Tag Archives: Perfectly Fitting Pants

Essential Steps to the Perfect Pant: Part III

Pants are overlooked.

Hopefully following this third and final post of the Perfect Pant series this will no longer be the case.  Over the past two weeks the focus has been on what’s happening on the top half of the pant – Part I dealing with the rise while Part II focused on the seat, waist and thigh areas.  Today we shift to the bottom half of the pant and explore the importance of cohesively blending the two elements together.


Part III: Get the length and width right.

I’ll start with a blatant but fair generalization – the vast majority of guys wear their pants too loose through the leg and too long.  All this does is add unnecessary visual bulk that can make a guy look 10-15 pounds heavier than he actually is.  Oddly we have two Hollywood heavyweights to provide us with examples of what not to do:

loose and long pants

Where do we start?

1. It’s all about the taper. 

Just in case you didn’t know – all pants are tapered.  Our bodies are naturally tapered thus clothing needs to follow that form.  The question though is how much to taper?  There are two keys to this:

The first is to follow the proportions and shape of your body.

The goal is to create a visually pleasing line whereby the thigh, knee and bottom measurements of the pant are balanced proportionally.  If the taper is too aggressive then you’ll make your thighs and seat look bigger than they actually are.  On the other hand if the taper isn’t enough then the bottom of the pants will be visually heavy making the top look awkwardly small.

proportion & body shape

In the above images we have four distinct looks that are being pulled off with varying degrees of success.  Numbers one and three – classic examples of overaggressive tapering.

#1 – He’s not a big man but he definitely holds his weight in the mid-section.  The effect of the aggressive taper is that he appears to have ‘chicken-legs’ in relation to the rest of his body.

#3 –  Apologies for his being slightly hidden but I think you can see that he has a fuller chest and quite a developed seat.  Instead of balancing out the fact he is top heavy he has emphasized it with the aggressive taper.

The exact opposite has occurred with numbers two and four as they have achieved perfect balance and proportion for their body types.

#2 – He is smaller in terms of height but has some width in his upper body and seat area.  With this in mind he has chosen a slightly more relaxed fit through the seat and thigh of the pant; a line that he has maintained with a consistent, soft taper down through the knee toward the pants bottom.  The result is total balance and a look that is relaxed yet trim.

#4 – This guy follows the same principle despite his body being a polar opposite with height and skinniness.  His level of taper is certainly an aggressive one; this is okay though because he is equally thin through the seat and thighs.  The balance is maintained thus the top and bottom sync up with one another.

The second factor comes down to style.

The dominant style of the day is unquestionably a trimmer fit.  Based on the factors we just discussed this trim look can manifest itself in varying degrees – from a slimmer look to a slightly fuller look.  Honestly assessing your body type and then blending it with your fashion sense is a highly personal choice – there is no right or wrong but at all cost avoid loose and sloppy.  Here are some examples to guide you:

pant style II

#1 – A slightly fuller trim                                  #2 – A slightly slimmer trim

pant style

#3 – Trim on a fuller body                               #4 – Proportionally trim

2.  It’s all about the break.

When discussing the break of a pant what we’re essentially referring to the length of your pants.  The break is the fold or bend that occurs in the vertical line of the pant when it hits your shoe.  The longer the pant the more break there is; conversely a pant that doesn’t hit the shoe has no break at all. Generally there are four breaks as seen in the images below: 1) no-break, 2) quarter-break, 3) half-break and 4) full-break.

pant break

Technically there is no right or wrong when it comes to your pant break.  It simply comes down to personal preference and what specifically works on your body type.  As a general rule of thumb though I recommend guys to start with a quarter to half-break – they represent the best of both worlds and allow guys to get a sense of what they feel comfortable with.

Some loose rules to follow.

The shorter you are the less break you should have – the idea being that an unaltered line of the pant acts to elongate your legs and make you appear leaner and taller.

taller and shorter

The taller you are the more break you should have – the idea being that the folds will break up the vertical line thus softening the impact of the height.

For those of you wanting to be fashion forward and have the shorter look please do so with extreme caution.  It only works when the width of the bottom is quite narrow – we’re talking between 14-15 inches in total circumference.  The key being that as you move the bottom shouldn’t be wildly flopping around – if that is the case then it simply appears that your pants are too short.  Here are two examples of it done properly:

no-break pants

And lastly – wear beautiful shoes.  My biggest frustration with pants that are too long is that it’s a missed opportunity to show off your shoes.  Sloppily burying them under mounds of cloth does nothing for you – polish them up, show them off and set you yourself apart from the pack.

Thanks for reading – I’d really like to hear from you in terms of your thoughts on the entire Perfect Pants series.  Was it helpful?  Did I miss anything?  Are there any other areas you’d appreciate my delving into?

Take care,




Essential Steps to the Perfect Pant: Part II

Pants are overlooked.

As I stated last week the role of the pant is a supporting one; the jacket undeniably being the star of the show.  Even other supporting characters like shirts and accessories get more attention as easy ways to add a bit of pop to a look.  No more – it’s time for pants to get their due!

Stylistically pants ground and set the tone for an outfit.  They’re also the workhorse – you can undo a jacket or loosen a collar but a pant is always worn to its fullest.  For these reasons a perfect fitting pant is crucial.  Today is the second post in a three-part series on how to achieve exactly that perfection.

Part II – Get the waist, seat + hips and thigh right.

 Untitled design (3)

Where do you start?

Always start with the seat.  In tailoring a pant is based off the seat measurement as opposed to the waist.  The seat represents the widest part of the body thus we first establish the width at this level and then shape the area above (waist) and below (thigh) as much as necessary.

Likely this is opposite to every pant purchase you’ve made as standardized clothing is based off the waist and outseam length measurements.  This is a major problem as there is essentially no standard waist to seat ratio.  The result is that most guys have a choice to make; fit for the waist and have tightness through the seat verses fit for the seat and have a loose waist.  The debate is over – fit the pant to the seat and then alter for the waist.

What makes a good fit?

It’s a combination between the actual dimensions of the pant and the aesthetic of its style.

Undoubtedly the best dressed guys base their style decisions off the their body type.  They understand what works for them and what their limitations are.  In other words; just because you appreciate a certain look and style doesn’t mean you should be wearing it.

Also keep in mind the influence of fabric.  Wool is light, airy and fluid in terms of its natural drape.  Cotton on the other hand is heavier and doesn’t have the same fluidity in its movement. It will also stretch and ‘bag out’ in a way that wool will not.  This means we generally cut cotton closer to the body to allow it to take the shape of the wearer.  With wool we cut slightly looser due to the lack of stretch but also because it’s visually lighter.

The seat & hips

Irregardless of style and cloth a pants fit through the seat should remain relatively the same. Due to the anatomy of our backsides it’s expected that we’ll fill out the seat area of our pants. That said there should be adequate coverage with no sign of strain at the middle seam nor any pulling from the sides and pocket area.  Equally there should also be no extra fullness pooling in these areas.  As a test you should be able to easily grab an inch or so of cloth between your forefinger and thumb at the widest part of the seat.  The image below right is a great example.

perfect ins

Also critical is what’s happening on the front of the pant at this level – see the above left image for a good fit.  The ‘filling out’ effect can never happen at the front – this is from a style and comfort point of view as well as out of respect for the general public.  As discussed in Part I the hips are in constant motion so this is an area of high tension.  Adequate ease is crucial at the front hip area or else the pockets will flare and you won’t be able to fit anything into the front pockets.  Too much cloth though and you look sloppy.

To assist you here are some rough numbers as a guide; to figure this out simply measure your pants at the widest point of the seat and compare them to your own seat measurement.  With wool the seat of the pant should measure between 2 – 2.75″ more than your actual seat measurement.  With cotton it should measure 1.5 – 2.25″ more.

The waist

Ultimately the waist should sit comfortably exactly where its designed to sit – be it at the natural waist or lower towards the hips.  What determines comfortable comes down to personal preference – as a guide I usually cut pants a half inch bigger than a clients actual waist.  It’s about one finger of room – just enough so that things aren’t tight when you’re sitting, but firm enough that it’s locked in place when standing and moving.  Keep in mind that a pant shouldn’t need a belt – it’s decorative as opposed to functional.

A special note for those of you with small or flat seats.  Typically two things happen in this case; the first is that the waist will always drop at the back creating a roll of excess fabric right below it.  The second element has the area behind your quads collapsing which leads to a pool of cloth in the back and inner thigh area.  To deal with this effect when I make the pant I’ll simply reduce the height at the back – this eliminates the excess by pulling everything up and off the back of the quads.  Easy enough when making the pant from scratch but definitely something you can alter even if you’re buying off-the-rack – it may cost a bit but it’s necessary and worth it.

The thigh

The thigh is crucial to get right as it has a massive impact on both comfort and style.  It must be noted that as silhouettes get trimmer and trimmer it becomes quite tricky to get that balance absolutely perfect.

The first thing to keep in mind is that all of us have to sit down – be it for short periods in a car or for long stretches at the office. This leads to an expansion of the quads that simply needs to be accounted for in the width of the thigh.  I mention this because consistently I meet guys who want a very trim look through the thighs only to find sitting very difficult.  The reality is that your body and its dimensions dictate how trim you can go; know your bodies limitations and go from there.

Here are some rough numbers that will guide you in this process; keep in mind the importance of the impact of different cloths.  With wool the thigh should measure between 3 – 4″ more than your actual quad measurement.  With cotton – due to the fact that it stretches naturally – it should measure somewhere between 2.5 – 3.5″ more.  These numbers will provide you with a trim style on the low side and a clean yet slightly more relaxed look on the high.

Measuring the thigh

A fair amount to digest – as always let me know if you have questions or comments.  Take care.



Essential Steps to the Perfect Pant: Part I

Pants are overlooked.

Their role is a supporting one; the jacket undeniably being the star lead.  Even other supporting characters like shirts and accessories get more attention as easy ways to add a bit of pop to a look.  No more – it’s time for pants to get their due!

Stylistically pants ground and set the tone for an outfit.  They’re also the workhorse – you can undo a jacket or loosen a collar but a pant is always worn at its fullest.  For these reasons a perfect fitting pant is crucial.  This is the first in a three-part series on how to achieve exactly that perfection.

Part I – Get the rise right.

What is the rise?

The rise is the distance between the top of the waistband and the bottom of the crotch.  To determine the rise; subtract the length of the in-seam measurement from that of the out-seam. Generally the difference will be between 9-12 inches.

The rise is crucial because it determines where the pants waistband will sit on your body, which in turn creates your perceived waistline.  I say “perceived” because by playing with the rise you are able to alter the proportional relationship between your torso and legs.

inst 5

What is meant by a low or high rise pant?

We’ll use the Navy pant above as our starting point – it’s an example of  a 10 inch rise which is standard for men’s tailoring.  Now imagine cutting horizontally along the dotted line between the waistband and the crotch. With this cut we could hypothetically open it up and add more length; as such the waistband moves up, the bottom of the crotch moves down and the rise gets longer or higher as it’s commonly described.  Conversely we could also remove length to shorten the rise; in this case the waistband moves down, the bottom of the crotch moves up and the rise gets lower.

The images below show the results of this process – the Grey pant on the left is a more traditionally cut 10.5 inch rise; the Olive pant on the right being a more contemporary 9.5 inch rise.  As you can see the “perceived” waistline is very different.


Impact of the rise: on style

The three examples shown above clearly show the visual impact that different rise lengths have on the wearers mid-section.  This in turn effects the visual length of the torso and the legs – below are some full body examples to show the influence of this proportional relationship:

Shorter Rise

 insta re-do2  insta re-do

Right away you should notice the longer appearance of the torso with a shorter rise.  The effect is countered though by the base of the crotch being higher which acts to elongate the legs. These two counter points play off each other to create a very delicate balance – get it wrong and your proportions can start to look very odd.  Those of you with long legs and a shorter torso can go this route without worry.  Everyone else needs to play with this a little to find out what works best for them.

Longer Rise

insta - re-do3  insta7

With this set of images you’ll notice that the torso doesn’t appear a great deal shorter; not at least when compared to the elongation that occurred with the shorter rise.  This is simply because a longer rise mimics the natural shape of our bodies hence less visual manipulation.

What is noticeable is a greater sense of length along the outside of the leg; it’s an effect that is countered though by the base of the crotch being set lower.  The  result is a balanced overall appearance that is applicable to the widest range of body types.  Those of you with a short torso should avoid the longest rises; a medium length will provide the right balance.  Everyone else should be playing with it to find what works best for them.

Impact of the rise: on comfort

Unquestionably a higher sitting pant is more comfortable than one that sits lower on the hips. Our hips are the body’s main pivot point and are in constant motion – when the waistband sits at this point there is nothing it can do but move which in turns causes tugging, pulling and general discomfort.  With the waistband on the natural waist it sits in a place that has very minimal movement hence greater comfort.

That said most of us are willing to sacrifice a little comfort for style in certain situations.  In making this decision it simply comes down to your body type – I’ll use myself as a reference point.  My years in the squat rack have given me the classic “hockey butt” that many of you are familiar with.  Mine is particularly troublesome because I have a very developed upper seat – the result being it pushes the waistband upwards making a lower sitting pant very uncomfortable. As such a higher sitting pant is more comfortable as it allows for more fullness to be introduced into the upper seat area as it is a more gradual increase in circumference from the waistband itself.

So guys with a hockey butts – I’m afraid a shorter rise is likely not your best option from a comfort point of view.  For those of you with flatter or more medium proportioned seats it’s an option that is absolutely open to you.  The key is to try different styles on and get a sense what works for you.  in doing so make sure you walk around the room for a few minutes as opposed to just standing still in front of the mirror – this movement will determine what happens at the waistband and the level of comfort that occurs with it thus guiding your decision making process.

The takeaway:

The proportional relationship between the torso and the legs is a very personal matter.  What looks right to one person may look completely odd to the next.  This post was not about hard rules rather it’s aim was to make you think and look at the choices out there with a new sense of what might work best for your body.  Likely you’ll be like me and enjoy having a few different lengths in your arsenal.

As always let me know if you have any questions or comments – take care.