This article comes from a discussion over on our forums (click here to see the full discussion), where a reader wanted to know the appropriate length of trousers compared to your height:
I tried on some dress pants but for some reason, they don’t seem to cover the loafer that I was wearing. Imagine you are wearing a loafer and the pants (hem), while you are standing up, doesn’t cover it all (and) you can see your socks. Are those dress pants too short?-drew1
We’ve had a lively discussion on it over the years, and wanted to address it more succinctly.
How to measure trouser length
First, let’s address trouser measurement.
There are two primary measurements in men’s trousers: the outseam and the inseam. The outseam is the measurement from the top of the waistband to the pant hem; the inseam is the measurement of the center of the crotch to the hem. The latter-shown below- is the correct method of measurement.
Andy’s book, The Encyclopedia of Men’s Clothes, addresses this topic at length (pun most certainly intended). You can pick it up here!
Height and Length of Trousers
We believe the proper length of trousers is not dictated by overall height.
Some men may be tall, but have a comparatively short torso and longer length from the hip down.. The same is true for a shorter man with a comparatively longer torso and shorter legs.
The best way to get the correct the measurement for your trousers is to measure your inseam using the technique shown above.
Pants Break and and Length of Trousers
A second way to answer the question is to address the ‘break’, or the ripple of the cloth where the trouser hems meets the top of your shoe.
There are in, in general, three kinds of break in menswear: full, slight, and no break at all.
Overly aggressive breaks or ‘high-water’ pants are not elements of classic menswear. They’re much more suited to peacocking and the fellows at Pitt Uomo looking to get their picture taken.
At the same time, a break that is too full will disrupt the clean lines of a pressed trouser and result in a generally disheveled appearance.
The trouser leg should moderately break at the front of the shoe. They should then gently slope to approach the top of the heel of the shoe.
The hem can be asymmetrical- slightly shorter in the front than in the back.
A Note on Shrinking Seams
Pants, even custom tailored and altered ones, may shrink in the wash or even at the the dry cleaner. Therefore, we advise having your tailor hem your trousers 1/4″ or so longer than you wish them to be.
To review, the length of the inseam is more relevant to proper trouser length than the height of the man wearing them.
The trouser hem should kiss the top of the shoe, and adopt a slight to medium break when standing still.
Remember to leave 1/4″ or so of extra room in hem to account for any shortening after a wash.
Thank you for reading, and we do hope this is helpful.