Getting Your Trouser Length Right

Length of inseam is a rather finicky thing to get right.

There are generally two types of people in menswear; one camp advocates for a classical trouser length which breaks upon the shoe, and the other camp tends to have a more ‘modern’ cut which sits above the shoe. The latter is often referred to by names such as ankle freezer or high water seams by the former.

You’ll often see that men wearing trousers with wider legs are the ones who advocate for a classical break, while those wearing slim and tapered pants are often the ones wearing high water seams. It’s a look with a markedly Italian attitude.

The thing is, I’ve seen people pull off stylish looks in trousers with ample break and trousers which end an inch above the shoe. So, what makes either look work?

It’s all about proportion.

I tend to wear a wider, more classical leg due to the shape and size of my legs. Something I’ve noticed when experimenting with different trouser lengths has been that a higher seam just doesn’t look as good with a wider cut compared to a length which provides a break.

The grey trousers pictured drape nicely, but something about them just looks incomplete with the absence of a break. It can throw off the harmony of proportions when looking at how the shoes sit also. Contrast that to a trouser with a classical cut that also has a classical length (for me, roughly 32″ inseam):

The transition between trouser cuff and shoe is much cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing.

Tapers and higher seams:

I’ve noticed a commonality across the fashion influencers on Instagram who wear higher cropped pants with inseams of 28 or 29 inches:

They’re often wearing super slim tapered pants.

Here’s an example:

The look can work as a youthful statement for men like this with slim, narrow builds and the legs to suit. If you have big legs like I do, it looks like you’re being strangled.

I do note that it looks weird if this type of trousers is worn with socks; it really only lends itself to the summery, trendy look of no-show socks combined with high seams as shown.

Interestingly, I’ve noticed that trousers with aggressive slim tapers like these are rather unpleasant to look at when they are of a classical length.


Because there’s no drape.

When the trousers are slim enough to be hugging your legs, having a break at the cuff of your trousers just creates an awful lot of pulling and emphasises a look of ill fit.

Go and check out some of the bigger trendy men’s fashion pages on Instagram that favour skin tight suiting and you’ll come across examples of this quite quickly.

Conclusion: a rule of thumb to remember

If you wear a wider leg, you’ll likely want a traditional length with break. If you wear a tight, slim tapered leg; an inseam that sits just above the shoe or higher will have a chance of working for you.

In essence:

Classical cuts warrant a classical length, while trendy cuts warrant a trendy length.

That’s all for today!

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Do you wear a wider cut, or a slim tapered trouser?


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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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