Why do people turn up (or cuff) their jeans?
Almost every time I've featured jeans in recent months, someone has asked about turn-ups. So I thought it was worth a dedicated post I could point people to going forward.
Interestingly, I think the reason it's coming up more is that there are more people around not wearing them. But we'll get to that in a minute.
Turn-ups on jeans have become the dominant fashion gradually over the past 20 years or so, in parallel with the popularity of higher quality, often Japanese denim.
There are a few reasons people point to. One is that those raw Japanese jeans often came in one length, and it wasn't easy to find somewhere to alter them properly. Another is that it was a way to show off the selvedge down the inside of the outseam - one sign of quality. And a third, probably smaller factor is that it was seen as authentic - harking back to the workers that originally wore denim, and had to roll them up to fit.
The causes don’t really matter though, because I don’t think it's why most people cuff their jeans.
Rather, they do it because they like the look (more casual, some visual interest) and because everyone else is doing it. Turn-ups on jeans have become so ubiquitous in many places that it’s rare to see someone not cuffing their jeans (even guys that have no real interest in clothes - it just feels odd not to).
Now none of us on this site like the idea of following fashions. But as discussed in the past, what we think of clothes is heavily dependent on associations, which are part and parcel of mainstream, longer term fashions.
If it looks like more of a statement not to cuff your jeans - perhaps like buttoning up a polo shirt rather than unbuttoning it - then doing it is only about fashion in the very broadest sense. You only have two options after all.
That said, there are a few objective reasons why it's nice to turn up jeans.
It means you can adapt them to any length you want - perhaps a little less with boots, perhaps more for clearance on a wet, puddly day. It also makes more of a feature of the fading on the hem - so-called roping - which might appeal to those (like me) that admire the way jeans fade in general.
And then there are the reasons we're familiar with from tailoring - cuffs interrupt the line of the trouser; they're a bit more casual; they provide visual interest, but could also shorten the legs.
I think these classical factors are mostly relevant with dark denim.
It's only then that someone who really wants to lengthen their legs visually (for whatever reason) would find a turn up makes a difference.
And it makes the biggest difference to whether a jean looks smarter without a turn-up. l can see the point of view that an uncuffed, dark jean is easier to wear with a black shoe, for instance. And the opposite too - that a turn-up helps if you're wearing a dark jean with a light, chunky, textured shoe, like a tan suede, Alden longwing.
One reader asked why you wouldn't just get jeans shortened to the correct length. Well if people want them cuffed, then that is their 'correct' length.
And if you're into vintage jeans, you might not want to shorten them because you want to retain the roping - it could look odd if there were strong fading elsewhere but nothing at the bottom of the leg (even though that would come with time).
This can actually be a pain if you find vintage jeans that are great elsewhere, but too long. In that case your options are to have a big turn-up, sort of double cuff them (see piece here - 'Japanese cuff') or get an alterations tailor to cut them to length and leave the seam hidden behind the turn-up. (Coverage on that on this piece, on how much jeans can be altered.)
The latter is the most satisfactory visually, but feels a little inauthentic. I think it's quite personal whether you care, and which of those three you go for.
Why do I turn-up my jeans? Partly because I like that interruption and slightly more casual look. But I recognise that it’s also partly because it's more conventional - the current convention.
When you see people deliberately wearing jeans with no turn-up, it looks (to me, in my locale, social group, social media group) like more of a look, more done for effect. You’ve been seeing with fashion brands for years, and in more progressive magazines such as L'Etiquette (above).
But as mentioned at the start, that may be changing, and when the length of jeans allows I’ve played around with not having turn-ups - it looks a little cleaner, perhaps feels more straightforward too.
The important word there, as ever, is ‘play’. This is not a seasonal fashion, it’s a decade-plus trend; and it’s a small thing, not like cut-offs or letting your trousers puddle around your ankles. So play around with the choices, and accept that a chunk of how you feel will always be social.
Except for vintage, jeans will shrink a bit after wash and wear, even if they are sanforised. So you can start with a wide turn up and have a smaller one after a while, or start with a smaller turn up (around an inch) and lose it after some wear and wash. Indeed something to play around with!
Very true, thanks for adding Paul
Yes that’s it and I think jeans are supposed to be a bit less exact than tailored trousers, so being able to switch them around with different lengths for different footwear types (as Simon mentioned).
I also think with more slim fit tapered jeans there is a concertina effect which can look a bit weird, so the turn up makes the lower leg line a bit more clean, so the jeans don’t ruffle at the ankle and instead kind of hang.
On the latter Jack, you mean for jeans the same length? I guess a turn-up makes a small difference there in terms of weight and also tapers the jean a tiny bit
I meant that a tapered bottom which is slightly long and not not turned up can really rumple/ruffle up the leg and look odd, kind of like those ankle warmers that dancers wear in the 80s. Therefore simply turning up and making a cuff straightens the ankle area of the jeans.
A good point you make about turn up cuff cinching in a touch to add a taper – perhaps in wider leg jeans….
That’s called “stacking” and is popular in some circles, including real cowboys for a long time.
Excellent practical point.
I think cuffs look great on some people but they’re not for me. I’m quite tall (6’3″) but I have relatively short legs and cuffs just make my legs look even shorter. For dark jeans, I usually get them hemmed when I buy them (Blackhorse Lane, Rivet and Hide, Son of a Stag all have proper chain stitching machines) and then for washed / faded jeans, my local tailor (Rocha – https://www.rocha-uk.com) can shorten them but preserve the original hem and roping (no idea how it’s done but the seam is invisible). I also think cuffing tends to look better on slimmer cut / tapered jeans – on straight / wider jeans it never looks quite right to me.
I live in trendy Richmond-upon-Thames and rarely see men or women, young or middle-aged, wearing denim jeans with turn-ups. Perhaps it is more of an inner city or Hipster fashion like beanie hats. As you suggest, clearance (especially with piles of wet leaves on local pavements) would be a good reason to turn up jeans or trousers. It would also keep the denims cleaner and reduce the need to wash them, another Hipster fad. I just wear Stonecutter moleskin jeans, available from several menswear retailers, and wash them after a couple days wear.
Yeah I’m not sure I’d call Richmond trendy Gary! (I grew up near there)
I think it is interesting how much the trends around you make you look at these things differently. I was rather liking the uncuffed look I’d seen on a few people, and then seeing how people near my parents didn’t put me off again. It was of course also the jeans themselves, the length, how they were worn etc, but it’s hard not to conflate them all
Richmond was more trendy when I moved here but most of the shops which sold quality menswear have long gone. The High Street now has the same brands as other London Boroughs.
The locals are back in nylon puffer jackets/anoraks, jeans and trainers. At the weekends, the pubs and restaurants are full of young professionals with fleeces/gilets replacing the nylon jackets. Crew Clothing, Barbour, Gant and Polo RL are popular with the middle aged and retirees as the brands are stocked by the brand’ shops and local department stores.
Post-lockdown, it’s extremely rare to see anyone who is well dressed. I often feel out of place and self-conscious, especially in a tweed jacket.
Gary, I assume that Richmond still has a Transport for London station to get up to the West End for good tailoring & more. In the 70’s as teenagers we’d travel by train from Islington to Richmond for the ‘countryside’ in a London borough. Surely the people of Richmond go & venture into The Big Smoke. Otherwise you’ll have to be their exemplar.
I’ve also never noticed anybody turning up their jeans, but I’d put that down to living in a somewhat remote part of Canada. The upside is that I never notice passing fashions. The downside is that I’m reliant on Simon and his colleagues for news from the metropolis (I’m always pleased to see some people still wear ties).
I also live in Canada but not in a remote place. Very few people in my social circle turn up their jeans but I do.
It comes from buying a selvedge pair and wanting to wear them right away. I had to cuff them as they were too long otherwise. I liked the look and stuck with it.
I’ve never really considered selvedge. I tend to treat jeans as disposable, like socks, one step above sweatpants. I usually have one pair each of newish black and blue 501s, and one pair each faded, and buy new ones and demote the newish pair when the faded pair becomes too ratty for gardening. I’ll only wear new black jeans to the office. I’ve never needed to cuff, purely because 34” leg 501s fit me perfectly.
Maybe I should try to find out what the fuss is about selvedge one of these days.
It might be worth it, yes.
To be honest I also feel uncomfortable at the idea any clothes are thought of as disposable. Especially jeans, as the way good ones age is beautiful and makes them pretty much the only piece of clothing you can literally wear until they fall apart
That’s the tragedy of the Levi’s 501. By the time they’re perfect, they’re almost worn out. The more you grow to love them, the less time you have with them. It’s practically poetic.
Do you think? I feel like there’s years of enjoyment in the middle there, and even when they’re virtually worn out, you can patch them and carry on. I have vintage pairs from the sixties and seventies that are worn thin and patched but still great. Certainly not in a disposable category after decades of wear
all my jeans tend to wear out where my bum bone is (ischial tuberosity). no way to patch there. great shame as i hate chucking things away. Must have a bony bum i guess 🙂
Well, my notions of what constitute perfect 501s were formed in the eighties: back then, perfect 501s were faded, holed, and a few laundry cycles away being thrown out as disreputable by my mother. I absolutely agree that you can get years of wear and enjoyment out of a pair of Levis, but I think they’re at their peak right before they burn out. I do recall patching a few really well-loved pairs back then, too. It’s been a long while since I’ve done that; it’d make a fun project.
One thing that I have noticed that today’s 501s are not as high quality as they were in the good old days. I’d be interested to see a modern pair under a microscope next to a vintage pair. Somebody who understands fabric and garment construction might be able to further the state of denim science :).
Interested to hear how your project turns out!
Yes, the quality has certainly reduced over the years. We wrote about different qualities of denim here and how the processes changed over time, which gives you some insight. It would also have been during your time buying, in the 80s and into the 90s, that the change in processes began to take over.
Levi’s do do some good denim still, like the LVC programme which I think is being discontinued unfortunately. And the Lot 1 bespoke service, which I’ve covered a few times over the years.
Selvedge your own jeans. “Wash” your trusty 501’s in cold water/soak with apple cider vinegar. Hang dry. Those trusty 501s will last for years and hardly fade.
What is the “correct” height for a jean turn up please?
I have experimented with 1/4”, 1/2” and 3/4” but am not sure which one is the right one.
No ‘correct’ one – a bigger one means you accentuate some of these effects I guess, and it stands out more. There’s a point that it should be relative to the trouser length too, but that’s only going to make a difference in a small number of cases. I tend to prefer around 3/4
I always turn up my jeans…. except for the times when I dont.
All days are judged on merit and how I feel. Most all of my denim (well over 30 pairs, all selvege) start life too long and I have them taken up (mostly in UK, I send them back specifically to the places that use the Union machine to achieve the roping as per new/raw jeans) so there is no excuse for me about length, its all about how I feel and I agree the cuff feels more casual. Shout out to Orslow, the only denim I dont need to shorten the legs. Its also not a modern thing for me, as a young enterprising lad embracing the culture of my youth, all my jeans were cuffed with small turn-ups (that be back in the 70’s) I am, admittedly both a coffee and a denim geek.
30 pairs is quite a haul, i reckon some only get worn once or twice a year!? tell me about your favourites. (another coffee enthusiast here)
Hi Zo, seems I did not see your question sorry. It started with Levi vintage 501 and they stirred my interest in selvedge and then Japanese selvedge denim. I became a little obsessed to find the perfect pair (I’m sure they are out there) and started research and buying. I think my count is nearer 40 than 30 and you are bang on, some hardly ever get worn but I can’t bring myself to through them out. Your question made me really think about the favourites, I can say Spellbound get my vote as my favourite denim but I don’t wear them much, Pure Blue Japan gets a reasonable amount of wear with tailoring and then strangely I found Ralph Lauren’s RRL line of selvedge jeans have great fit. My (mostly Japanese) denim range the usual subjects of Momotara, PBJ; ONI denim are another firm favourite. I don’t like flashy denim, I don’t like bright pocket stitching, (I rubbed the back pocket white stripes off my Mototaro jeans)I prefer simple straightforward easy denim that would fly under the radar. The answer to the which are my favourite question probably is easiest answered by the amount of wear. My go to jeans are Orslow 105 (I like 107 also but prefer 105), they just seem to work on all levels, i have a few in rotation as I like dark with tailoring and faded as casual and one in between (because there is always ‘in-between’) I have too many jeans I know and strangely my never ending quest is so that I only need one or two pair but the search goes on. Honourable mention to Black Horse Lane and The Armoury who’s jeans get a regular wear but mostly with tailoring. (I have not mentioned the white/off white/ecru jeans so I wont – except just there when I did, sorry) I still have my first pair of vintage Levi 501, my last denim purchase was Black Horse Lane, my most worn is Orslow, favourite denim (cloth) is Spellbound. Dont think I have regretted buying any of them, Raleigh (from USA) were odd but wearable, PRPS in early days for some reason I found boring but they are all there, most packed in a case and they come out every 6 months to rotate. I have, I think, 8 pr in wardrobe that get worn most and mentioned above.
Thats is for the short answer, its tempting to keep writing sorry, and then there is coffee…. as a fellow geek I am sure you understand thats a whole other world completely!
Gary, would love to know where do you start? What is the correct length of the jean for you before you cuff? I always have to get my jeans tailored, they always are too long for me so the cuff would look too “fat”. But I always wonder, should I have them shortened to the “correct” length as if I am not cuffing and then cuff according to preference and shoe selection…or should I leave them a tad longer to be able to cuff later?
Sorry about the late reply. I have found my own method of madness in all this after some trial and error. I have my tailored trousers at 30.5 inches and this works perfect with only a slight break on the shoes. For all my jeans (except Orslow that need no adjustment) I send to UK (a few places with turn up denim on old Union machines so you get the same turn-up and roping) and have them taken up to 31 inch. This gives me the option of leaving them without a turn-up and they never look too long, or with a turn-up where they dont look too short (Im not a fan of turn ups to or past ankle). For the turn-up I dont measure or give too much thought, I just fold them up on outside which is probably around half and inch +/- and its never even all the way around. So the easy answer is that I have my length about 1/2 inch longer than my tailored trousers which leaves me the options I spoke of.
I know I am swimming against the current, but all these internet guides (see piece here – ‘Japanese cuff) do bother me a tad. Why is the Japanese cuff? I was ‘cuffing’ in the 70’s and it was definitely nothing to do with Japan. Once people see it written down, they assume it’s a law or a rule or ‘as things should be’ which then can lose the individual effort. Maybe I am grumpy and see years of my individual effort dismissed by some blade who became an expert after reading a web page. I had some chap (more of a dude with white shoes) lecture me on where I was going wrong with my pocket hanky a few years ago… he had embraced the pocket hanky probably weeks ago and me with mine going back well over 50 years. He assumed expert status because he had read an article on how it should be done.
Or maybe it’s just me…..
Pleasantly the approach is more analytic, open and discursive here, focalizing the actual language of casual turn-ups. Some notes of indoctrination and manner may occur …
On a slightly related topic I think I noticed you also cuff chinos – is it a similar thought process?
Yes, eg see here, and for similar reasons. Though given chinos are not as ubiquitous, and are less frequently worn rolled-up, there is less of a social/fashion issue there
Yes I noticed on your comparison piece on Anglo- Italian, Drakes & A&S chinos you had what looked like tailored turn ups rather than a turned up cuff; was this to smarten up a chino more permanently rather than as & when required?
Yes, but also those weren’t really chinos in the sense I would use the term normally, more tailored cotton trousers
I’m a bit weird in that I can’t stand tailored trousers without cuffs, but I prefer my jeans to be cuffless. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m on the shorter side and in order to cuff my jeans enough, the cuff gets too big. Or maybe because the inside of jeans is a different color than the outsude, so cuffs on denim break up the line of color and seem to shorten the leg a bit.
I have a great denim tailor near me who can shorten the legs and reattach the bottom hem so it looks as good as new, so that’s what I’ve been doing. I just prefer the clean look without a cuff.
genuinely surprised to read that the convention is to turn up and not doing so is more of a look these days. I have always thought the opposite (and certainly that’s the case in my social circle), but interesting nonetheless
Yeah always good to hear what others see – as I said, it’s in my social circle, my social media circle
Your social circle and your social media circle maybe two completely different things. Better to clarify in the article. My social circle is composed of people who (mostly) don’t care about clothes, love gardening, spend most of their time in the park with small children and generally wear whatever they can find lying around the house. Whereas my social media circle is a curated selection of menswear enthusiasts who dress impeccably, like you, for example. They couldn’t be further apart, in dressing terms.
Completely. Given my job, there is of course more overlap, but many of my friends that are not involved in fashion also cuff their jeans, and I’d say the majority of men (certainly under the age of 50) around me do so too.
Interesting regarding age & turn ups/cuffs. Mentioning an age bracket up to 50. Does this mean that at a certain age with fashion traits there is a cut off age.Some are concerned about dressing appropriately for their age, but perhaps age should not be the only criteria for what’s appropriate, for instance height, deportment & body shape. We all come indifferent shapes & I guess even cuffs on some under 50 look not quite right with a beer belly or saggy trouser seat. All fine judgements, maybe if in doubt leave it out & feel comfortable with what you wear & how you wear it & be on the conservative side with age.
Having my jeans hemmed is something I regret doing as now I can’t wear them with turnups. I won’t make that mistake next time.
I did get some new chinos recently which are a bit long and I end up cuffing them. I think many of the same things apply, but I feel more self-conscious doing it with them, perhaps because I see it less. But there’s also no selvedge line on many chinos and a lack of contrast between the outside and inside of the fabric.
I guess it’s a locale thing. I do remember as a kid cuffs on jeans were de rigeur, and I do see people wear them from time to time today, they aren’t uncommon, but I wouldn’t not say they are dominant in the Dallas, Tx area. Not that Dallas is some men’s fashion Mecca. I kinda figured it was mostly to show off the selvedge, which is something I would avoid. I’m personally against the look for perhaps the reasons you are for it where you are, I do not want to stand out.
As someone who is shorter stature and with shorter legs, I always get my jeans chain stitched to the right length. A standard 34″ inseam is far too long for me – mine is 28.5″ – so not tailoring jeans to length leaves way too much. Although that limits the shops from where I can purchase – because they have to have the right type of machine to hem with a chain stitch – those shops generally only carry high end jeans.
I always ask for an extra 1/2″ in the hem b/c I know once I start washing them, the length will shrink a little. Although I could turn up for the first year or so, I think an uninterrupted line makes my legs look a tad less short.
Me too. And it’s a big debate for me. I want my jeans to not.bunch up, but then the risk is that they become half mast after a couple of washes. Personally, the best place I’ve found for us shorties is Edwin. They shorten then with the chain stitch do you don’t get that horrible DIY look.
I’m about the same inseam (depending on rise). I feel if the length is not perfect my legs look shorter and sloppy. If I do a single casual cuff, it feels less regular and almost longer, more open. It’s kind of hard to explain.
Something,I think,that works best on heavy denim.
I live in Amsterdam and hardly ever see anyone cuff their jeans, especially not young people. Maybe more of a “convention” among middle-aged denim lovers?
Good article. Thoughts on a single vs double fold? (or am I overthinking it?). I’ve bought a few jeans in the last year, trying to find something that works. Orslow 107 is the one. Toyed with getting them shortened. Glad that instead I’ve gone with the turn up.
Single usually, double only if you want to have a small cuff but the excess is too long for that
As someone who has quite short legs, I need to have my jeans tailored to a decent enough length where I can single cuff them. =(
I have never cuffed a pair of jeans and I have not seen a lot of people doing it. I guess I’ll start observing a bit more after reading this. I don’t have anything against cuffing but I do wear all trousers without a cuff by default.
The only cuffed trousers I have are those of my linen summer suit, as I thought it would help a bit with wrinkling/drape.
This is a great article — exactly the kind of minutiae I’m here for!
I think I saw one of these exchanges in the comments and started pondering this topic. I suppose I turn up my jeans mostly because it’s a style I’ve seen and it’s now just what I’m used to, though I also agree with your more practical points. As I more thought about it, it also does seem to me that it make a difference to the way the leg line looks.
I have rather thin legs and ankles. So I find that that if I have jeans hemmed to the “proper” length (without a cuff) then unless they’re very tapered (which presents its own set of issues) they tend to flare out to the side at the bottom (i.e., perpendicular to the direction my shoe is pointing). A cuff helps them project out a bit more forward (i.e., out over the shoe). For me, that’s the look I’m aiming at — a modestly tapered, mostly straight leg that just sort of stops at my shoe, rather than a more aggressive taper or a flare at the bottom.
I find that cuffs on tailored trousers serve much the same purpose for me. It helps to get the right three-dimensional shape to the leg line — a modestly tapered leg that extends forward over my shoes, instead of flaring out to the side.
This. This is exactly my reason for cuffing most trousers and having very slight turnups with jeans, particularly as I like my hems fairly straight.
Two points from me (as someone whom has cuffed for many years)
– There are different ways to cuff. Some pretty neat ones when you have multiple turns required in the turn-up so as to still show the chain stitching on the hem
– If the jeans aren’t selvedge then the turn-up in my view does look messy and extremely casual; best avoided I feel.
I live in Atlanta and everyone who wears selvedge denim turns them up, but I think we do so, at least in part, to distinguish ourselves from those lowly men who wear “dad jeans.” If I am wearing Red Wings, like I am now, I have a full 3 3/4 inch cuff.
Hi simon what colou belt are you wearing in the picture with your pink oxford (and oatmeal? jacket) and cordovan loafers? Are they black?
I’m not wearing a belt Shem, I usually don’t with jeans. The loafers are Color 8
Dare someone asks – what about a double cuff? Turned up not once, but two times?
Answered in a comment just above
it was only a matter of time before this subject was cemented into the PS archive. I think you’ve covered the bases of why people cuff/don’t cuff nicely.
Going against what other readers have mentioned, I actually think cuffs look better (cleaner?) on straight/wider/fuller cuts. I’ve always been more of a straight/full cut guy with denim. Recently, I’ve stopped down sizing, buying my actual waist size (even sizing up for more room in cases) so the thigh, rises etc. are how I want them, then taking the waist in through the seat as/if required.
I have a couple of pairs of denim from the ‘down sizing days’ that I don’t have the heart to get rid of, the denim is beautiful, they cost decent money and at the very least they’re good for dog walking, work around the house, even if they are a little too snug in the thigh for my liking. The rises still work for me. My solution? Clean hem, no cuff. by comparison with my newer, fuller cuts they just feel too slim/tapered with a cuff, however with a clean hem they just about work. Cuffing remains the default however, just adds some interest and I like/enjoy the associations you’ve highlighted.
A draw back in cuffing jeans is the dirt you collect in the cuff. Remembering to shake them out of a window is key to avoiding constant hoovering.
Also, there is no doubt that a significant cuff, particularly on dark denim, does not enhance the visual leg length of the vertically challenged.
I’ve always thought of jean turn ups as the province of the young, usually hipsters, but in your view this is incorrect based on this article. How should the 50+ year old man therefore, approach this subject? I enjoy dressing like an adult and want to make sure that this turn up idea doesn’t detract from that concept or worse, become an affectation.
I think as long as it isn’t an extreme cuff, a big one, then neither will look like an affectation Scott. I would try turning them up a little bit for a while and see how you feel about it. You might start noticing how others do or don’t do it now too
This seems to be one small area where fashion has a big say. People who care about clothes tend to turn up their jeans because everybody else does, without considering the effect it might have on them or their body type.
Personally, I don’t turn up jeans due to my height (5’10” – not short but with no desire to look shorter). I’ve tried it but the lighter colour draws attention to the ankles in a way that turn ups on tailored trousers don’t. However, I don’t see this as a “statement”; it just suits me better. I will say, though, that shorter men who wear workwear often look great with turned-up jeans, particularly if they are stocky.
I really dislike the “fake-hem” thing most alterations tailor offer (since no one I know has a proper chain-stitching machine here), I suppose partly because of the idea itself first and foremost (what is more inauthentic and studied than fake hems on jeans?). On the other hand I find double cuffs and such to really, sharply shorten the silhouette unlike trouser cuffs which are in same material and color and have therefore a negligible effect imo.
My preference is either cuffing only the very edge of the hem, or none at all. The advantage of the above imo is not really in showing the selvedge ID (who cares) but that it seems to help the hem stay in an elliptical shape around the shoe rather than flop about. The disadvantage is that the small cuff gets dirty at in incredible speed just by normal walking in normal-condition streets as you keep kicking dust and all else into it.
Unfortunately, I’m also too short not to deep/double cuff my jeans in traditional sizes. So my “solution” is that I am not currently buying denim from almost anywhere, since most brands don’t sell a size 30 (which would shrink to my ideal 29 after a few washes and maybe tiny turn up) and I don’t have any option for local proper chain-stitch hemming. I could buy from those UK/EU retailers that offer it, but then I’d have to order the pair “blindly” without first trying it on and without the possibility to send it back since it’s been altered, which I don’t want to do.
In fact this a large part of why I’m barely wearing jeans these days in the first place. Either trousers or chinos. Stylistically speaking I really like ecru jeans and Nudie even offers a proper /30 size, but I’ve found them actually very impractical as they get dirty so easily you have to constantly wash them, which means you are constantly having to break them in again as pure cotton jeans gets very stiff after each wash in my experience.
Maybe I need an even less slim pair (which was already very hard to find in said size) and then to just sharply take in the waist, but at some point one starts to wonder, if they take so much effort to work, does it not defeat the whole purpose of wearing jeans in the first place?
Single or double turnup that’s the important bit. Personally, I could never leave the house with a single turn-up, it’s far too loose. It must be a double and as thin as possible.
But nowadays I’m definitely in the non-cuff camp with no break, a much slicker and altogether streamlined look. Once you know the length you like it’s easy to get the correct roping effect by taking them to a specialist jeans place that has the proper chain stitch machine you need. Then you just need to wash them to get the rope effect back and, if they are vintage, a bit of sandpaper to get the fade back…. Then no more worrying about displaying your selvedge.
My quandary at the moment is what sort of hem to go for? Chain stitch with roping (puts you in the denim snob “cares too much” category), standard stitched hem like your mother would do (kind of cool, he cares, but not too much, natural style category), or the frayed cut-off which seems to be the latest trend (I’m too cool for you and got no time for hemming).
I think the last question is probably over thinking it a little bit Paul – certainly a chain stitch and roping doesn’t necessarily mean you care too much. Just that you bought good denim and they’ve faded
I am probably one of the probably many people that turns up jeans to disguise how short they are on me. At 6’4 with long legs it’s near impossible to find jeans that either fit in the leg or the rise/seat and often end up with a bit of flaring around the ankle when I walk. If I turn them up slightly it makes the reveal of sock look much more deliberate and the tightening of the rise causing the flare much less noticeable. Annoying, but so few places stock jeans I like in a length that fits.
I also wanted to mention the leg twist that appears on raw denim. If you wanted to highlight that, than a turn-up comes in handy because it creates a bright crooked line above your shoes. This makes the jeans even more casual to me. That effect really caught my eye when I bought my first raw denim and I was not sure if I liked it, now I embrace it.
Umm, because life is too short and I cant be bothered to find someone to shorten a pair of jeans?
A lovely summary, yet, I bought my first pair of selvedge jeans in the year two thousand and something, when Danny and Junior from Rivet and Hide were in a first floor appointment only showroom in Parsons Green and I didn’t want turn ups then and I’ve never had them since on multiple pairs. I’ve always viewed turn ups on selvedge as a sign saying “LOOK AT MY SELVEDGE!” and as someone who prefers low-key to these things, that’s why I’ve never tuned up my jeans. I also think no turn ups looks a bit smarter.
Would you ever roll up chinos?
Yes, eg see here, and for similar reasons. Though given chinos are not as ubiquitous, and are less frequently worn rolled-up, there is less of a social/fashion issue there
Growing up in 1960’s-1970’s USA when you needed new dungarees ( that’s what jeans were called then) your bought them by your waist size. If the store had your inseam you bought that size, if the only ones in your waist size were too long, you bought them and rolled the cuff. For us kids they were just pants, no concept of “style.”
I cuff jeans sometimes, based on the shoes I’m wearing. If I’m wearing high or bulky boots I cuff them to avoid them pooling on top of the boots. The size of the cuff is based on the height of the shoes.
If the shoes are lower, I very rarely cuff. Despite the fact that every pair of trousers I own apart from jeans is cuffed, I don’t like the look on jeans unless there is some kind of practical reasons for doing it like the height or shoes or not getting the hems muddy when walking in the forest.
Another bonus of cuffing jeans is the flexibility to adapt to footwear. For example, I prefer a shorter trouser when wearing chukkas, but usually want a longer trouser with a canvas shoe or loafer.
Well, I cannot really relate to this article because I hardly see any cuffed-up jeans (if at all, I might have to look harder). Nearly nobody seems to wear them, where I live. I tried it once (due to Permanent Style), and the only reaction I got was that my jeans seem to be too long. I also do not really get it, why one would want to make his legs appear shorter. Having said all this, around 10-20 years ago you could see cuffed up suit trousers, quite rarely. Even then, it was considered old-fashioned.
Where do you live?
In the south east of England it is common.
Me too. Now I see why you think tassel loafers are weird. Also it is true that cuffed jeans are a minority here. The cheap skinny stretch denim that contradicts any cuffing is ubiquitous, except maybe for hipster districts like the 7th where I live.
There are certainly differences, which I find interesting when reading PS: (i) Black as a colour certainly not as controversial in Vienna, (ii) not many loafers and no problem with lace-up shoes, (iii) everything seems to be cut a little slimmer, (iv) more technical-fabrics which I think can be explained by our winter.
Simon, I have an issue with jeans which kept me from owning a pair in the last decade: When I sit down, they slide down on the back, even if I wear a belt. I have tried high rise jeans and ones with a full leg but the issue persists. Do you happen to know what the issue is here and how it can be rectified? Many thanks in advance!
It’s hard to say, V, but I’d suggest they’re not full enough in the seat or not tight enough in the waist
Hi Simon, Thanks for an interesting read. I think both can look good in different ways. I tend to go with turn-ups, for less formal looks (usually trainers or desert boots) usually worn-in selvedge and without for darker indigo (shoes such as penny loafers or smarter boots). I have different lengths pairs for these looks. As covered many times it’s down individual preference and to some extent social group.
I can’t imagine a hipster in Hoxton, not having turn ups. Which brings us to the recently covered ‘associations’, in that when I wear them I sometimes think, self consciously, it can look a little contrived.
Can you advise on how you keep them looking neat and flat, do you press them in? Mine tend to look a bit lumpy!
Finally completely agree on roping on the bottom hem, anything else looks almost as bad as pressing creases down the front leg – unless someone it trying to look ironic!
Yes, I usually press them at some point, unless it’s a tiny turn-up
I think the cuffed jeans have become a very “affected” look, best suited for places like catalogues and the trendier parts of Manhattan.
You can easily recreate the roping on a hemmed pair of jeans with a piece of sandpaper. There are tutorials on YouTube, but it doesn’t take any special technique. Just take a picture of the original hem, or use another pair of jeans for reference and rub away.
Yeah I know what you mean Kevin – doesn’t it feel a little bit fake though? Maybe that’s just me, but I love so much how jeans age naturally that it feels odd to do it artificially
I have recently taken to turning up various styles of trousers. I find it gives them a completely different look, for example turning up a smarter pair of tailored trousers and wearing them casually with a pair of casual shoes/sneakers opens up the trousers to a whole new life. Not for everyone I agree, but it it works for me.
I tried multiple times to have my jeans shortened and to have the original hem reattached (to avoid that weird worn fabric/brand new hem combo mentioned in the article), but doing so makes the hem ridiculously stiff, and it’s also visible when you decide to cuff them after all.
Usually people do that when they are going to cuff their jeans Andreas – so the seam is hidden underneath. I wouldn’t do it when you’re not cuffing, as it looks a bit fake to see the seam?
I turn up all of my jeans (and chinos I think). As well as controlling the length, I find it makes the leg hang better, although that might just be in my imagination.
On another note, I once lost my wedding ring for several hours and had despairingly given it up as gone when it miraculously fell out of one of my turn ups. Of course, I can’t not turn up any more!
Working on New Street in Birmingham I wish more men turned up their jeans, or just bought the right length in the first place because there’s almost always that puddle/creasing at the bottom with skinny jeans at the top of the shoe. But maybe that’s the key, wearing more fashion-y or cheap jeans they’re less likely to care enough to turn them up.
Similarly, would love to see some kind of insight into how so many men believe they need (sometimes much) longer trousers or jacket than they really do. But that’s probably not for here, I’m just having a rant.
I see that on the vast majority of people actually, including here in Italy, and it saddens me as well. I think most people just do not get their trousers hemmed, they probably don’t even notice that the trousers/jeans puddle a bit (or a lot, sometimes); and if they do, they don’t care about it.
Tragically, this always happens for example with people who clearly never wore a suit in their life, when suddenly they need to dress up for that big occasion (e.g. graduation, a wedding). But is by no means limited to that.
After all, I also used to not care at all. At one point some years ago I started getting interested in clothes, and after understanding that “the puddle” was ruining the beautiful straight line of the trousers, I can no longer “unsee it”, not on me nor on others, no matter how smart or casual the outfit is.
This is also why I stopped buying stretchy slim cuts and started looking for straighter fits (still very hard to find in Italy), in addition to problems with OTC socks.
Besides that majority of people, there is also still a surprising amount of people who don’t really care for clothes or personal style, yet think that showing a glimpse of sock even though in motion (which always happens unless you go full break) is some kind of disaster that would condemn you to the ridicule of your colleagues. I know because I have received comments just by wearing quarter-breaks on cuffed trousers (which I believe is the only proper way to wear cuffed dress trousers).
I don’t really have an explanation for that, besides the fact that somehow showing sock has been widely associated with dreaded over-the-top “fashion looks” (e.g. think suitsupply models). What baffles me is these people often act like dress codes are dead and buried except for that single sock-showing rule – in fact most other details are more nuanced than they care for, so they actually do end up victims of the current fashion trends anyway (e.g. skinny-ish chino trousers, jackets mid-bum if they wear a jacket at all).
In the California Dept of Corrections, at least since the ’80s although perhaps earlier (see a wider albeit very brief history here of Levi’s on the inside: https://www.levistrauss.com/2016/05/05/the-prison-pants-a-history-of-levis-behind-bars/), incarcerated men would cut the stitched bottoms so the end of the jeans laid flat, and then were folded up 2-3 times and ironed to a crisp. So this more refined turn-up with very thin folds can be linked to a prison-style phenom.
Huh, thanks Jason, interesting
Sounds like from late ‘50s to early ‘60s, and then in full effect by the ‘70s.
I cuff my suit pants (I.25 inches/3.3cm).. I cuff my odd trousers. I cuff my khakis. I like the look. But I buy jeans with a 30in./76cm finished inseam, pull on a pair and walk right out the door.
Hey Simon, have u got the full straight head to toe pic with that folded jeans-sockless-suede chukk??… wow
Yeah, the image is from this article
Awesome! Tks mate! Trying out with my Santoni
One of my favourite comment threads on Permanent Style! So interesting reading the differing points of view (and passionate ones at that!)
I have relatively recently landed upon a couple of pairs of jeans that work for me (Brycelands and Levis Lot 1 bespoke) and am currently cuffing until I’m sure they won’t shrink any further before getting them hemmed, and I am really looking forward to that day as I just don’t like the look of the cuff – odd because (like others have said) I prefer trousers with turn-ups? I think it’s the contrast of colours that I find jarring.
Why do people turn up their jeans? It looks cool and allows to perfectly manage the length due to natural shrinking over time. Worst than anything else in term of style is to wear anything too long or too short. Perfect fitting is the key to natural elegance and turn up allow to manage this perfectly. Especially with different kind of shoes. At the right length, I do not mind wearing a jean with or without turn up. And the turn up is what makes a pair of Jean so easy to wear in any situation, with loafers or working boots…
Thanks Eric. Surely your jeans aren’t shortening after the first couple of washes? Even if they’re raw, that should take pretty much all the shrinkage out, and it’s at that point that I’d decide what length I wanted them
I agree, but for me a couple of washes can take more than a year as I keep my denim raws as long as possible to be able to wear them more formally in the office. The main advantage remains to manage the length depending on shoes: longer in summer with loafers, shorter in winter with boots.
Ah, yes well then it is a pain!
Give them selvedge!
As far as I remember I only turned up jeans when I was riding a bicycle. And only on the right leg where the chain is. My son ruined the bicycle and I never bought a new one.
No, now I remember also when there was mud in the forest.
I guess I am of the opinion that I should only wear a trend once in my lifetime. I was born in the early 70s, so my parents dressed me in bell-bottom jeans as a toddler and young child. When that style returned in the 90s, I avoided it. Likewise, as a teenager in the 80s, rolling up your jeans was a trend in California, where I lived. So when turning up the cuff, or rolling up your jeans, came back into popularity around 2008-2010, I avoided it with one exception. I picked up a J. Crew x Levi’s 501 selvedge pair at 75% off that was my waist size, but 4 inches too long. That extra fabric cuffed was annoyingly heavy and after a proper wash to allow for shrinkage, I had them hemmed. I also felt self-conscious wearing it cuffed, like some middle-aged guy trying to fit in with the cool kids.
As you describe David, it is rather about how you feel in the context around you.
Back in 1990 when I got my first 501s (bought on my first visit to UK and London), they were an inch too long. I always wire them hemmed inwards, so to speak. I remember being concerned that the roping didn’t show, but I found that a visible hem would be much more embarrassing in the early 1990s Levi’s cult.
Of course I wore my jeans, I do not ’wire’ them…
Shame Per, I was going to ask what that was.
I almost never see cuffed jeans in Los Angeles. Truly, almost never. But then I almost never see someone who looks as if he cares about fashion wearing jeans to begin with. Cuffed=fashion, and jeans these days aren’t fashion. I have to assume it’s different in London.
It is, but also in a few other places around the world, going on the various comments from readers. Eg below
I can’t imagine wearing beautiful Japanese jeans and not cuffing them to show off the selvedge. I prefer a double cuff as a single is too loose. Where I live in North Carolina selvedge is definitely a thing and most people of all ages cuff their jeans to show it.
I always enjoy these comments, but this one has to be my favourite so far. Denim often stretches (for the denim purists no pun intended) people to their nerdy extremes, me included so no judgment. Anyway enough of the off the cuff remarks.
Although I wear slim-ish jeans a lot, I’ve always thought of turn-ups on them as a little bit of a fashion affectation.That combined with a 30” inside leg means I’ve never had them on anything, suit trousers included – just prefer a cleaner line. Also squeamish about second-hand clothes, and I’m not really into spending a mortgage payment on some rare-loom artisanal Japanese ones I’ve never heard of.
On the last point, appreciate the cost aspect absolutely, but think of them more just as good quality – the kind of quality that used to be the norm 50 years ago, before everything became mass market
A very interesting & timely reference for me regarding jeans & chinos. I’m of a certain age where I’m aware of these ‘trends’ but was also conscious of mutton dressed up as lamb & if it had a function beyond gaining the desired length. I was also aware of some ridiculous, in my view, of having massive turn ups akin to some early Westerns – this may well have been the norm for such workfare; I doubt they’d go to a tailor.
I prefer dark indigo jeans & a a smarter look with a tweed jacket, but I’m now persuaded that a turn up might work well to improve length with boots or shoes, to break the line, & if desired give an accent to a more casual 👀 . But there is sometimes the need to consider the turn up for the transition to the first wash. I had the occasion to have my HLA’s turned up before their first wash because the length was far too long, & was not going to shrink that much & the look would have been just too much with the resultant turn up.
One consequence I personally don’t like with turn ups is the wear & fraying underneath the jeans stitched turn up – this stitched finish I feel is a stronger finish for wear. But I know you & others like the frayed look but when the threads break & become stringy it looks too scruffy for me. Ditto your pointer re vintage ; it would go against the look to have an adjusted tailored hem.
I’d be interested in your & other reader’s take on turn ups for the older man.
I certainly think it’s worth erring towards conservatism, but I still think a small turn-up can look good and not like you’re trying to follow a fashion. But having said that, it is very dependent on context, as has become clear throughout this comment thread. So it depends on how you feel compared to what you see around you
You’ve confirm that my hunch on things regarding being conservative. I’m regularly in central London where cuffs of various sizes are common but normally by the younger trendy types frequenting Soho, Marylebone…lNormally I dress according to time, place & need to not stand out e.g. Brixton Academy at night etc. But small cuffs solve trouser length nicely for such needs mentioned before. As ever dress is related to pleasing oneself without standing out too much in the environment you’re within.
Nicely put Steve
Interesting to read (in the article but especially in the comments) how much of a topic this is! I always role a sloppy and tiny cuff, 2 cm max, just rolling the hem, but I never considered why. After thinking about it uncuffed jeans or big cuffs (although I have 4 cm ones on most of my tailoring) don’t work for me because they look too neat cq studied to me on jeans and a little casual role works better. Feels ‘cool’ in some way. But I guess I would have the jeans uncuffed in a relatively smart outfit with smarter shoes and a jacket. Thanks for triggering this little personal examination 🙂
Am I going mad, or is everything on ps.com more taupe?
You’re not mad Matt, we’ve had a little redesign. Article coming this morning on it
Very simply, I do it because I think it looks good, it adds a contrast at shoe level, and it helps the jeans hang better.
Spot on Clifton.
I wish I could play with cuffs on my jeans, because I find they do add an interesting relaxed effect. But being ~171cm, they hardly do me any favors. Haha
Other than in the late 80’s, I had never cuffed my jeans until very recently
When I was buying fairly cheap jeans I tended to get them taken up by the store (or choose the length without too much break) as I’m only 5ft 7 and otherwise I’d have a lot of material to deal with. I always went longer than for a regular trouser. I’m not big on having lots of ankle on display, especially at my height and with my chunky legs and rear – zero break turns quickly into mid calf when sitting for me
Nowadays I wear mainly Hiut (although some MTM BLA will hopefully be in my future). The selvedge ones I (almost) always cuff, the organic ones I don’t – I ‘d feel silly showing the lack of Selvedge finish on the Organic ones. I do feel the cuffing makes me look shorter, but it just looks so good with certain outfits
Hi Simon, So moving on from denim jeans what’s your take on cuffs on chino’s , they can have a similar problem with length & possibly making a smarter chino more casual with a cuff etc.Or would you have them altered to a desired length & finished with a similar hem as bought?
See above in the comments Steve. I know there’s a lot of them, but a quick search on the page will bring it up
You know one place where you will not see cuffed jeans? On a working ranch in the American West. They are worn over cowboy boots or ropers, and a few cm either way does not matter.
My two uncles were both railway men and smokers. They would visit my mom, a non smoker. She would refuse to put out ashtrays for them to dissuade them from lighting up. Undeterred, they would just tap the cigarette ash into the cuffs of their blue jeans as any good working man would do. That and them lighting the wooden matches by striking the match down the thigh of their jeans was one of the coolest things I observed as a young child.
I don’t like them as much because they are more noticeable, myself. However, it may be that on the Blackhorse Lane page they are showing stock jeans on a model, so they have to be folded up to suit his height – it’s not necessarily a style point they’re pushing
I really love the herringbone jacket and pink oxford combination with jeans. Is there a link to more details on the jacket (and maybe info o the cloth) somewhere?
Yes Johannes, it was reviewed here, from J Mueser
Thanks! After reading that post I guess it will be more or less impossible to track down the same cloth, too bad, since both the colour and the open weave you mention appeals to me. Any suggestions for a similar cloth?
And which would you say is most versatile? This straw colour or a grey herringbone? (I seem to remember that you’ve suggested the grey herringbone as one of the best options for pairing with casual trousers like jeans before)
I’d say the grey herringbone.
On similar cloths to the straw-coloured one, there isn’t much which is why I say in the article I was interested in it. But Ralph Lauren always has something, and Drake’s had one at one point
I think more could be said about cuffed jeans historically. My tastes tend towards vintage American, and my work often involves power tools. (Which I suppose is a way of saying I can wear workwear without it feeling like a costume?)
Jeans were historically strictly work wear, like overalls, and only a fool would pay money to have their jeans hemmed. Obviously this is no longer the case but it was for long enough that turning up your denim became an acceptable, standard thing. For me personally (a 51 year old man who grew up in the American west and works with wood and metal and antique power tools) thick denim with cuffs and chambray work boots is just the way an American craftsman is supposed to look. I would feel foolish in street wear.
I always have my jeans hemmed for the perfect fit. I think cuffed jeans are sloppy and do not present a good appearance. Every man should be proud of how he dresses and cuffed jeans are simply sloppy.
Like you said: because everyone is doing it. I’ve been trying to start a trend the past couple summers. Wearing “no show” socks until I get a good tan and then wearing flip flops. Somehow, it hasn’t caught on…
Some of my jeans I wear cuffed, especially if the fading is already well set, others I have had tailored when they’re still dark enough for the new hem to break in with the rest of the jean. In all honesty, I don’t have a particularly huge opinion on it one way or the other, except insofar as I hope that men will stop letting their pants puddle around their ankles. If that means tailoring, fine; if that means turning them up, also fine.
I want to know more about the jacket in the third picture.
It’s from J Mueser – full article here
In the UK this 100% came from the ‘fashion’ crowd around the turn of the millenium. Started with the folk who wore Evisu, then LVC, but turn-ups arrived overnight then were totally ubiquitous with this crowd in a hurry. In part there was the issue that these jeans had A LOT of shrinkage compared to most jeans folk buy today (sizing them was tricky), however, as folk here have noted the overriding reason was to show off your selvedge (when selvedge was rare). Fast forward 10 years and THAT became ubiquitious to the point where people with zero interest in their jeans turning up. Personally, I had a couple of years around the millenium when I turned up but as I am shallow, vain and want to stand apart from the fashion crowd I haven’t turned up in about 20 years. The selvedge denotes (or used to) old narrow looms which produced a less uniform product, hence better denim. THAT is the reason to buy good jeans. Try not turning up, not conforming. To prove that I AM still shallow, I’ve a new pair which need taken up and I’m dithering between getting them chain-stitched or done with a regular stitch. Paying £20 for a sultan to stitch your jeans with the ‘correct’ machine may seem authentic, but there’s obviuosly something deeply inauthentic about it. Which way will I choose?
You can do both. I’ve found it very convenient to hem my denims to a no break, which is – as you mention – smart for a more subtle wear, yet playful in the summer with sneakers and also in the winter, with boots. A small turn up makes the lenght perfect for sneakers in the summer and it works really will with boots in the winter.