In this article, we’ll discuss proper fit for men’s dress pants, going over what they should look like and talking about the alterations required to get the look you need.
How Dress Pants Should Fit
Immediately below is a quick hit list on proper trouser fit. For a deeper dive, scroll down further.
- Waistband sits at or just below the navel, is neither tight nor loose
- Rise is long enough to accommodate proper waistband placement
- Bottoms touch the shoe but don’t puddle (slight break)
- No pulling across crotch or seat
Trousers are less complex in terms of fit than jackets, but attention to detail is still required for them to look their best.
Below, we’ll take a look at the most important aspects of trousers fit individually.
Seat: How Should Trousers Fit Across The Rear?
The fit of the waistband and that of the seat (tailorspeak for your rear end) go hand in hand. If the seat is too tight -you’ll be able to feel it and see it pulling across your derriere- the tailor will have to let it out.
If there’s too much material, it will have to be taken in. It should lay as smoothly as possible across your backside.
Waistband: The waistband of your trousers should be snug but not tight. They should feel comfortably secure without having to wear a belt. If you put a belt on and the waistband bunches up, it will need to be taken in. If it’s tight right off the bat, any trousers worth buying will have additional material sewn into it so that they can be let out and you can breathe a bit more easily.
We grouped these together because a seat alteration is often a byproduct of what has to be done to a waistband. If, for example, your waistband needs to be taken in, that will cause the seat to look like there’s excess material there. Not a good look. A competent tailor will see this and simply pin or chalk you up without you even needing to ask.
What Are Crotch & Rise & How Do They Affect Trouser Fit?
The crotch of your pants should fall smoothly against your own. Any pulling material means it’s too tight.
The rise of your trousers is the distance between the top of the waistband and the fork in the crotch (for those with a deeper familiarity with tailoring, the formula is outseam – inseam = rise). Rise is a place where personal preference plays a bigger role than most men realize. Traditionally, suit trousers sit at the natural waist, which is right around the navel. Some men find this to be comfortable, others feel the opposite because they’re so accustomed to low-rise jeans that sit around their hips.
When you’re trying your suit on, be sure that you pull the trousers up to where they’re intended to sit. Look at the fly of different brands of trousers; chances are you’ll see that some are noticeably longer than others. If the rise looks longer, pull them up higher. If it looks shorter, well, you’ll find out quickly where they’re supposed to land.
This will also be dictated by your any bodily irregularities you might have, specifically whether or not your height is derived from your torso more than your legs or vice-versa. See our guide on body types if you don’t know yours!
This is important not just for comfort, but also because it affects how the length of your trousers will be achieved.
How Long Should Dress Pants Be?
First, let’s talk about some terminology.
- Inseam: The length of the trouser from the fork in the crotch to the hem. You’ll notice a seam on the inside of both pant legs, hence the term inseam.
- Outseam: The length of the trouser from the top of the waistband to the hem. You’ll notice a seam on the outside of both pant legs, hence the name.
When we talk about trouser length, we’re talking about inseam specifically. This holds true for various brands as well. A pair of trousers marked 33 x 32 refers to a 33″ inch waist and a 32″ inseam.
As you can see from above, the trouser should just touch the top of your shoe all around for what’s called a “slight break,” which we think looks the cleanest.
What’s a break, you ask? Read on!
Break refers to the amount of material that sits on the shoe when you’re standing in a regular pose. Though there’s no industry-wide standardization, many places will offer a large break, medium break, slight break, or no break when finishing pant length.
While this is generally a question of personal preference, we advise that a slight break looks good on most men and should thus be what you ask for. Shorter and/or more fashion-forward men have been wearing breakless pants for years now. On the other hand, very tall men can benefit from a more generous break, as they run the risk of looking like their trousers were cut too short if they wear a slight break.
The beauty here is that as trends change, so can your break. Trousers have additional material sewn into their bottoms and can be taken up or let down as the winds of fashion blow in different directions.
How Rise Affects Length
The most important thing to do that will ensure an accurate first round of tailoring is to wear your pants exactly where you plan to wear them in relation to your waist as the tailor is pinning you up. If you wear high-waisted trousers too low, they will be shortened too much. You’ll find yourself in a pair of dumpy-crotched capri pants.
Pant Leg Shape: A Bit Of Tapering Is Good
Take a look at the three graphics below. See how from left to right they’re very tapered, somewhat tapered, and barely tapered from left to right?
Dress trousers should be neither so tapered that the hug the leg nor so loose that they flap in the wind. More traditional men will prefer a more generous cut, more fashion-forward men tend to want a slimmer cut.
Your trousers should create a flattering silhouette of your legs while neither hindering your movement nor being so large as to be mistaken for a pair of Oxford bags (unless, of course, you’re the very particular vintage enthusiast who actually wants Oxford bags).
Should your trouser legs be a bit too large, your tailor can taper them from the thigh down to the hem. This is not a terribly difficult alteration, so most tailors will take no issue with performing it. To learn how to find a good tailor, click here.
Like anything, your dress pants should fit well. Achieving this will take trial and error and also the skills of a good tailor. Take your time and make sure the fit is perfect, you’ll be pleased if you do.