How It Should Fit: The Classic Trouser

January 7th, 2015

Continuing with our “How It Should Fit series for Menswear 101, today we take a look at the classic trouser.



    The waist of the trouser should sit comfortably on your natural waist, not your hips. Jeans are often cut to sit lower on the hips with a natural “sag” effect, but not trousers. This is why men who don’t often wear trousers feel that they are sitting uncomfortably high. There should only be about one finger of room at the waistband; just a little so they are not uncomfortably tight when sitting, but snug enough to keep them locked in place. A proper fitting trouser shouldn’t need a belt, and should keep your shirt from easily coming untucked- here’s another good tip for that.


    There should be a few inches of allowance at the hips, since this is the primary area of motion – and thus tension – in the garment. If the hips are too small the pockets will flare and the fabric will show stress lines (or “pulling) across the front of the crotch and the back of the seat. It will also be difficult to fit your hands (or objects larger than your cellphone) in your pockets. If the hips on the trousers are too large there will be extra fabric “pooling” on the side seams and at the center back seam. In the tailor shop we used to call this a “dumpy seat”. If the pants are pleated the hips need to be cut large enough to accommodate for the depth of the pleat(s) – they should lay flat and not pull open.


    The “rise” of the trouser, i.e. the distance from the top of the waistband to the “4 corners intersection” below the crotch, should follow the natural shape and size of the body. If it’s too small it will feel like you have a “wedgie” (which can happen in the front or back), it will feel uncomfortable to keep the pants on your natural waist, and the front of the trouser may be too “revealing” (especially if the hips are cut too trim as well). On the other hand, if the rise is too long, there will be an extra area of fabric hanging below the crotch and impeding your long strides, like a “drop crotch” pant would have.


    This is where a lot of guys make the mistake of going too trim, in my opinion. You should be able to sit down comfortably, without the trouser fabric struggling to keep it together. If you notice a lot of fabric stress (wrinkling/pulling) at the upper/inner thigh when you sit, your trousers may be too snug. This will greatly affect the lifespan of your trousers, especially if you’re sitting at a desk all day.


    Bottom Opening

    The proper hem width for a trouser has become a popular question in our inbox. In my opinion, this largely comes down to personal preference. It’s more style than “fit”. I’m 6’2″ 195 lbs and most often wear a 16″ circumference (although I have pleated trousers up to 18.5″ and jeans that are closer to 14″). For off-the-rack trousers, I think these general standards are good for the overall balance and silhouette (again, this also depends on height, body shape, etc)… Size 30: 14.75″, Size 32: 15.25″, Size 34: 16″, Size 36: 16.75″, Size 38: 17.5″.


    Another hot topic, and another personal preference. I’m typically a light break kind of guy, with the back of my trousers overlapping the top of my shoes by about a half inch, and hemmed at a slight angle (1/2″ shorter in the front). and hemmed slightly shorter in the front. This is a great break, in my opinion. As for general advice: for shorter guys I would recommend going with little to no break for a streamlined look, for taller guys I would anchor down that height with a good break.

    A Good Fit

    The example pair below is not perfect (nothing in tailoring ever is) but they give a pretty good idea of a good fit. Notice the fabric is laying flat and draping cleanly (no “pulling” or “pooling”), the pockets are laying flat, the shoes are nicely presented, and there is a slight break at the lower shin.

    trousers (1 of 1)

    To see plenty more trousers featured on AOS you can always use our interactive Style Guide, simply filter by “Pants -> Trousers”.

    Thanks, as always, for reading.

    Yours in style,

    Dan Trepanier


    Photography by Alex Crawford. Styling by Dan Trepanier. Modeling by Will Howe

    • Theo

      All these narrow pant legs are getting caught on the tongue of my shoes, which is driving me up the wall. Do I have to have them hemmed really short to avoid this?

    • Rd

      I have a question to all stylish people out there! Do you endorse wearing odd trousers or dress trousers (without a jacket) that have side tabs instead of belt loops? A few months ago I saw a picture of someone wearing trousers like that, and I liked the look. It looked clean and stylish. I live in a country where the use of dress trousers is pretty conventional, therefore everyone wears a belt (and if they can, they’ll use a designer belt to look “cool”). I had made a few pants with side tabs, but I’ve been feeling insecure about them due to the lack knowledge regarding tailoring in my country. People will likely ask me if I forgot my belt. I’ll probably start working in a bank soon (only the CEO and the other Officers wear a suit. The average executive wears dress trousers and a dress shirt), if you could help me with this question I’ll appreciate it!

    • TJ

      You know I try to wear my dress trousers a little higher up and they always end up slipping downy. Maybe they’re too tight? I do have a bit of a belly (though I am working on that) so maybe it’s my shape? Maybe both.

    • Miguel

      Great post Dan, I’m taking my tape measure with me when buying pants next time, as a matter of fact, I’m going to measure most of my pants, it seems I have some that are too tight on the tights.

      Again, great article with lots of helpful tips, as always.

    • Mike

      Hey Dan,

      What type of button closure is on the fly of these pants?

    • TO

      Bravo! Well done. To me this is essentially a ‘perfect’ fit. What could be considered a little off? Everything lays flat, no visible leg outline and the pant legs are ‘sitting on a seam’ all the way down. I am still searching for this pant fit for my body type (I still struggle with off-the-rack in the thigh area after >6 months out of the gym). I am simply going to make the shift to made-to-measure because until retail patterns start changing on a grand scale (which they probably enough due to averages) I will never be fully satisfied with the overall fit on me, especially in the mentioned thigh area.

      The pocket flair thing- interesting to note that at least one brand (Suitsupply) will always have a bit of pocket flair because they craft the pockets using a bit more material than the distance between two seems at which they are attached (to allow easier access to one’s pockets).

      • AdamE

        I have the same issue with most OTR in the thigh & calf areas… I have a hard time finding pants that fit in the waist, seat and thigh/calf areas. I can usually find OTR that fits 1-2 of them, but not all… Custom MTM can certainly help alleviate that issue, providing they actually take measurements both at the thigh and the calf…
        Hopefully we’ll see more OTR trouser options with military hems (hemmed on an angle). For suit trousers or even separates, it’s really my preferred way to go… (balances looking like a no break shrunken suit with looking like a congressman, or 70% of male celebrities at an awards show, with accordion puddles on your shoes).
        My only question on the look above is that weird catch 2/3rds up the left shin (right in the picture, but his left leg)? Is that just a crease from being folded and not giving it a tug? at first I thought it looked like the trouser being pinned to fit the model, but that’s way too high for that. Is it a snag in the fabric, or maybe catching with the sock underneath? Otherwise the fit looks great, that area just stands out since the rest of the drape is clean

    • Tom

      Finally! Thank you for posting the details on the leg opening. Now I can sleep at night

      • Dan Trepanier

        Haha. Sleep tight my friend.

      • tommyjohn_45

        Ughh.. Tell me about it. I would say that is the #1 most difficult thing for me when buying clothes. For some reason I always feel like I’m bordering on bell bottoms, but these reference points give me peace of mind :D… Must just be the perspective of looking at someone else, vs. staring down.

    • ChrisD

      Hemmed at an angle.. interesting. I’ve never heard of this, but it sort of makes sense. Seeing one’s socks from behind is a clear sign of pants being too short, but the tongue of a shoe is often quite high – especially on me due to super high arch and foot injuries which often have me busting out of the top of oxfords that otherwise fit in length and width.
      Thanks Dan.

      • TO

        Just don’t angle hem them if you are getting cuffs on your trousers. Wouldn’t look right (others agree right-?)

    • Eric

      That tie is pure sex…love it

    • Shawn

      I love that jacket. As for the trousers, I think they’d look better if the pleat lined up with the crease. But I love the use of buttons side adjusters. Cuffs would add a nice finishing touch!

      • Dan Trepanier

        That’s not a pleat, it’s a dart (the opposite of a pleat).

        • TO

          Ah! Interesting. I haven’t seen/noticed that before or heard of it at the tailor. I have had my (newest) tailor, at his suggestion, put darts in the back of my trousers when taking in a lot at the waist and seat. This was the best decision. I wish I had always done this on my other pants (I have gotten a lot of waist/seats done at my previous tailors)- the back pockets retain more of their spacing and it feels much better fitted overall at the hips.

    • cam

      hey dan, great article. in terms of rise, what do you typically go for in inches? i have found a 10.5 to 10.75″ rise to be quit suitable.

      the very debatable issue of length and leg opening also, in my opinion, comes down to fabric. i find myself opting for a slight break and larger opening (16″) with fall and winter fabrics and no break and smaller opening (15 – 15.25″) with spring and summer fabrics. curious if anyone else has followed this similar approach.

      • facelessghost

        I’d like to know more about your preferred rise, too, Dan. Being 6’5″, I find that the typical 10.25-10.75″ rise on most slimmer off-the-rack dress pants is too low for me.

        Also, what’s an appropriate back rise? I’ve noticed that while the front measurement seems to be pretty standard, there’s much more variation between manufacturers in the back.

        • David Shapiro

          the average rise is 10.25, which is why you’re usually seeing that for off-the rack items, since they are made for the general public. I’m a bigger guy myself being 6’6″ weighing 230lbs with athletic thighs and calves. So, 10.75 / 11 rise should be fine for you but, also keep in mind everything is interconnected so even if a rise on an off-the rack item is 11 other areas on the pants might not follow suit for our build, ie the seat, thigh and knee Allowance, etc. Make sense? My advise for whatever it’s worth @facelessghost, invest in a pair of custom pants. Going to be a world of difference.

      • Dan Trepanier

        I usually feel pretty good with a 10 – 10 1/4″ rise. A lot of that depends on body shape (mainly the size of the “seat”), and balance between front and back rise. Agreed about different cuts for different fabrics! Cheers mate.

    • James Wong

      Interesting to note that you guys across the sea refer to them as trouser where in the UK we say trousers or even “a pair of trousers”.

      Good stuff, I can see the How It Should Fit series becoming a very handy reference guide in the future.

      Also slight typo “which can happen in the front of back” I think should be “front or back”?