Proper pant length and the amount of break is ultimately a personal style choice.
Let’s start with a definition.
The break in a pair of dress pants (or jeans or chinos, for that matter) is the fold or creasing of the fabric above the bottom of the front of the pant leg where it meets your shoe.
“Proper” pant length is matter of much discussion when it comes to the rules of style. Ultimately, however, the length of one’s pants – or how much or little break one’s pants have – is a personal style choice and very much a matter of personal preference, aesthetics and body type.
Here are four of the most common pant breaks and hemlines you’re likely to see as well as some guidance on choosing what pant length is right for you.
Thom Browne’s shrunken suit forever changed the face of men’s dress pants. While the above-the-ankle style can only truly be pulled off by some, many guys feel comfortable with a “no break” hem, where the pant leg just kisses the top of the shoe.
While the Thom Brown aesthetic makes no allowance for shaping the width of the pants down the leg, this style looks best with a well-defined taper. My personal preference is to have around a 7″ leg opening at the bottom.
What It Says About You: I’m modern, hip, care deeply about precise tailoring and aspire to be a fashionable European gentleman.
If “no break” and the requisite aggressively tapered leg is a little too fashion-forward for you but you still want to be a bit contemporary, the slight break is for you. This looks best without a cuff and with the back of the pant leg angled a little longer than the front.
What It Says About You: I understand that fit is everything and I desire to be contemporary and up-to-date, but not trendy.
Looks Best On: pretty much everyone, slim (not cropped or skinny) trouser widths, the modern businessman.
This is an ideal look for those with a more conservative style, who don’t want a tapered or slim trouser and want to go with a cuff.
What It Says About You: I’m serious about style and have a quality tailor with a conservative approach that I respect and embrace.
Looks Best On: middle-aged guys, conservative businessmen, gentlemen carrying around a little extra weight.
Full disclosure: ideally, to pull off this style and for it to look “right,” the pant leg needs to be wider than is pictured here. This is my widest pair of pants and I did my best to show what a full break might look like. In a perfect world, there is a decent amount of fabric pooling at the ankle, but it should look a bit more elegant than shown.
What It Says About You: I’m either older, wiser, heavier and stylistically conservative or I live in my own private and perpetual Jazz Age Lawn Party.
Looks Best On: older gentleman, heavier gentleman, wide-leg trousers, vintage/throw-back dudes.
Thanks for reading.