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Cuffs on flat-front trousers—stylish flourish or sartorial faux-pas?

Photo: CorbisI need a new suit, and I’ve decided on flat-front pants. How should I think about cuffs vs. no cuffs?
–Michael, Hoboken, NJ

Certain style edicts arise out of good, old-fashioned aesthetics. I’m talking about things like the rule against wearing brown shoes with black pants. There’s nothing fundamentally or morally wrong with this combination, it just doesn’t look very good. (Move up the color spectrum from black to charcoal, however, and the pairing can be a thing of beauty.) Other guidelines, meanwhile, are little more than habit calcified into law. The rule that one should never cuff flat-front pants—like the one against rocking white after Labor Day—falls into this category. It has no inner logic, nor any real aesthetic merit, and is therefore rife for the breaking.

Don’t just take my word for it. Last week, when I stopped by Martin Greenfield’s place in Brooklyn for an initial fitting of a new Donegal tweed suit, the tailor informed he me that he’s been equipping all his own trousers, both pleated and flat-front, with two-inch cuffs for years. Greenfield wears his pants with a slight break, which is handsomely accentuated by the added heft provided by cuffs. Thom Browne has been endowing his truncated, flat-front suit pants with cuffs for some time—it’s one of many traditional style rules Browne happily flouts when designing men’s clothing. Gilt MANual contributor Gay Talese, on the other hand, has most of his trousers—both flat-front and pleated—tailored in the European style, with little or no break and no cuffs, so as not to interrupt the clean line between his suit pants and his $2,800 custom footwear. “I want a straight line, and I don’t want to call attention to anything except the shoes,” he told us recently.

That’s more information than you require, perhaps, but this is one situation where you should go with, as the high-water trouser-loving Mr. Browne might say, whatever floats your boat. Or you could just do what I did with the aforementioned tweed suit: Flat front, mid-rise, two-inch cuffs. Whatever you do, don’t spend so much time worrying about the pants that you neglect the footwear.

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  2. Ruben says:

    Your advice is pretty spot on, it’s merely a matter of preference. You can go either cuffed or uncuffed if you are at least 5’8″ or 5’9″ or taller. BUT, if you’re a shorter man, forget about it. No cuffs, unless you want to look even shorter.

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