Break: the menswear term for how much creasing occurs at the bottom of the trousers, due to the length of fabric resting on one’s shoes.
It’s a tailoring decision that can drastically change the appearance of a pair of trousers, and because of this, it has become a polarizing issue in men’s fashion over the past decade or so. Today anything goes – some guys wear their trousers short and cropped like Thom Browne, some wear them long and full like Tom Ford, and others manage to change their silhouettes seasonally. What’s important to note is the inverse relationship between length and width.
Ultimately pant length is a decision that should have less to do with fashion trends, and more to do with personal style and flattering your body type. Here’s a quick guide that describes the hemlines most popular in menswear today.
The Cropped Pant
Led by New York fashion designer Thom Browne’s “shrunken schoolboy” aesthetic, the cropped trouser (above the ankle) has become one of the most prominent trends in recent menswear history.
Vibes: fashion-forward, hip, trendy, care-free, young, casual, rebellious, anti-establishment, rock & roll, creative.
Best on: lightweight summer fabrics that need to breathe. Young gents. Sockless shoes. Skinny guys with skinny ankles and skinny pants.
The “No Break”
As a result of the cropped trouser trend, many men (including myself) opted to participate in this widespread pant shortening, but not all the way up the ankle. We landed at a point where the trousers basically skim the top of the shoes.
Vibes: modern, current, sharp, clean, simple, minimal, European influenced.
Best on: slim guys, short guys, summer weight pants, narrow cut trousers (16″ leg opening or smaller).
The Slight Break
When the trouser is cut just long enough to sit on the top of the shoes, causing a very minimal amount of crease at the front. For this, I recommend going with a slanted hemline that is approximately 3/8″ longer in the back (this cannot be done with cuffs).
Vibes: updated classic, young businessman, tailored but not trendy, trying but not trying too hard, tasteful but not overly flashy.
Best on: most people, sharp businessmen, smooth operators, slim not skinny trousers (around 16″ for guys of average build).
The Medium Break
Basically, the more break you wear in your trousers, the older/more mature/more conservative/more anti-“fashion” you will look. A medium break is ideal for the well-dressed man of no-frills, or the conservative businessman.
Vibes: timeless, mature, gentlemanly, conservative, not trying to be flashy or draw attention, classically well-dressed and appropriate.
Best on: heavier gents, conservative businessmen, young guys trying to be taken more seriously in the office, heavyweight cloths like flannels and tweeds, cuffed trousers that are a little fuller through the leg.
The Full Break
The wide-legged trouser with a full break (or multiple full breaks) is a bold retro look. It’s how men wore their trousers back in the 1920’s and 1930’s, when more cloth meant more strength and more luxury.
Vibes: vintage, old-school, throwback, anti-trend, stand out from the crowd, Jazz age, cigar lounge styes.
Best on: older guys, vintage connoisseurs, heavier gents, soft lush fabrics, Jazz musicians, pleated trousers with full legs, throwback souls.
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