The long and the short of short pants

The long and the short of short pants

Q. What is the deal with these new high-water pants or even capris on men . . . and with no socks?  Is this really acceptable weekend wear? I have a few pants that are shorter from shrinking (and from my waist enlarging and pulling them up). I thought I could only wear them for working around the house.

A. My strong guess is that the shorter pants you already own which resulted from shrinking (and the opposite!) look very different from today’s stylish men’s cropped pants. It is a look that works for men, that is, for some men.

Anywhere from 1½ inch shorter than standard pants to a great deal shorter (mid-calf length), this new cropped pant look is a style that can be a fun addition to the right man’s casual wardrobe. It is meant to be slimmer and shorter than a regular pant. The look is clean, crisp, and very versatile. But it does not work for everyone. My feeling is that you need to be a youthful dresser, who is very secure in your fashion sense, to pull off the look. You want to be sure that wearing the style makes you appear stylish, not silly.

Wearing cropped pants comes with the responsibility to do it well. And doing it well involves knowing when and where they are appropriate. In general, w here you are going defines where you can wear them. I’’m glad you are asking about them as a part of weekend wear, because that is where I believe they belong. The look is not designed for the workplace. While these days, in a forward-thinking business setting, this flat-front, trimly styled length might add a twist to your office-ready look, I always caution against anything so trendy in a traditional office environment. Be certain that the bosses, and those closest to them, are open to such innovative dressing before you decide to introduce it.

Even so, we’re living in a totally new age of pants. Yesterday’s old-school trousers were long, full-cut, with a full-break, not machine washable or wrinkle-resistant. And they didn’t have comfortable built-in stretch technology either. Today’s newest pants are quite different. Their most obvious features besides a shorter length are a trim silhouette, narrow legs, and tapered at the bottom of the hem. This more modern pant silhouette tends to flatter a slimmer body type, creating a more streamlined fit. And many are designed to show off your ankles or your socks.

Widely available in a variety of comfortable fabrics from cotton and linen to polyester/rayon/spandex, most men’s stores have an assortment of cropped pants in different cuts and lengths: Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, all have at least a few. The style began with such expensive European designers as Gucci, Givenchy, and Lanvin, and now has been picked up by American brands, including Old Navy, Ralph Lauren Polo, Rag & Bone, Theory, and J. Brand.

Cropped pants come in all colors from white or black dress pants to light-washed denim. They may be cuffed or not. Some are worn with a retro rolled-up cuff, and some have a new frayed hem. They are worn with a range of tops from a white T-shirt or short-sleeved sport shirt to a button-down shirt and even, on occasion, a jacket. When they are denim, they are usually worn with low-topped sneakers and no socks. Linen cropped pants are often worn with a dressy sneaker, with or without socks. Dressier pants are being worn with leather shoes (not my favorite), again with or without socks. Crazy socks may be fun, but should not be worn with these pants. Save them for longer trousers, which hide the socks while you are standing, and only let them show when you are sitting.

The most important aspect of cropped trousers is the cut a range of tops from a white T-shirt or short-sleeve sport shirt to a button-down shirt and even, on occasion, a jacket. When they are denim. To add an edgy, “street style” feel to your outfit, it must be tapered towards the bottom of the hem. If the trousers are too long, the cropped trouser trend will not be obvious; too short, or a wide cut that flaps around at the ankles, will make the wearer look as if he has outgrown his school pants.

Incidentally, some men who are not tall prefer these pants for another reason: because they fit them nicely as regular pants that do not need to be shortened.  For guys who are 5 9′ or less, cropped pants fit perfectly. So, although they don’t fit as they were intended (that is, at ankle length), they do fit exactly the way standard pants would without having to have them altered. If you are short, I recommend that you buy them now before this ankle length goes out of style. They fit the not-so-tall guy in perfect proportion to his body.

Cropped pants are a new trend, and probably not likely to be around forever. If you are a forward type dresser who likes to experiment and doesn’’t mind getting rid of a few garments after a couple of years, you might enjoy giving them a try.

For my opinion on how to pull off this embrace of the exposed ankle look, here are a few pointers on how-to and how-not-to. I don’’t like them too short, too loose fitting, made of wool, worn with colorful socks that show, worn in the winter, or in a too-formal dressed-up suit combination. I think they should be just a bit shorter than full-break trousers, cut on the trim side, made of cotton or linen, worn in warm weather, and worn when the dress code is relaxed.

The well-dressed man knows that consistency is important in all that he wears. Mixing these current and trendy cropped pants with, say, a traditional jacket and tie on a non-hip older man can come across as mixing apples and oranges . . . or worse; it can bring to mind that awful image, Dad jeans.

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