As someone from a family of tall people, I know how difficult finding dress pants can be. It is sometimes a challenge to find the right length of pants or even to know what style to be looking for. If you’re wondering how long should dress pants be, you’re certainly not alone!
The right length for dress pants depends on what style and look you are going for. More traditional styles of dress pants have a full or half break, meaning the pants fall below the ankle and cover a good portion of your shoes. Modern dress pants, however, often use a quarter break or no break and will fall at or above the ankle.
Which style you prefer will determine how long your pants need to be. We recommend learning more about each style before making your final choice. Keep reading and we’ll explain the ins and outs of pant breaks and what you need to know to find the right dress pants.
How Long Should Dress Pants Be?
How long your dress pants should depend on several different factors. The first thing to consider is what overall style you are going for. Traditional dress pants tend to fall below your ankles, resting on top of your shoes and partially covering your laces.
However, more modern styles of dress pants often fall higher up on your ankle, showing off a small portion of your socks. These pants will be slimmer fitting and a bit more casual. If this is more your style, you want the pants to end right at or slightly above your shoes when you wear them.
You may also want to consider your height and body type in choosing your pant length. If you are slimmer and average in height, the shorter pant length will work well for you. If you are heavier and taller, you’ll want to consider some of the more traditional pant length options.
Even then, the final choice is up to you and your preferences. It is no longer the case that all dress pants need to be tailored to look the same. People all across the world are getting more and more creative with how they wear and style their dress pants.
What is the Pant Break?
A “break” in dress pants or trousers is a term that describes the fold that appears at the bottom of a pant leg when it sits on top of your shoes. It is called this because the fold breaks the clean, straight lines of the pants. Different styles of pants will have different amounts of the break when they hit your shoes, and choosing which style is up to you and your preferences.
There are four main styles of pant breaks you will typically see. These include full break pants, half break pants, quarter break pants, and pants with no break or cropped pants. Keep reading and we’ll explain each style to you in detail and what you should look for to ensure you have the correct length.
Full Break Pants
Full-break pants are a good fit if you’re looking for an old-school or traditional style of dress pants. These pants have the largest fabric pooling at your feet when the pants hit your shoes. The pant legs are wider and quite long compared to the other styles available.
When shopping for full break pants, you want to make sure that the pant legs fall below your ankles. While wearing lace-up dress shoes, the pant legs should reach at least the halfway point on the back of the shoe. The pant legs should also be wide enough to fit around and partially cover the laces.
This style of pants is often recommended for people who are taller or heavier set. Shorter-cut pants will look extra short on taller people. Meanwhile, the wider legs of this pants style helps give a better overall silhouette to heavier-set people than slim-fitting trousers.
Half Break Pants
If you prefer some of the traditional elements of full-break pants but don’t want as much length, then half-break pants are a good choice. This pants style is a bit more modern but still has some fabric that pools at your shoes when you wear them. They are slimmer than full-break pants but will still fully cover your socks and the top of your shoes.
When trying on half-break pants, you want them to touch the back of your shoes in the upper or middle area. They should fall on the front of your shoes with only a slight fold and the fold will typically be much more subtle than what full break pants give. A slimmer pant leg is preferable for this style, so don’t be surprised if more of your laces show than if you wore full break pants.
Quarter Break Pants
Quarter break pants have almost no fold when they hit your shoes. These pants aren’t quite as tapered as no break or cropped pants can be but won’t be as wide-legged as half or full break pants. They are a good style if you are looking for a modern fit but don’t like the look of cropped pants.
When wearing quarter break pants, they should fall right to where your pant legs meet your shoes. They should only make slight contact, however. This means that they will fully cover your socks but won’t fall very far down the backs of your shoes, if at all.
The pants should be moderately slim fitting, and the slight contact with your shoes may make a very subtle fold. Otherwise, these pants will give you a straight-lined look since much of the extra length has been removed from the legs.
No Break or Cropped Hem Pants
No break pants, also called cropped hem pants, are the most modern style on this list. These pants are very slim and typically fall above your shoes, showing off part of your socks. This style has become very popular among younger professionals, especially in creative and less-formal work environments.
When wearing no break pants, the bottom of the leg should not contact your shoes. You should be able to see your socks, so you’ll want to choose a nice pair of high-top socks to wear underneath your dress pants. There will be no fold at the bottom and the pants will keep their slim and straight look.
These pants will typically be tapered to stop the opening from being too large. This makes the pants look tailored and fitted, helping to show that the short length is deliberate. Too wide of pant legs might give the impression that you are just wearing pants that don’t fit, rather than it being a conscious style choice.
Cropped pants work best on people with slimmer figures since the tapered legs help show this shape off. Their length also works best on people who are average in height. Cropped pants tend to look extra short on anyone a bit taller.
How Long Should Pants Be Without Shoes?
Before answering this question, we should point out that trying on your dress pants with shoes is always best. You will get a better fit overall by measuring with your shoes on than off. After all, you’ll be wearing the dress pants all day with shoes on and it’s very unlikely that anyone will see you walking around in your socks!
But, if you absolutely cannot try on your pants with shoes, you should try to measure based on where your shoes will normally rest. Most dress shoes will cover the entire back of your heel and will rest somewhere around the base of your ankle.
If you prefer a traditional style of pants, like a full break, you’ll want your pants to fall between the base of your ankle and the bottom of your foot. The lower your foot they go, the more fold you’ll get when you wear the pants with shoes.
If you’re going for a more modern style like no break pants, you’ll want your pant legs to end around the bottom of your ankle. You will not want them to touch your heel if you can avoid it. The goal is to have them stop where they won’t be touching your shoes when you eventually have a pair to wear with the pants.
Where Should Dress Pants Fall on Ankle?
Where your dress pants should fall on your ankle depends on the look that you are going for. Each style of pant break should fall in a different place on your ankle. The easiest way to determine where your pants should fall on your ankle is to decide what style of look you are going for: traditional and wider-legged or modern and slimmer-fitting.
If you’re a fan of traditional styles for dress pants, or work in a more formal workplace, you will want a full break or half break pants. These pants need to fall below your ankles by a good amount since the extra length is what lets them fold on top of your shoes.
If your pants fall too high up on your ankles, your socks will be visible and you won’t get the folds that these traditional styles are known for.
If you prefer a more modern, slimmer-fitting look, you will want a quarter break or no break pants. These pants need to fall right at the base of your ankle or at the midpoint. This allows a small section of your socks to be visible and keeps the pants from making contact with your shoes.
Many people embrace this style because it gives them the chance to show off their fun dress socks and their own personal style flair. However, you don’t want the pants to be much higher than your ankles. Too short and this pants style can look like you’re trying to avoid a flood!
How Should Dress Pants Fit While Sitting?
If you work in an average office setting, you’ll probably spend a lot of time sitting at a desk or in a boardroom. It only makes sense that you’ll need your dress pants to fit just as well while you sit as they do when you stand. You will need to keep a couple of things in mind, including the tightness of the pants and how long they are.
Tightness of Pants
One mistake many people make when buying dress pants is that they only consider how tight they are when standing up. This is the case for both the waistline of the pants and the pant legs themselves. Pants tend to get stretched tight over your frame when you sit, and if they are too snug to begin with, they will be very uncomfortable to sit in.
When trying on your pants, see if there is a place to sit down in the dressing room or the store. Check to see how tight the pants fall across your thighs and calves. They should still be somewhat loose and shouldn’t cling too tightly to you.
Length of Pants
The tightness of the pants aside, one of the main things people are concerned with while sitting is the length of their dress pants. You should expect that no matter the style of pants you buy, your pants will be shorter when you sit than they will be when you stand up. This isn’t much of an issue for a full break or half break pants since they will probably still make contact with your shoes while sitting.
Issues can come if you are wearing shorter pants, to begin with. These can already show off parts of your socks while standing and can ride up very high when sitting. Try sitting in these pants and see if the tops of your legs are visible above your socks. If they are, the pants are probably too short.
All-in-all, it’s expected that your pants will be shorter when you are sitting than when you are standing. Make sure you’re wearing matching socks and the length should not be a concern. The only thing you’ll want to avoid is pants that are so short that your legs become visible above the socks.
How Long Should Suit Pants Be?
Traditionally, suit pants were cut to be wide-legged and to fall low on your legs, below your ankles. For these types of suits, you want the pant legs to be either a full break or a half break and fall a good way down the backs of your shoes. This gives you an extra fabric that will pool on top of your dress shoes when you stand.
That is the traditional style that is still a favorite for many formal occasions and workplaces. However, younger generations of professionals have started embracing slimmer, shorter styles of suit pants. These use either a quarter break or no break at all and will often fall at or above the base of the ankle.
How long your suit pants should be will depend on which style you prefer- traditional or modern. There’s much more flexibility for modern suit lengths today than there used to be when only traditional styles were available.
How Do You Know if Your Pants Are Too Long?
Dress pants can be fairly long and still be okay for everyday wear. The only time pants get too long is if they fall too far down your shoes or even become a tripping hazard as you walk. This becomes both a safety concern and can damage your clothing.
Ideally, your dress pants should not fall farther down than the midway point of your shoes. They should not completely cover your laces, though they might cover them halfway. They should not come into contact with the sole of your shoes or touch the floor when you stand. You shouldn’t be stepping on your pant legs, either.
If these things happen with your dress pants, they’re too long for your height. You’ll need to take them to a local tailor or seamstress and get them hemmed to a better length for your figure. This is usually an easy and fairly inexpensive process that most tailors can do quickly.
What Is The Right Pant Length?
As cliché as it might sound, the right pant length is the one that suits your style. It used to be the case that there were somewhat strict rules for where dress pants could fall and that they needed to be longer to fold nicely over your shoes. Today, however, there is a lot of flexibility and freedom to choose the style of dress pants that fits you the best.
That being said, some styles of pant length are best for certain people and figures. If you are more traditional or work in a formal workplace, full break or half break pants that fall below your ankles are the right pant length for you. These wider-legged styles have been around for generations and will remain a classic fit for a long time.
If you are more modern and need dress pants for more relaxed environments, quarter break or no break pants that fall at your ankles are the right pant length for you. These pants are slimmer in fit, are tapered, and are a new take on classic looks that will likely stick around for the foreseeable future.
At the end of the day, choosing the right pant length is up to you. We recommend taking this guide with you as you visit your local formalwear stores and try on a few different styles to see what suits you best. You never know until you try them for yourself!