A source of several benefits, and occasional backfires.
Ask five people about turned cuffs and there’ll be some agreement, but you’ll probably still get multiple answers. Some will say they only go with pleated pants, others will say they’re always essential on every pant, others will say they’re rubbish. Part of this is down to personal taste, though there are some benefits to having turned cuffs, and there really are some times where a turned cuff is guaranteed to look unsightly.
Benefits to turned cuffs are twofold (pardon the pun). Firstly, they give extra weight to the bottom of the trouser, so a turned cuff will help the fabric drape in a more appealing way by forcing the fabric to fall straight towards the floor. Secondly, they can provide a nice bit of aesthetic interest to your trousers.
The visual point can play in your favour or to your detriment depending on the proportion of the cuff height in relation to the rest of the trouser, your body, and the proportions of your outfit. A big cuff on a short person will make the body appear more diminutive.
There’s only really one downside to having turned cuffs; on a wide leg pant with a solid amount of kick, one cuff can catch on the opposite shoe and result in tripping. This doesn’t happen on all pants, I mostly experience it with bulkier fabrics, but it can certainly be off-putting.
While there are plenty of articles already populating the Internet about turned cuffs to tout the benefits or disparage them for not being trendy in a given fashion cycle – their status in the press swings between adored and jeered at like a pendulum – I’ve noticed a particular absence of concrete examples showing where a turned cuff can reliably look bad.
The scenario that springs to mind is the following; a narrow or considerably tapered trouser. If the pant also has a break, the turned cuff simply adds weight to the break, which causes the break to go from its already slightly messy state into a complete visual shambles. Any aesthetic value is negated, and the functional value is also negated given that the pant drape is already disturbed by the fold(s) of the break. If the pant has no break and the narrow cut of the legs causes any distortion at the knees – should the wearer have any degree of knock knee or bow leggedness – the drape is already ruined and the turned cuff simply serves to add more problem to the situation.
Another type of trouser that suffers from the addition of turned cuffs is the flare or bell bottom. Flared pants tend to have their shape defined by the sharpness of the crease – hence why many vintage flared pants are some form of permanent press fabric – and the flared bottom itself is already a visual statement. Adding a cuff to that situation passes off as being too much, hence the few brands currently dabbling in flared tailored trousers displaying a conspicuous absence of turned cuffs in their marketing.
As such, it’s my opinion that a turned cuff is best on a fuller cut trouser with minimal break. This allows the full practical advantage of the cuff to the wearer, and presents cleanly. The presence – or absence – of pleats doesn’t matter, as it’s all about the width of the leg and proportion to your height.