The Finer Details: Notes on Jacket & Trouser Lengths

"WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T WEAR YOUR PANTS DOWN ON YOUR HIPS BECAUSE, IT WILL BE OBVIOUS TO OTHERS THAT YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING"

I remember a long time ago my father said this to me. At the time, it had become clear to him that I was making the transition to incorporate tailored clothing into my life. He had then worn suits daily for over two decades and thus, was well positioned to offer at least some insight on the topic.

Ironically, years later, it was me who ended up orchestrating an overhaul of my father’s professional wardrobe. Along the way in my journey of exploring classic menswear however, I did not forget the simple piece of advice my dad had given me years earlier. This succinct utterance by my father was representative of a generational shift that was taking place in men’s approach to their dress.

Men of my father’s generation, the baby boomers, and ultimately many generations before them wore their trousers at or near their natural waist- not cresting at their hip bones. The former position looks most flattering on the body; elongating the legs, especially on those with stodgier body types.

My generation’s conclusion in response to this was that this was not comfortable. This was a microcosmic view, part of a larger uprising against the normative dress in society. Tailored clothes had, ‘de facto’, become too unpleasant to wear because of their lack of elastic waistbands, for example. The ‘waistline’ got pushed down farther and farther by the culture’s youth on up, to the chagrin of those who were already established in their professional dress. Strain on the lower abdomen, no matter how small, had apparently become unbearable.

Beginning in the early part of this century, Western society was introduced to an overall slim and concomitant cropped movement in suiting. This movement ultimately swung too far, beyond what would be reasonable for a gentleman to wear - with jackets ending not far below the belt line and suit trousers hovering high above the shoes, in some cases. This movement began by serving those misguided into wearing a baggy, oversized fit to start wearing clothes that closer conformed to the natural form of their bodies. Now it has swung to become a confusing paradigm for those men looking to present their best appearance. In the spirit of clearing things up a bit, I strongly urge the following fit recommendations when it comes to the professional business suit.          

First, regarding the length of the jacket. The suit jacket, or blazer, should end at the bottom of the seat, or buttocks. It is really that simple.  This area should be covered, no more no less, for the most clean and professional look. There is no other matter that should govern the length of a jacket. Judging where a jacket should end off the position of the thumb, for example, is too variable across the population. Some men have arms that are long in proportion to their height, and some have limbs that are short and, therefore, applying a rule based on thumb position is not reasonable.

 Second, regarding the trouser length. The trousers should be long enough to create a full break or at least touch the top of the shoe, but should, in any case, fully cover the socks. This one is not as straightforward as the first recommendation, as there is some inherent variability in it. A full break (a horizontal crease in the pants above the hem) is acceptable, but more so on gentlemen of generous height. On the other end of the spectrum, pants can be short enough to just kiss the top of the shoes, but every attempt should be made to cover the socks in a standing position. This is often achievable with an angled pant hemline, down towards the back, on pants without a cuff. 

 These simple recommendations can be passed down from our generation to the next as we have the privilege of looking back at the last century’s entire history of dress, to pick out what works best. As my father alluded to years ago, sometimes it is the small details that convey that you know or don’t know what you are doing.

 Written by Tim O'Hearn

Photography by Dany Dao and Kate Poulain

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tim O'Hearn was born in Windsor, Ontario Canada. His grandfather - known by the family as "Bampa" - left quite an impression on him and quickly became his idol at an early age. Tim admired his Bampa for being outrageously humorous and extremely witty. But it was his great sense of style, especially his dressing sense, that made the greatest impact. Old pictures of his Bampa and Tim's own experience with the man had planted a seed in his mind that later grew into a strong interest- in men's clothing.


Self education became Tim's tool for exploring the world of menswear. Self expression in his outfits was fuelled by trips to thrift stores in small cities across Ontario for many years. He now has his eye on making his career in menswear, perhaps to get one step closer to understanding what made the image of his beloved Bampa so impactful. In one way, he believes his journey into understanding menswear, however, is just beginning. He uses what he has learned thus far in hopes of helping others dress better, and their best. Follow Tim's journey on Instagram: @menswear_explorer

 

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