Ask the average guy on the street what the right way to wear cuffed versus straight legged pants is, and he won’t have a clue. Most men think it makes no difference at all. But understanding the subtle but essential differences will help you if you exude classic style and taste, and an instantly recognizable sense of fashion.
Putting Cuffs in Context
Pants cuffs are created by folding the bottom of the pants leg up on the outside of the pants. You don’t see cuffed pants for sale on clothing store racks as often, because the labor cost to sew that visible cuff is slightly higher. What you mostly find is either unfinished hems, which need to be altered, cut, and sewn to suit your preferences, or already finished straight legs.
Straight, uncuffed pants usually have a couple of inches of extra cloth hidden on the inside. That’s there in case you ever need to let out the length, or if the bottom of the pants get frayed and need repair.
When to Wear Cuffs
Cuffs on pants add a little weight to the bottom of the leg. That subtle difference can help your pants have a nicer drape, because gravity is keeping them straightened. Cuffs also add visual thickness, so they go well with thicker fabrics like denim or tweed. Of course if you wear denim jeans and want cuffs, you don’t sew on the cuffs but you just buy slightly longer jeans and roll them up yourself. Rolled up cuffs can also show off a great pair of boots or shoes.
Another way that cuffs work beautifully is when you wear pants that have pleats in the front. Pleated pants generally look wider, especially in the thigh, and putting cuffs at the end of the leg makes the ends look wider, too. So you achieve a more balanced and proportionate style.
When to Wear Cuffless Pants
A good guideline is to wear cuffs with double or triple-pleated pants and no cuffs with flat-front pants. Trousers with single-pleats may be cuffed or not cuffed. If you are dressing in a tuxedo, you should never wear pants with a cuff.
One reason for that is that tuxedo pants may have a faintly visible satin stripe down the side, and cuffs would interrupt that line and look awkward. No cuffs is also a sleeker look, which lends itself to a formal style.
Based on Your Height
Cuffs create a conspicuous end-point for your trousers, so if you are a tall, slender man they can make you look less gangly. They give you a little heft at the shoe line to make you look grounded.
If you instead have a shorter, stockier, thicker physique, cuffs can accentuate those attributes. So oftentimes shorter or stockier men will avoid cuffs, because the cuff-less, straight finish on the pants visually elongates your legs. You will appear slighter slimmer and taller because of that continuous vertical line.