why you have consistently avoided high waisted trousers. Personally, I find that your decision to wear relatively low rise trousers clashes with the impeccable lines and proportion of your jackets. In addition, I think that they draw attention and consequently overemphasize your seat.

The second point has to do with comfort. This blog has consistently championed the importance of comfort and has deeply influenced my own personal choices as a result.

In the realm of trouser rise, there is no question that high rise trousers are much more comfortable and accommodating- they virtually remove any and all movement restrictions that are imposed by low waisted pants (including bending over to tie one’s shoes).

My own transition to high rise trousers was primarily motivated by comfort after accidentally trying on a pair of trousers made by Ambrosi. I find the style of high waisted trousers more harmonious (this part is, of course, debatable), but there is no question that they are immensely convenient and practical. In fact, I haven’t encountered any person that found them less convenient in comparison to trousers with a lower rise.

Shaoul Sussman

Thank you for sharing this link, and no, I haven’t read it before. As always, your piece on braces is eloquent and informative, but that being said, I am happy that I haven’t read it before buying my first pair of braces. I totally agree that braces look antiquated, but I wear them whenever I can ‘hide’ them discreetly underneath a jacket or cardigan. I do think that they contribute to a more pleasing drape, and I find them very comfortable. I guess that we will agree to disagree about the issue of comfort but I just wanted to raise this issue because I think it might work for certain individuals and worth trying out. We can also argue that OTC socks are antiquated, but they serve a practical purpose- they are designed to ensure that your socks stay up. I think that the same can be said with regards to high waisted trousers and braces- they are purpose-driven sartorial solutions that some at least might find comfortable and practical.

A final note regarding turn-ups, another advantage gained is that the extra weight helps with drape and makes the transition from sitting to standing somewhat less awkward.

Zo

High rise is definitely less comfortable. You either have to have a really tight uncomfortable waist, or have to constantly keep adjusting and pulling the trousers up, or wear braces which are pretty uncomfortable and fussy. But yes i agree, with a jacket or a cardigan on, the aesthetic is much nicer with high rise trousers.

Shaoul Sussman

Your negative experience might have to with the fit- I find that this aspect is more important when it comes to high waisted trousers. I had some negative experiences with made to measure trousers in the past. I would deeply recommend Simone Aabbarchi’s extremely precise work. I had some very minor issues with the first pair he made for me, but from the second pair onwards, his work was flawless.

Anonymous

Yes. Came for the shirts, stayed for trousers.

Evan Everhart

I would dissent with a statement that high rise trousers are less functional or comfortable than mid or low rise ones. they also do not require suspenders/braces. I almost exclusively wear belts these days, and exclusively wear high rise trousers that come at least to my relatively high navel, or even rise above it ever so slightly, that is to the narrowest point of my torso. I used to almost exclusively prefer suspenders/braces but agree, that they were fussy. I now reserve them for use with waistcoats and 3 piece suits or formal attire. High rise trousers can be kept perfectly in place if yr trousers are properly tailored. I wear my trousers with no break, so it is always easy to tell if something is off. Also, having the most constrictive point of interaction between yr body and a close fitting garment; yr trousers, be at yr narrowest point which is also above yr bodily fulcrum makes more sense; it will not bind! This is one of the main reasons which I swore off ever wearing any trousers that were not high rise trousers, ever again, aside from the fact that they make yr behind stick out more pronouncedly which does not appeal to me, and that they shorten the leg line, which also does not appeal to me, but which is likely not something which Simon has to excessively worry about in light of his height. I do think that the relatively low (mid-rise) trousers which Simon typically opts for are out of keeping with his other stylistic preferences, and tend to create a gaping effect between the front skirting of his coats, but excessively long neckties create the same visual dissonance and break with classical physiognomy of tailoring and proportion in tailoring as well…..Never the less, Simon is tall enough that the worst of the effects of such choices are largely negated. I am 5’7″ tall and like everything precisely sized and fitted.

Shaoul Sussman

While I generally agree with your comments regarding high rise trousers, I have to say that I disagree with your analysis of Simon’s style (sincere apologies for the objectification Simon). The following is a rather long explanation but I hope that by the end of it you’ll understand my point of view.

The reason we celebrate the style of the 1930s and repeatedly attempt to mimic that silhouette and cut has to do with the ideology and political economy that informed that particular style. The 1930s were a unique decade in modernity, which many outside the sphere of style harken back to (see ex. Bernie Sanders, Green New Deal, etc.). I believe that the following 1936 quotation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt embodies the ideology of that decade in the most succinct way: “If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the marketplace.” I think that this view had an enroumes influence on men’s dress. The 1930’s cut and style sought to put men of all economic backgrounds and physical idiosyncrasies on an equal footing. In essence, it is a democratic style that was designed to fit men of any shape or build, whether they be champions of industry or merely clerks.

In his lectures on aesthetics, Hegel argues that the most ideal form of dress (for men at least), was the Greek toga. He explains that the toga embodied a democratic spirit that sought to hide physical idiosyncrasies and external indicators of the class behind the generous drape of the toga. This style of dress, therefore, focuses the attention of one’s peers on the substance of his argument in the public forum and makes it harder to judge his argument based on external indicators. Subsequently, Hegel also railed against the prevalent style of his age (1820-30s) and the dandy style of fashion, which predominated in the higher echelons of society at that time (See. eg. Beau Brummell).

Therefore I believe that we should generally refrain from excusing decisions concerning cut on the basis of a body type. Fred Astaire and Cary Grant had remarkably different physical builds but the same principals animated their style of dress. Similarly, I believe that Simone will not argue that certain body type requires a shorter length of a jacket, for instance, one that does not entirely cover one’s seat. In general, I think that we should strive to avoid cuts that emphasize our unique physical idiosyncrasies regardless of our build.

I hope that this helps.

Evan Everhart

Shaoul Sussman,

Interesting ponderances, but too much philosophizing upon a purely practical point (trousers rise), for my taste.

Regardless of my impression regarding pertinence; quite fascinating, and thanks for sharing! 🙂

Chancellor

Interesting to read the different the widely varying opinions on high rise trousers.

Personally, I find high rise trousers immensely more comfortable. They perhaps also look marginally better with a jacket, but I think that effect is very small.

On the other hand, I think medium to lower rise trousers look much better if not wearing a jacket–high rise trousers just look disproportionate to me, making the torso look comically short. No doubt my impression of “normal” proportion has been calibrated by seeing most people wear low-to-mid-rise trousers.

I’ve decide to opt for comfort and have most of my new trousers to be high rise.

Zo

Chancellor how do you keep your trousers up? I’d prefer to start wearing a higher rise if I can find a way to hold it up without braces or a super tight waist.

Also i forgot to add above. Lower rise definitely more comfortable for modern sitting-on-the-computer-all-day jobs.

Chancellor

I wear a mix of braces (for more formal trousers where I’ll also usually wear a jacket) and belts (for more causal trousers); occasionally I wear side adjusters, but find they’re not effective with heavier casual materials. When wearing belts or side-adjusters, I do have the waist quite snug which seems to be something you’d like to avoid.

Ben

Would this post be an appropriate post/article to include information about the continuous waist, or Hollywood waist? I’ve heard it called by a couple different terms, and have heard the same term applied to two distinct constructions. One, would be where there is no waistband. The cloth continues from the legs through the waist – making a particularly soft waist. The second, is where there is a waistband in the front, providing a bit more structure, while the cloth in the back continues through the waist. Personally, I prefer the second. I like the hidden coin pocket – I use it for my car fob – and the pocket has rarely performed well with a continuous waist in the front, it will sag and remain open.

DavidS

It seems to me that there is more reason to use the correct technical term today, because so many people roll up the bottom of their jeans – which does NOT represent a PTU! It helps differentiate the two forms.

Jordan Healey

One thing I think is worth mentioning is that a zip fly is a lot less flexible than a button fly, and for those who prefer trousers with pleats (particularly double pleats), a zip fly can give you a bad case of ‘pants tent’ or ‘jeanis’ when you sit down.

This is one of the reasons why I prefer buttons.

JP

Thankyou for another great article Simon.
May I ask, have you noticed any advantage of cuffs when wearing boots – I saw a recent post on PS of your EG Shannons with a suit w cuffs. I was thinking in theory the cuff might add extra weight at the bottom and therefore prevent the problem of trouser bottoms that get hung up on the top of boots. Most of my trousers don’t have cuffs / turn ups so I don’t know the answer to this, but I’m thinking I might start getting them with future ones

JP

Ok thanks. I guess that matches up with boots being a more cooler weather item too. Cheers

John Plummer

Thanks Simon, this is an exceptionally useful series.

Regarding belts, I agree that they can add interest to a casual look, such as chinos or jeans. I was wondering what you think of braided belts? Anderson and Sheppard do a particularly fine one, which I believe achieves the subtlety you mention above (for example, the brass buckle is mat, not shiny), but a braided belt is in itself quite flashy. Do you think it crosses the line? Many thanks.

Keith Taylor

I don’t usually give a huge amount of thought to small details and flourishes, but in a perfect world any embellishments on my clothing should have some kind of utility, so at least I can explain their purpose if someone asks (I’m constantly going back and forth about whether to remove the epaulettes from my trench coat due to this instinct, what with me not being in the military).

With that in mind the extended waistband on the otherwise very nice pair of Ambrosi trousers would probably bring me out in hives were I to wear them. It looks to account for around a quarter of the waist circumference, so on my waist there’d be around 9 inches of loose material when I unbutton. My first thought is that this presents a dangling risk at urinals. I’m almost certain I’d fail to get to kicking out time at the pub without at least once desperately arching my groin towards the closest hand dryer to save my embarrassment 🙂

Nik Ismail almurtadza

Simon
Appreciate your post on trouser .
I believed that trousers are as difficult to cut or fit as it were for the coat,I see that you have to various tailors for your trousers,Who would you say give you the best fit and comfort , the English or Italian ?

Nik

Chancellor

Beyond finishing, are there other differences to trousers across geographies (e.g. structure in the waistband, cut, style)?

AMS

“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. ”

Your guide is very useful except for the above statement as an abstract principle. If it were true, you might say cuff buttons are less formal because they break up the line of the sleeve.

It’s more historically and nationally specific than that. I came of menswear age in the 80s in the USA, in the preppy time. Trouser bottoms were about 18 in. We cuffed everything, 1 3/4 inches was the standard, as it had been for some time. If you look at the Apparel Arts Laurence Fellows drawings of the 30s and 40s, and if you look at Brooks Brothers ads postwar through the end of the 20th century at least, all trousers were cuffed except for black tie. A cuff helps weight the trouser leg and keep it from moving so much, so cuffs often pass out of fashion when the measure at the ankle grows narrower. Now that it is widening again, attention returns to cuffs, which remain, at least in the USA, as formal a way to finish a trouser bottom as any other.

Evan Everhart

Simon,

I’m also from America, you are correct. Cuffs or turn ups are less formal, their origin was to prevent muck on fields from staining or clinging to trousers, hence the hems were turned up.

There is a very important and poignant reason that turn ups or cuffs are never ever placed upon trousers for wear with black tie, white tie, or any form of morning wear. That said, I have cuffs on nearly all of my non formal wear trousers. Utility or lack thereof is not so much in the equation of relative formality. There is also the option of having excess seam allowance act as the natural weight to the trouser hems, which is what all of my vintage and antique uncuffed trousers have, modern trousers typically are stingey with their fabric usage, and simply add a bit of weighted taping at the rear of the hem, internally to weight the trousers, at least that is what my tailor does with my uncuffed trousers that I’ve had him make for me.

Thompson

I think the equation turn-ups = more casual is very regionally specific. I can’t really say why but to the general public in France or Germany who don’t read menswear blogs on the internet, turn-ups would generally be considered to be more formal.

Evan Everhart

It is founded upon long standing historical precedent and accepted mores. It was not historically regional, though the perception of the relative formality of such a stylistic detail may now be inflected regionally, the ultimate “rules” or accepted standards still have cuffed trousers as more informal, hence their inappropriateness and absolutely non existence in formal wear for either daytime or evening events; stroller or morning coat or frock coat trousers, or with either Black Tie or White Tie trousers, cuffs are unacceptable, because they are less formal. Not trying to be a pedant, but illustrating the point.

There is perception, there is accepted form, and there is propriety. I will however agree, that at this point in time, no non formal attire will necessarily be put too far up or down the scale of formality for the great mass of society based upon the presence, or absence of cuffs, outside of formal daytime or evening wear.

Gonzague

I saw pics of trousers with an adjuster in the back, probably vintage workwear or high rise trousers from the 1930s? Does it ring a bell, any hint about its oroots and practicability?

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

That detail was used in mass produced suits and formal wear, particularly in the United States where the mass production of such garments began. It was a way to ensure that fish tail back trousers always sat correctly. It was also used in military uniforms and civilian trousers and breeches from the late 18th century forward. I have an antique pair of trousers which have that particularly useful appendage attached, and a modern reproduction pair of trousers in canvas duck, which I sometimes use for American Western Riding, and they do help keep one’s trousers in place, also, when they were first used, and until fairly recently as well, a man, let alone a gentleman did not remove either his coat or his waistcoat, so the chance of anyone seeing that adjusting belt back on the trousers was little to nil.

augustuspenn

Sleeve buttons don’t break up the line because they’re vertical, like pinstripes. Turn-ups/cuffs do because they’re horizontal, like belts. As an addendum, are we to call shirt cuffs “permanent shirt cuffs” or PSC to distinguish them from rolled-up sleeves? To me that makes as much sense as distinguishing trouser cuffs from rolled-up jeans bottoms.

Anonymous

I saw you today in London as I rushed between meetings trying to buy a pair of shoe laces. You were wearing a cream watch cap and a pale coat with a pleated back. I have absolutely no idea what trousers or shoes you had on. I think the advice of keeping trousers simple, comfortable, elegant and not obsessed over is right!

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

No mention made of fishtail back trousers and their assorted randomalia? Also, I highly agree on the waist-band fastening issue, those trick/gimmick styles are not classic in the least, Gurkhas aside, purely for shorts. I also agree on buttoned waist-bands versus hooked ones. Great article over-all! Thanks for this. I always enjoy reading articles that I agree with! 😉

Daniel

Hi Simon,
Thanks for the post. Please inform a rookie: I’ve bought two pair of trousers rtw on a sale that I just love but they came with belt loops. It’s alright, it works, but especially with one of them side adjusters would be practical – and it would look awesome. Are the side adjusters something a tailor can add afterwards?

James

On my tailored trousers (none of which has turn-ups) the stitching of the hem looks to my eye to be rather awkward as it pulls on the fabric. Maybe to an experienced eye this is a good thing, but it grates on me to the point where I’m leaning towards turn-ups on everything in order to hide this ‘imperfection’. I guess that’s unlikely to work too well on my lighter weight suits, so should I be looking at this differently?

Poid

Simon,
Two thoughts. First I can find no mention of frog (mouth) pockets- I would have thought a long discussion could be had on these. If only on the name! They certainly have advantages in some cicumstances.
Secondly on zips verses buttons. The tailor and cutters second edition of clothes and the man 1962 says quite a lot but ends with “any prejudice is old fashiond and usually comes from those whove never tried them.”

Anthony

I have two suits (from the same company) where the side adjustors sit entirely on the waistband, as in your first illustration. Another (from a different tailor) where they straddle the seam between waistband and trouser, as in your photo illustrating vertical pockets. Are there relative merits to the different positionings?

O

I find it interesting that people talk about high rise vs low rise as if you have to pick a side. IMHO it comes down to body shape; hips, thighs, belly, waist and other parts that decide where your trousers sit most comfortable. It’s essentially not a “style” (or should at least not be labeled as such) but should be seen upon as a proportional and functional cut.

Douglas Bailey

May be useful to mention the belt prong loop above the fly. Rare these days but a nice functional touch. I purchased Italian trousers recently and had to explain to the salesperson and store manager what the purpose was. They thought it was only decorative.

Anthony Williams

Simon
I have heard you should only have turn ups with pleats… what is your view on that?

Fastship

In Italy recently, I saw that in many cases turn-ups are fastened with a single button.

Maxim Kovalenko

Recently I came across what is apparently called the “Hollywood top” trouser (e.g., https://www.edwardsexton.co.uk/hollywood-top-trousers/, hope the link is OK). My tailor expressed concern whether it would be able to keep the shape of the fabric on its top and not curve outwards with time. Perhaps someone can share their experience with this kind of top?

Anonymous

Also worth considering Steed for this type of trouser. They do them extremely well.

Anonymous

Simon which companies sell the best (material and finish) off the shelf/ready made belts? I am aware of Crocketts and Edward Green. Any other companies you recommend ?

Anonymous

Equus make excellent belts.

David

Where is the alligator belt from?
Looks nice and substantial
Can’t find it anywhere on the site

Zeke

Hi Simon. My trousers question isn’t this: I work in an office and sit for a large part of the day. I tend to wear lighter weight wool suits because of the climate. I find that on some trousers the material behind the knee gets ridiculously creased by the end of the day. Are the trousers cut badly or too tight ? Or is the material not quality? Does this ever happen with bespoke tailoring? I note that this happens with most gentlemen at the office. Or is this a fact of life with lighter worsted wools?

sellidor

You say that cuffs are casual because they “interrupt the line of a trouser”. Yet you also wrote that pleats are considered more formal. However, don’t pleats also “interrupt” the trouser line? The menswear community is rather obsessed with cuffs, pleats, coin pockets, and all sorts of little extra details. Obviously this is a matter of taste, but it seems to me that all these additions overwhelm the trouser. To me, the sleekest trousers with the cleanest lines are high rise, without cuffs or pleats or belt loops. Just side adjusters and a flat front is the simplest, purest, and most formal look, I’d say. (Incidentally, this is tough to find in RTW, as most high rise trousers with side adjusters also have pleats.)

Zeke

I certainly iron mine. So does this type of creasing occur with bespoke trousers?

Anonymous

Don’t mean to deviate the quality of the discussion here, but buttons vs. Zipper fly?
With 501’s you could just pull them apart with elegant aplomb in the event of emergency or necessity…
Tailored trousers and frequenting pubs could provide serious challenges. Do you risk the embarrassment of having waited too long before excusing yourself and darting off to the bathroom? Or would it be preferable to just rip the fly open and experience the momentary joy of relief? Tough one here…
with my suit and waistcoat buttoned as I stood up, I counted the number of individual buttons I had to carefully undo as I danced like a madman in front of the toilet… more than 14 buttons (including the one on your boxers) after a few poses quite a challenge, gentlemen!
Zip flies are so comfortable when urgency arises, but be careful when you zip up!
Button flies are certainly more interesting to the fairer sex, but be prepared for the occasional tragedy!
Thankfully wool is a miracle fabric that will forgive minor issues …

Charles

Interesting is the positioning of tab and buckle side adjusters on trousers.
Until recently I have not a clear answer from any “tailor” as to why the adjusters should be on the waistband or below it or between the two.
The recent answer sounds Ok i.e. on the waistband pulls in or let’s out the waistband which is the purpose while any other position affects the seat of the trouser which should not need to altered.
If interested I can say who, in Edinburgh, informed of this.

Jamie Berry

I’m a little late in the thread to comment on the coat vs jacket terminology. However, when I started work in the City in the 1970s, I asked if I needed to wear my jacket for a meeting. My immaculately dressed boss retorted “it’s a coat; only potatoes wear jackets.”

dean

Hi Simon
Do you think trying to match the metal of the side adjustors with your watch is a bit obsessive? I find myself hard to decides whether to have my side adjustors steel or gold since I have both steel and gold watches.

Jesse B

Simon (and other readers),

Any idea why wearing braces might cause back pain? I tried braces/suspenders a couple times and found it killed my back. The only time I suffer it now is for black tie, but the menswear crowd (and this many of my friends/colleagues, as I work in the industry…) swear by them.

SBC

What is your perspective on not wearing a belt with jeans or casual pants that have belt loops? I like the look of no belt more and more these days, but all my pants have belt loops.

John

Hi Simon,

just a quick ”technical“ question.

Do bespoke trousers makers sew a short strip of durable synthetic material on the inside circumference of legs’ ends, presumably to protect it from damage brought about friction between trousers legs and shoes? Or is it solely practice of ready-to-wear producers?

Thanks!

J.

Ehsan

Hey Simon, could you advice me on a tailor in London UK for alterations on a trouser and what size should a trouser cuff ideally be

Anonymous

Interesting if somewhat technical article. The following lines by Eliot ought to make a few readers snicker:

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

Nico

Simon, would you be so kind to give advice on which model of side adjustor have you experienced to work best?

This 2 – bar:

https://www.theliningcompany.co.uk/accessories/buckles-and-fastenings/2-bar-magi-buckle/

Or this slider:

https://www.theliningcompany.co.uk/accessories/buckles-and-fastenings/gilt-slider/

I believe I have seen you use both on different trousers.

I intend to use them on the short run with pretty thick and heavy fabrics, tweed / woolen flannels 13.5 – 14.5 oz. Later on maybe with lighter ones such as Crispaire, in case that matters.

Thanks in advance,

Jérôme

Hi Simon,

This is not quite a relevant post : I am looking for charcoal flat-front trousers, warm for winter and with a rather casual style. Can you please recommend some brands and/or articles ?

I add a restrictive requirement, that also makes sorting easier : I mainly wear a size 44, sometimes a size 46.

Thank you very much from Paris and have a nice week.

Jérôme

Not found, but thank you for these suggestions and good day to you

Samuel

Hello, Simon.

I’m 5’6″, lean and want to experiment with cuffs for a pair of tapered trousers. Do you think 1¼ or 1½ would be appropriate?

Thank you for your time.

John

Hi Simon,

I’d like to ask you few “technical” questions about trousers.
I have a pair of trousers made from cavalry twill. My tailor uses two layers of the twill sewn together on the front piece that covers a button fly. The same goes for the end of the waistband, to cover stitches that hold a hook fastening. In both cases, this practice adds some bulkiness to those parts (especially the edge where fabric is folded). Of course, it’s partially because cavalry twill is a thicker fabric, but I wanted to ask you what is the usual practice of tailors you have know in this matter?
Also, concerning button fly – do tailors usually reinforce the piece that buttons go through with thin lining, or is it just one layer of the trousers cloth for them?

Thanks!

John

Lawerence Daniels

Please include a list of where to buy items displayed I live in the United States . I need to buy some of those pants adjusters and Gurka pants