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Required Reading

Suit Alterations 101: The Pants

February 18th, 2016

Continuing our series on getting your suit tailored – get the scoop on jacket alterations here – today we’ll be talking about tailoring your pants. Please note, that although we’ve titled this post “Suit Pants Alterations,” the alterations we discuss can be applied to any pair of pants.

Here are a list of some of the most common suit pants alterations plus a little commentary on whether or not they’re worth the cost.



mens suit alterations tailoring guide pants length hem

If there is one alteration every guy should consider, it’s getting your pants hemmed. If you’re accustomed to custom clothing or buying higher quality off the rack garments where the pants are unfinished, chances are you already know your way around this alteration.

Where the pant should break (or not break) is a matter of personal preference. Personally, I prefer my pants to just kiss the top of my shoe with very little to no break at all. We’ve got a guide to pant breaks in the queue, so stay tuned for that.


Worth the money? Always.

Bottom Line: Hemming your pants is a simple and inexpensive alteration that pays big dividends in terms of looking like you’ve put some effort into your wardrobe.

Bonus Tip: I always like to buy my pants on the longer side and have them hemmed. I will normally wear a 30/30, but I’ll always buy a 30/32 to make sure I get the length exactly as I like it.



mens suit pants alterations guide

Two things can be done to the waist of your pants: 1) it can be taken in (reduced) or 2) let out (made bigger). The most important thing to remember is that there’s much more room to take the waist in than to let it out. If you look on the inside of your pants you can see how much extra fabric there is at the seam.

Worth the money? Yes.

Bottom Line: An easy alteration that helps out with comfort.

Bonus Tip: Lots of guys have athletic legs (i.e. larger thighs) and often complain about not being able to find pants that fit correctly. If that’s you, a little trick is to size up in the waist so the legs are a little wider and then get the waist taken in. Guys with this issue tend to swear by the Dockers Alpha Khaki.



A tapered leg is not for everyone. And the amount of taper should be guided by your body type. Remember, taken as a whole, a suit should look like it is in proportion with itself. So, if you’re a little larger up top, tapering the leg opening to 7″ may not be the best move.

A tapered leg has a very clean look and is necessary if you’re going with the no-break look. However, it shouldn’t be tapered to the point where your pants look painted on. My rule of thumb is that the pants still need to feel comfortable. Take it only as far as this allows.

Tapering a pant’s leg not outrageously expensive, but it costs more than a simple hem or waist alteration.

Worth the money? Depends.

Bottom Line: Get your pant legs tapered only if you are fully committed to the look. Once the alteration is done, there’s no going back.



A pants rise is the distance between the middle of the crotch seam to the top of the waistband. This is a measurement that varies from brand to brand. Whether you like a low, mid, or high rise is a personal preference and dependent on your body type and style inclinations.


The rise can technically be altered, but it’s tricky and a lot of work as it requires recutting the pants in a major way. It’s not a common alteration like a hem or taking in the waist, but one that is sometimes asked for.

Worth the money? (Or the tailor’s time and effort?) No.

Bottom Line: If you’re unhappy with the rise of a pair of pants, try to find a brand/retailer that carries a fit that’s more in line with what you’d like. Or, if you’re going the made to measure route, bring up your rise concerns and make sure that program will meet your needs.

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa

Brian Sacawa is the Founder of He Spoke Style and one of the original men’s style influencers. Since 2013, his goal has remained the same: to provide men the advice and inspiration they need to dress well, develop their personal style, and gain more confidence. Brian’s interest and passion for men’s style and luxury watches has led to his writing for The Robb Report, The Rake, and Sotheby’s and he has been quoted on menswear in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,, Brides Magazine, and the Huffington Post. He lives in the woods north of Baltimore with his wife, Robin, kitties Nick and Nora, and German Shepherd/Collie mix Charlie.

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Photography by Rob McIver