To Hem or Not To Hem: Cuffing vs. Hemming Your Jeans and Pants

My experiences hemming my jeans, chinos, cuffs, etc

Cuffing jeans is pretty much a default for most fans of raw denim and Amekaji-heritage clothing. In fact, this love of cuffing extends to all trousers, not just jeans. I myself cuffed all my trousers by default for the last 6-7 years. For most of this time period, I haven’t even really thought about it much. When I got a new pair of jeans or trousers, I would get them hemmed to 29” and then double cuff them. This was essentially a routine for me. 

my standard double cuff

My guess is that I’m not all that different from a lot of other people that are into this style. For quite a while, it was only streetwear guys who wore raw denim uncuffed and stacked for the most part, but those guys aren’t as into selvedge anymore so that look didn’t last all that long. Most guys cuff their jeans and usually cuff most of their jeans the same way every time. On top of that, most guys cuff all their trousers because they already cuff their jeans.

I cuffed everything- jeans or not

With that said, I have noticed recently that a few more people are challenging the default idea of cuffing everything and I myself have recently started to question my own habit of double cuffing every pair of jeans and trousers that I own. Because of this, I felt the time was right to explore this topic a little further. 

Firstly, why do most wearers of raw denim even cuff their jeans in the first place? From what I have seen, there are a few reasons. 

  1. Historical precedent
  2. Showing off selvedge
  3. It looks cool
  4. Showing off boots
  5. Everyone does it

The reason that people who wear raw denim in the late 20th century and early 21st century most likely started cuffing their jeans was because that’s what people did back in the day. Jeans came in one length and if you weren’t tall, you needed to cuff them to keep from looking too sloppy. That’s how raw denim is generally sold today outside of unique brands like Resolute. The people who started buying Japanese raw denim likely cuffed because they were buying reproductions of old jeans and that’s how the people who wore the original jeans did things. If you’re trying to dress like someone who wore jeans in the past, it seems that you pretty much need to cuff your jeans.

The second reason that people cuff is to show off the fact that they are in fact wearing selvedge jeans. I personally never got behind this reason, especially given that I cuff everything whether it is selvedge or not. It does make sense for some people though if you’re really proud of the jeans you are wearing. However, I do think it looks pretty cool much of the time, which is the third main reason. 

Cuffing does show off your selvedge if you care about that

Personally, I like cuffing because it actually gives a cleaner look than not hemming and just letting your jeans stack. With jeans, the contrast of the white weft being shown against the blue looks pretty cool as well in my own and in others’ opinions. It helps show that you are specifically wearing jeans. This cleaner and shorter hem also helps to show off boots, whether that’s displaying the buckles of your engineers or presenting the full profile of a 6” service boot.

My cuffs are far too high here

Cuffing to show off your boots can definitely come with issues, however. I personally noticed this myself. I was cuffing my jeans pretty high to show off my engineer boots, but I eventually realized that I was making a mistake. In cuffing my jeans high to show off my boots, I realized that I was making my legs look short and my outfits look ill-proportioned. Boots are great, but they are not your entire outfit. It’s not wise to try to show off your boots at the expense of your overall outfit looking good. The boots are just part of the outfit, not the entire look. Unfortunately, I was fairly oblivious to this for a while and a few good friends had to knock it into my head that I needed to stop this and eventually I did. Now, I cuff my jeans much lower, but I still could probably cuff them even lower… I’m still learning. As a fairly short guy with thick legs, I cannot get away with the higher cuffs that other dudes can.

A much lower cuff on the same jeans looks much better and better proportioned

Of course, the last reason for everyone cuffing their jeans is because pretty much everyone does it. It became the standard so by default, everyone else does it. I must admit that this was definitely part of why I did it myself. When I bought my first pair of raw denim (Naked and Famous broken twills) I just let them stack because that’s how I used to wear my jeans before I got into high quality jeans. Over time I noticed that so many people were cuffing their jeans that I wanted to do it as well. I didn’t like the look at first, but I tried it out after getting more into the vintage look as well as expanding my interest in engineer boots. Soon, I got so used to it that I ended up sticking with it. Eventually, I was cuffing because I liked a more vintage aesthetic. In addition, I started to wear wider, more classic fitting jeans and trousers and to me, cuts like those would look extremely sloppy stacked so I had to go with cuffs. Of course, there was one option that I never really considered: hemming the trousers short enough that they did not need a cuff aka flood length.

@johnbbrooklyn wearing his trousers hemmed with no cuff

I first noticed my friend @johnbbrooklyn wearing some chinos in this style and thought it looked pretty good. Soon after, I started noticing more and more people wearing their jeans and trousers in this style such as my buddy @njdalgas and obviously on Resolute founder Yoshiyuki Hayashi. Several other people on Superfuture were also rocking this look as well, perhaps because of Hayashi’s influence(or not, I didn’t ask any of them). My friend Jeff @thedenimdentist also hemmed his Warehouse jeans quite short and wore them this way even with engineer boots, which was quite unique to me. It wasn’t that nobody had ever worn this look before, it was just that I was noticing it more and more… and perhaps more people were wearing their jeans hemmed short than when I first got into raw denim.

@thedenimdentist wearing his Warehouse jeans hemmed short and uncuffed
@njdalgas wearing trousers and jeans hemmed with no cuff and no break/stacking

What I appreciated about this look was that it looked really clean. Cuffing is less messy than stacking, but hemming short to flood length is even cleaner. Cuffing actually does cause jeans and trousers to distort and fold in some weird way in the leg. I’ve noticed that especially when new, a pair of cuffed jeans looks quite weird on me in the leg and I really don’t enjoy the effect. It depends on the fabric, but it can be annoying at times. This was pointed out to me by my friend @johnbbrooklyn repeatedly regarding my Buzz Rickson chinos. I had hemmed them to a length of 29”  like I do with all my jeans and trousers and double cuffed them like usual. However, this very dense, smooth fabric really distorted when cuffed. The cuffs themselves also looked horrible. 

These cuffs looked atrocious… and they were too high

John repeatedly insisted that I hem them further to a flood length. I knew he was right, but I was worried about getting the length right. In addition, the fact that we were going through a global pandemic during this time made me less eager to go out and get them hemmed. Eventually I knew it was necessary and had them hemmed to 26.” To be honest, I was blown away with how much this improved the look of these chinos. They went from a pair that I was thinking about selling to the pair of trousers that I think fit me better than any other pair in my wardrobe, including my jeans. The lines are just so much cleaner and more flattering on me. It suits the fabric better without question. The before and after photos demonstrate just how much of an improvement the hemming made with these.

The improvement is quite clear in these photos

Success with these chinos of course leaves me with a new dilemma: what do I hem next? I still do not quite feel comfortable doing this with my blue jeans, but I think a few more of my trousers might be improved by doing this. The Grease Point Workwear jeans that I own have a different color weft and I think they might look better hemmed this way. My biggest worry is that there really is no return when hemming this short. Plus, it makes selling even more difficult if I decide to do that in the future. A 26” inseam is about as long as Nick Foles’ time as the Jaguars’ starting quarterback. Despite that, I do have at least 3 pairs that I think I will have hemmed to this length in the near future. I really like how it looks. 

These jeans don’t look perfect with the cuff and may be the first pair of denim I hem short with no break

At this time, I don’t know if I quite feel ready to hem any indigo jeans this short. I still like the more chunky, contrasting look of cuffs with jeans. It’s just such a classic look and for someone who is practically a mid-20th century cosplayer, it’s the right look for me. With that said, I do think the flood length look can look pretty cool with indigo denim. I’ve seen it more often with shoes rather than boots, but I think it works with boots as well. I may or may not be converted to this look, but I do like seeing this look more often recently. To me, it looks not only cleaner, with straighter lines on the jeans, but also looks a little more sophisticated and sartorially inclined. 

@thedenimdentist’s jeans looks great hemmed to this short/flood length, especially with his derbies…
…but for now, I will probably still be cuffing my indigo jeans. I could see myself giving the shorter hem a try though.

Cuffing will almost certainly remain king for quite some time, but I do think that this look is pretty cool and I hope more people try it out. I’m not saying it’s better, but it is a nice change of pace from cuffing and shows that cuffing is far from the only option. Plus, for some fabrics, I think it is actually better. My chinos prove that. We spend a lot of time talking about how to cuff jeans, but I think it’s important to remember that not cuffing them at all is an option too. I’ll be having a few more trousers hemmed like this soon and will likely do some sort of follow up on here so stay tuned for that!

5 thoughts on “To Hem or Not To Hem: Cuffing vs. Hemming Your Jeans and Pants”

  1. Thanks for dedicating a whole blog entry to “hem or not hem”. Making up your mind to buy this new pair of trousers is already a a major challenge, in particular if they are raw. Once I am through with that process then the inevitable question of your sale guide will come: “Shall we shorten them for you?”

    And then decision making starts all over agin.

    I recently bought a Real McCo Lot. 4 in Pronto, BKK, Raw, so I brought it home & washed it. Went to the local seamstress in the Soi, explained to her in best English how I wanted it to be hemmed so I for one cuff. Came back later same day, she hemmed it way too short. My fault, her Thai is perfect and mine zilch.

    Bottom line is: I thought the trousers were a write-off. But with boots such as M-43 the uncuffed L.004 looks really great and retro.

    BTW, Chinos I would never wear cuffed. If tapered they should be high, and non-tapered they should sit on top of the shoes. Bur I might be a bit conservative here..

    Like

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