Proper Pants Break & Length

Proper Pants Break & Length – How To Hem Suit Trousers & Slacks: Full Break, Half Break or No Break?

Today we discuss pants break. We explain what they are, why they are so important to your overall appearance, how you can ensure to get exactly the pant break you want every single time and what you have to consider when you have your alterations tailor lengthen or shorten your hem.

What Is A Break?

The break is when the front of your pants or trousers hits your shoe and creates a little dent that is elegant and not too extreme. The best way to evaluate your break is when you stand still. The no break is when the hem of your pants just hang straight and doesn’t even touch the shoe at all. The half break is if you see a slight dent in the front and the full break is if you have a noticeable dent in the front of the pants but none in the back. If you see pants that have dents in the front and in the back they are simply too long and it looks extremely sloppy.

Beautiful corduroys but unfortunately a bit too long. They break in the front and back

Beautiful corduroys but unfortunately a bit too long. They break in the front and back


In my experience, 80% of all men in the US wear their pants too long which creates not just a break but an excessive sloppy fold. They look like they didn’t know what to tell their alterations tailor. On the other hand in Italy, you’ll see a lot of men with extremely short pants and obviously, it’s subject to fashion. However, if you want to be classic in style and timeless moving between no break and a full break is exactly where you want to be.

Very tall cuff and very short pants - if the pants would have touched the shoe it would have been perfect

Very tall cuff and very short pants – if the pants would have touched the shoe it would have been perfect

Why Should You Care About The Break In Your Pants?

First of all, it really has an impact on the overall neatness of your outfit. If you wear a nice robe striped double-breasted suit and your pants are either too long or too short, it makes you look goofy or sloppy. If you’re a tall man and you have very short pants, it exaggerates your height and you look even taller and sometimes like a clown. Also if you have a certain pair of socks that you want to show off maybe a half break is exactly what you want because with a full brake your socks will be invisible at all in most situations.

1960s suit with short pants

1960s suit with short pants

What Is The Right Break For You?

What’s important to understand is there is no absolute right or wrong with pants breaks. Some men especially in US, assume that right now all young men wear their pants too short. However, if you go back to the 60s you can see sometimes even shorter pants with no break at all.


Good length for cuffed trousers

Good length for cuffed trousers


To determine what break is right for you, you have to first look at your pant hem. Is it cuffed or is it uncuffed? If it’s cuffed, or the English say it has turn-ups, that means you need less of a break. I suggest you go without break at all or just with a slight break. Never with a full break because it just looks off.

If your pants or trousers are uncuffed, you should go with a half break or a full break. If you have an uncuffed pants and you go with no break, it simply looks too short and the lack of the weight means that your pants will probably get stuck to your socks and stay further up.

If you wear cuffed pants, you already have an advantage because you have more weight which pulls down your trousers more and it just creates a cleaner line and therefore you can have a shorter pants length and less of a break.

If you prefer uncuffed trousers you could talk to an alterations tailor and add little lead weights to the size of your pants that way you have the same effect as with a cuffed trouser and you can get a very neat look.

With wider hems, you can get exactly the length you want

With wider hems, you can get exactly the length you want

The Width Of The Hem

The other element to consider when getting your pants hemmed is the actual circumference or the width of your hem. If you have very tight pants in the hem, you can’t have as much of a break as if you have full cut trousers in the 1930s style. Why? It’s because break means it touches the top of your shoe.

Now with a tight pair of pants, they touch your shoe a lot earlier than with a wider cut pair of pants where they touch it at the bottom of your laces. So when you have pants hemmed, you can just give your alterations tailors five pairs and say “Oh just hem them all to 31 and a half inches,” because you also have to consider how wide they are. The wider the pants are, the longer you can hem them. The slimmer and tighter they are the shorter you have to hem them.

With a wider hem it does not matter if you have boots or shoes, the same length will always look good

With a wider hem it does not matter if you have boots or shoes, the same length will always look good

If you have uncuffed trousers in a wide full cut style you have to cut them a little wider but keep in mind even with a full break you just want a nice dent in the front and none in the back. That being said do not rely on your alterations tailor’s judgment, because if I go to one in the US I get pants that are way too long. If I go to Italy I get something that sometimes too short for my taste so you have to decide what you want and you have to own it.

The Angled Hem

One thing I’m personally extremely fond of is an angled hem. This is something you usually only find in bespoke garments especially when it’s a cuffed angled hem. If you have a straight hem on a pair of pants and they’re long and unfinished you can simply bring up the extra fabric create a cuff of your desire and you’re done. When you angle a pair of pants with cuffs you actually have to create a faux cuff that is separately cut from something but it has the advantage that it’s always long in the back and it probably can even touch almost the heel of your shoe but in the front it’s cut higher so you get that slight break. It looks particularly elegant with a black tie or white tie outfit because you get that slight break but that long line in the back. Also, black tie and white tie trousers never have cuffs so it’s very easy to do that.


Cuffed Angled Hem

Cuffed Angled Hem


Honestly, if you have uncuffed pants I would always suggest to have them slightly angled because you’ll always look more dapper and people will not know why. So having angled pant hems is definitely one of the little tricks of the trade. If your alterations tailor doesn’t know how to do an angled hem with cuffs, you probably have to seek out the tailor or someone who is really experienced with custom clothing. Of course, you can only do that if you have a lot of extra width or an unfinished pair of pants.


My personal preference is for cuffs most of the time and I want a half or medium break. Ideally, I want the back of my pants to be longer than the front so I always go for the angle especially with uncuffed dress pants and particularly for all kinds of evening wear. It simply looks a lot more stylish.

Proper Pants Break & Length - How To Hem Suit Trousers & Slacks
Article Name
Proper Pants Break & Length - How To Hem Suit Trousers & Slacks
Learn what pants break are, it's importance and how to get exactly the pant break you want.
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
Publisher Logo
18 replies
  1. Bradley says:

    I find that the half break, without the angle, creates a less formal appearance that especially suits odd trousers with jackets. It suggests an air of “sprezzatura” that the angled finish doesn’t.

  2. K.l says:

    I just love the look of the angled hem. When I was in the Air Force the requirement for our service dress uniform was that our pants were hemmed on the angle. It presents a very sharp appearance and I have all of my trousers hemmed that way

    • Darnell says:

      The angled hem was automatic on my dress greens and blues in the Army also. During tailoring, it wasn’t something I requested, it was done! If I had to say so, I believe this is where that particular hem originated.

  3. Andrew Gregg says:

    My tailor always provides a subtle break and cuffs my suit pants. She also stitches an extra layer of the extra fabric to the interior of the heel side of the hem. In so doing, the added weight keeps the pant leg in place, and keeps the outer fabric looking nice as the trousers wear against the extra inner layer first. This break also shows off your shoes to advantage as the tops are not obscured by cuffs.
    This style gives a suit a thoughtful finished appearance that exhibits attention to fitting details. Although I do not think anyone but me notices, it feels as important as the correct pocket square or footwear choice.

      • Hugh Wilson says:

        When I was in London I had a navy pinstripe suit made in Saville Road. It was cuffless but the hem was not sloped in one line, but was divided in two at the central seam of the leg, thus forming the top of a trangle. So the front part went straight to a half break, while the hem at the back sloped back from the central seam, finishing lower than the front. The trousers themselves had the effect of pleats but fell from slight darts just below the waistband. They were the most elegant trousers I have ever worn. It just shows you that if you are willing to spend the money (5000 Pounds) what elegance can be created by a master craftsman.

    • Andrew Gregg says:

      Dear Chester,

      …Or lack thereof!

      My job during Initiation Week (formerly known as “Hell Week”), at the fraternity was to teach the initiates to tie different knots, how to wear a suit, and to wear good shoes.
      Andrew Gregg,
      Vancouver, WA

  4. Alexander_F says:

    The angled hem is, I must confess, something I have not heard of so far, but that seems to be taken into consideration. I’m happy to see this site lives up to its reputation to share this kind of information. Thank you at lot for this article.

    Besides, let’s all hope the average hem off the rack will become a little wider in the next seasons. I must repeat that the omnipresence of all too tapered trousers is a nuisance.

  5. Bob says:

    When I was a Drill Instructor in the Marines we had to go over each recruit’s dress uniform and have it tailored before final inspection. We wanted an angled hem with a visible break in the front which then angled down to the back so it ended right at the welt above the heel when the Marine stood at attention. The trouser at that time was made of a substantial worsted wool that would resist wrinkling the whole day, but could be ironed to a razor sharp crease, and did not have cuffs, of course. I always thought this standard for the uniform presented a classy look that could be adopted for civilian dress trousers.

  6. Yousha Gardezi says:

    This article makes me feel particularly gratified. It is evident that many fashion forward men are actually being encouraged by many fashion sites to wear their pants a bit too short.

  7. Simon says:

    Another great GG article.

    I hate the “short” look. It is fine for Pee Wee Herman but nobody else.

    Where did this style come from? Was it around in the 1950s? 60s? Anyone know when it first cropped up?

  8. George Dunnett says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article about the break in trousers. But in terms of the American terminology here’s the deal.

    The Brits should start referring to the turn-ups as cuffs and the Americans should start referring pants as trousers. The American term pants for trousers just sounds wrong. It’s a bit too slang for the well dressed gentleman! Don’t you think so?

  9. Jack says:

    Cuffed pants. They are just so important, I don’t always wear a cuff but I far prefer it. If anyone is interested in seeing a more contemporary / fashion-forward suit design that has cuffs, take a look at some of Tom Ford’s suits. He’s known for huge lapels but also for insisting on quite a defined cuff – especially with the suits he did for Daniel Craig.

  10. Luigi says:

    Very good article, useful as always.
    But the real bonus is the photo of the 1960’s man.
    As a source of inspiration it’s by its own worth an intere article.
    Keep up with these pearls!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] jeans can help bring them to the proper length, as long as they aren’t rolled more than […]

  2. […] socks, not too crazy but pants too short by a long […]

Comments are closed.