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Hem breaks: A guide to understanding the right pant length

As menswear and formalwear increasingly lean towards slimmer and definitive fits, traditional pant lengths, i.e hem breaks, have been left behind. The ‘proper’ pant length is now a matter of personal style, the suit’s overall aesthetic and structure, and one’s body type. Here’s a guide to pant lengths.

The hem break is typically defined as the fold or creasing of the fabric in dress pants (or jeans or chinos for that matter) above the bottom of the front of the pant leg where it meets your shoe. It’s a simple thing but plays a crucial role in style. Casual dressing focuses on cuffs for jeans, whereas formal dressing fancies cleaner cuts.

But first, understand the break scale 

Here’s a quick guide to pant lengths: Hem breaks can be classified as full break, half break, slight break, and cropped. The terms seem self-explanatory, but this jargon can be vexing. The full break is the most traditional break on the scale. Having an easy and generous cut at its cluttered hem, it exhibits traits from latter half of the 20th century dressing. The half break, is a bit more conservative, playing it safe. The slight break is much cleaner and bolder, while the cropped expresses urbanity, playfulness, and youth.  

The full break  

Hem break men's formalwear

Meant for a wider body, it balances out the body structure ratio. What it says about you: I’m older, heavier, and stylistically conservative. The Indian male demographic seem to have a wider waist than their Western counterparts, and therefore this break caters perfectly to them.

The full break is ideally worked with a straight fit pair of trousers; having this done on narrower ankle cuts would cause creasing and clutter. The point of this hem break is to visually take some load off the upper body onto the lower body.

The half break

Guide to hem breaks

The half break is the quintessential slim fit cut, and you can’t go wrong with it. As the name suggests, it falls right onto the centre of the hem-break scale. For those who indulge in cuffs, this is your cut. It does gather around the ankle a bit, but not as much as a full break.

The slight break

Guide to hem breaks

The slight break is a corporate look. It evokes perfection and falls gracefully without any clutter. If the cropped and the tapered leg is a little too fashion-forward for you, but you still want to be a contemporary, it is the ideal choice. This looks best without a cuff and with the back of the pant leg angled a little longer than the front.

Cropped trousers

Hem break men's formal wear

Thom Browne’s shrunken suit forever changed the face of men’s dress pants. While the above-the-ankle style can only truly be pulled off by some, many guys feel comfortable with a cropped hem, where the pant leg just kisses the top of the ankle. This cut only works for those who are lean-bodied. There’s a bit of sock-play involved here too, if you’d like to get creative. What does this say about you? You are embracing your youth and unafraid to take risks.   

All images: Courtesy Shutterstock 

Mikhail Gomes
Features Editor, Lifestyle Asia India & Contributor - Augustman
A watch aficionado, Mikhail also enjoys learning about fine whiskies, and one day hopes to establish his own menswear label. At Lifestyle Asia India, he writes on watches, menswear, auto and tech.