Them’s the Breaks: Pant Length

Levi Strauss & Co.
December 23, 2010

Okay guys, how long – as in length – should you wear your pants? It’s a puzzler for many. But you’ve come to the right place.

When it comes to pant length, I truly believe the same two rules apply whether we’re talking about jeans, khakis or smarter dress trousers:

Rule #1: Pants should never be worn too long

Rule #2: Pant should never be worn too short.

It’s all about the break.

A good break is not only visually appealing, but it also lets you know if you’re wearing your pants too short. For example, if the break comes too high or is not defined enough, your pants will look too short when you stand or walk.

Traditionally, pant legs should be straight through the leg and only “break” once, no more than an inch and a half above the shoe. You don’t want bunching nor having the pants fold over the shoes. It stops at just the right place, about halfway down the laces. However, fashion trends now dictate men can be a little bit more adventurous in their pants.

The “break” falls into three categories, medium, full and short.

The medium break is industry standard; it is the classic look for all men’s dress pants. Preferred by more conservative dressers, the medium break is the look of the buttoned-up, put-together, professional executive.

I doubt a tailor on London’s Savile Row would offer any other alternative. It puts a nice, clean, semi-deep break across the pant leg. It is timeless and classic.

The full break is for your more daring dresser who likes to push the envelope a bit further. Although it only really works if you are above six feet tall, otherwise it can give the impression the wearer is being thrifty with his money rather than following a fashion trend. If you want to make a bold statement, follow this trend.

The short break was originated during the 1980s when it was a must to show off your white Terry Towline sock with a pair of suede loafers. The trend lasted a good five years, only to be resurrected a few seasons ago by Thom Browne, who even took the look to Brooks Brothers where he was a guest designer for 12 months. This look is not for the faint of heart. One has to be extremely confident before leaving home.

Personally, I like the back of my pants to stop just above the heel of my shoe. This guarantees that I will not be stepping on them on the back side and assists in the proper length in the front. If the break comes too high or is not defined enough, your pants will look too short when you stand or walk.

There you have it. If Ol’ St. Nick delivers pants – Dockers® or otherwise – this holiday, now you know what to do with ‘em!