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Do You Make This Style Mistake? How To Buy and Wear Trousers Properly (Not Shaving But…)

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[Note from Mantic59: OK, this post has nothing to with shaving.  But it is about one of those “pet peeves”  of mine that drive me absolutely insane sometimes.  One of the responsibilities of my “real” job (I don’t shave for a living…yet. 🙂 )  is interviewing prospective employees, many of whom are in college or have just graduated.  Time and time again I see young men coming through my door, smartly dressed for a job interview (a nice suit, or at least a dress shirt with tie and dress slacks) but with trousers that are so long that they drag on the floor.  Maybe that’s the acceptable style for very casual pants/jeans but it looks incredibly sloppy in dress clothes where first impressions are critical.
I asked Antonio Centeno, who writes about dress clothes at Real Men Real Style and who also founded, to discuss trouser “breaks.”  His video is above and his comments follow.]
The “break” of your trousers refers to the way it folds horizontally at the ankle as a result of the cuff resting on the top of your shoe.  It’s caused by the length of the trousers but shouldn’t be confused with the length  — the “break” means the folding caused by contact with your feet specifically.

Trouser "Break"

Most dress trousers are sold unhemmed.  The expectation is that a man will take the trousers to a tailor for personal adjustment!  Unless you’re very lucky and manage to buy a pair of trousers already perfectly fitted to your legs, skipping this step will almost certainly give you a bad-looking break.  Tailor-adjusted hems aren’t a dandy’s luxury; they’re a basic staple of menswear.
If your off-the-rack trousers do already come hemmed, you have two options:  wear them as is or take them to a tailor for adjustment.  Again, you’ll probably want to have an adjustment made unless you got lucky and found a pair with the perfect break as-is.   This is a basic step for all your trousers, not a minor detail for custom-tailored clothing only!
There’s a certain amount of fashion that goes into the trouser break — bigger, more defined breaks might be trendily mussed one season, and crisp-fronted ankles with no break at all the next — but try to avoid following the fad of the moment.  Find the look that works for your style and your professional needs and be clear with your tailor about what you want.

Types of Trouser Break

There are three basic ways for a man’s trousers to “break,” or rest at the bottom:  no-break, half-break, and full-break.  The appearance is determined by the length of the trouser legs and the shape of the ankle openings.

No Break

This is the cleanest look.  It’s good for short men (who lose some visual height if a break cuts them off at the ankles) and for men who deliberately seek a ramrod-straight, crisply-starched kind of self-presentation.  Trousers without a break just barely rest on the tops of the shoe.  They are often cut with a slightly angled opening that’s lower in the back than the front — this is because the tops of most shoes are closer to your ankle than the support in the rear, and the trouser should be brushing the shoe all the way around.
The biggest danger with this style is that it’s easy to hike them too high and start showing your socks off.  Be careful of where you’re wearing your trousers if you’re trying for the no-break look!  Too high and your dress pants have just become floods.


You’ll also hear this style called a “medium break.”  It’s the traditional standard for dress trousers:  a single horizontal fold that dips across the front of your ankle.  The hem of the trousers rests lightly on the top of the shoe in front and covers the highest point of the shoe leather in the back.
A half-break is comfortable, conservative, and inoffensive in all settings.  If you don’t want to have to think about this subject, have all your hems tailored to a half-break!
The only real disadvantage of the style is how universal it’s become.  If you’ve got a pair of flashy pants that you want to strut a little bit a half-break doesn’t really add anything or draw the eyes.  That said, that’s usually a good thing, so this is a solid option for most men’s trouser needs.

Full Break

A “full break” means a fold that runs all the way around the leg.  There may be smaller folds above or below it as well, and the cloth is resting firmly on the top of the shoe.  Socks and the opening of the shoe are typically hidden.
This is a tough one to pull off well!  It’s a very short step from “full break” to just looking like you forgot to have your trousers hemmed.  It’s usually best left for very tall men (whose legs make the extra folds seem smaller and more appropriately-sized) or for looser trousers in a casual material like corduroy or denim.
Blue jeans are often worn with a full break these days.  It looks a little sloppy, so if that’s the point go for it, but be aware of what you’re doing.  A full break generally shouldn’t be worn unless the rest of your outfit is also a little aggressively casual.

Exceptions to the Rule

Jeans, as we just mentioned, tend to have more of a break than other trousers.  That’s because a good pair of jeans is made with thick enough denim that a longer leg won’t bunch up into lots of little wrinkles the way that light cotton or wool would.
Trousers with a cuff on them also break slightly differently than trousers without.  A big break and a cuff looks silly — it’s piling too many horizontal elements up right at the ankle.  Cuffed trousers should just brush the shoe without creating any large creases.  Iron a good firm crease into them and they’ll rest in a nice pointed shape that looks just as good as an uncuffed pair’s break.


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

13 thoughts on “Do You Make This Style Mistake? How To Buy and Wear Trousers Properly (Not Shaving But…)”

  1. I too would love more examples! Thanks for this article. My parents divorced when I was young, and there are so many things I never learned, like this. For years I wore “floods” because I didn’t know any better.

  2. I like the video post. I know it is from someone else but the ability to hear this great content helps to multi task. Thanks! This new content is great as well. A Great Shave separates the well dressed for the men of Style!

  3. That is a very well done article. My take is that it applies to dressing in general, but does not always apply in the workplace. In some fields, particularly in the high tech industry on the West Coast, natty dress is often seen as an attempt to compensate for a lack of skills. People go to work solely to accomplish tasks, not dress in a fashion show. Eighty hour weeks wearing blue jeans, t-shirts and sneakers are the norm in such places, something frequently lamented by East Coast expatriates. Outside the workplace, however, much of what is said in the article is increasingly true. Maybe it is a backlash against the “skid row” look (unshaven, shirts untucked, etc.)?
    Many thanks for that post, Mantic. Many men will benefit greatly from reading it.

  4. Some guys need to make a New Year’s resolution to start dressing in a more appropriate manner. This excellent article and video is a start.
    My Uncle Sam taught me how to dress…
    Keep up the good work, Mantic.

      1. Sternly. With no room for mistakes, accurately, and at 5:00 in the morning. And as a result, all of us remember getting it right, and looking ‘squared away’ all the time. Thanks, “Uncle Sam”, for giving me (and all of us back in San Diego in 1962) a standard we could go by for the rest of our lives.

        1. You must have been be a Marine. Uncle Sam taught my son to dress properly as well, for which I am grateful. While Corpsmen drink a lot and have foul mouths, they are fierce and always look sharp!

    1. Hi Alan – yea, I need to get better with inserting examples but my time to edit is limited. The philosophy of my shooting is to answer as many questions/provide as much quality content as possible and if the channel grows enough then start spending resources on editing. But I do provide good articles and took the included picture! – Antonio

      1. Why not just stick to typed articles? They are easier to digest than videos and probably easier for you to create.

        1. Peter – I’ve already written a few hundred articles, and decided to try video and podcasts to break up the monotony. Now I find I prefer video – and as I get better my quality and pace will exceed my writing output!

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