To Cuff, or Not to Cuff?

February 7th, 2017

Like many details found throughout the rich history of menswear, the trouser cuff is riddled with origin myths and stories of legendary inventors.

As is the nature of men’s fashion, all of these mythical tales begin with a very real function and purpose.

For example, among the origin myths:

  • Cattlemen in the old West would often turn their pants cuffs up to hold small items, like nails or staples. This would keep their supplies handy while riding the range.
  • Cuffs started with men rolling up their trousers to avoid getting mud splashed on them when roads were still unpaved.
  • Men used trouser cuffs to catch the ashes from their cigarettes, before there were proper ashtrays in places like trains and public waiting rooms.
  • Kind Edward VII hated getting the bottom of his trousers wet, so he started to roll them. One particularly rainy season he had his tailor sew them permanently rolled, which caught on with men at large.
  • Parents used cuffs to extend the life of children’s clothes by buying pants that were too long, cuffing the legs and then unrolling them as the child grew taller.
  • Cuffs were invented by tailors for men with chunky thighs, to add body to the bottom of the trousers and detract from the imbalance of shape between the upper and lower legs.
  • Cuffs were invented by fashion designers to add weight to the bottom of the trouser, improving the overall drape and line of the pant on models strutting down the catwalk.
  • As World War II approached, cuffs on trousers were actually prohibited in order to save fabric. Flaps on coat pockets were also prohibited for the same reason. (This is true). As a reaction, cuffs became a symbol of access and wealth.

Whether or not we can be certain about where they came from, today cuffed trousers are largely a personal style preference, which is why we offer our custom trousers with or without them.

Generally, we advise on cuffs for trousers that are cut from heavier weight fabrics which are more likely to be worn with boots and footwear with chunkier soles.

To Cuff:

Not to Cuff:

 

Of course, tailoring is all about personal preference… Which fabrics do you cuff?

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Yours in style,

AOS

best-mannequins-row

The New American Tailor Shop

  • Marcus

    Could you guys explain why you recommend cuffs for heavier suiting fabrics that are worn with boots/chunkier footwear? I assume it’s for improving drape in those situations, but I feel like it works either way. I have an all-season wool suit with cuffs that I love.

  • JoeFromTexas

    hmmm – I’ve always considered cuffs standard for pleated pants, and optional for flat front (which is where weight and formality would come into play).

    By the way, the connection of the WWII thrift “myth” and the zoot suit as rebellious wear is a fascinating tale of how clothes can make a statement.

  • AdamE

    Of all the rumors… not sure about the origins, but the wartime cuff band to save fabric is true at least in some countries… And with a low n… my parents certainly cuffed pants as we grew into them when I was young…

    I find cuffs tend to look best on fabrics with enough weight to them to stand up to the cuff… Or where you need the weight to get a good drape. I tend to shy away from cuffs on tailoring, but cuff many casual pants (jeans, cords, chinos, etc.)

  • Guillermo Quintero

    Really into cuffs these days, I want to cuff all my trousers. ;)

  • TO

    Great photo up top! I think you can cuff trousers of any fabric if you like and it’s more unexpected and therefore exciting on lightweight fabrics… I just judge it case by case. I most believe the story of parents cuffing their children’s pants to let down as they grew!

    • Esosa

      True.. I cuff anything that is cuffable for me (due to my insane inseam) because it just provides a better drape over dress shoes than a regular hem..the casual fabric I get not wanting to cuff them..but I still have a pair of linen pants that are cuffed that work fine..

    • Miguel

      Yep, I also cuff on an individual basis, depending on my mood.