A guide to help with deciding how much your pant bottoms should “break” over your shoes.
As it turns out, much has been written in the blogosphere about the pant break options, and with general accord. The basic options for the proper length of one’s trousers are as follows:
- No break
- Slight or medium break
- Full break
In most cases, a slight break is the preferred option. It’s balanced, right down the middle, and never wrong. A medium break is achieved when the bottom of the pant is about ½” to ¾” above where the heel meets the leather (Heel height can vary a little with men’s shoes.) The front of the pant should have one fold or “break.”
A full break is when the pant bottom falls at or somewhere below the top of the heel (but definitely off the ground.) In this case the front of the pant will show at least two, possibly three folds or “breaks.” As is the case with both pants in the photo above, it is difficult to pull off this length and have it not look sloppy, like you’re standing in a puddle. The full break only works with a pant that is cut full, with plenty of drape at the knee and bottom. In that case the extra fabric has more room to flow out over the shoe. If your legs are on the longer side, this may be a style to consider. If you prefer wearing suit and sport coats that “drape,” then wearing pants that also drape will achieve a balance pleasing to the eye. Drapes are expected to nearly reach the floor. If your shoe size happens to be larger than average, then all-the-better. The last thing you want is for your shoe to disappear under your pant bottom. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand million times, it’s all about proportion when it comes to these things.
The concerns associated with the no break option are essentially the opposite of those with the full break. On the extreme you run the risk of inviting the proverbial “are you expecting a flood?” comments. The shorter length of a “no break” pant works best when the pant fits on the trim side. In this case, fashion is on your side right now. Pants that are cut full and with no break run the risk of looking “cut off.” If you have changed from wearing pleated pants to flat front pants in the past few years, but you haven’t adjusted the length of your pants, they may need to come up a half inch or so to be rebalanced. The size of your feet and shoes is another part of the overall geometry to consider. Does your shoe size rival that of an NBA forward? Then trim fitting, no break pants aren’t really for you, unless you are intent on making a fashion statement.
To summarize, what most influences whether your pants length will look balanced and appealing is the relationship between the pant length to the width of your pant and the size of your shoes. For my money, the sweet spot is ½” above where the heel meets the leather. From that point, up or down ½” is what I like to call the “range of acceptability.”
As for me, give me a break already, but just a slight one please!