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How To Choose Formal Trousers For Men

Are you looking for a pair of formal trousers? Whether you're in the market for a full suit or a smart pair of wool-rich trousers to go with your jacket or blazer, choosing the best style and fit can be somewhat daunting. This short guide tells you all you need to know about how to choose formal trousers.

What Size Trousers Should I Buy?

Your waist measurement refers to the circumference of your natural waist. That's your waist above your hip bones and roughly through your belly button. Your leg length measurement is from your crotch to where you want your trouser hem to end.

How To Choose Formal Trousers

Formal trousers are a versatile wardrobe stapleImage source: Samuel Windsor


Trouser Styles

The current trend is for trousers that sit on the hip - low-rise styles. But this is rarely suitable for formal wear. Unless you have particularly long legs, this style also has a tendency to make your legs look short.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, high-waisted or high-rise trousers measure about 10” from crotch to waistband. This style looks good on tall men who struggle to find trousers that reach beyond their hips. For formal trousers, a mid-rise waist is most suitable. Here, the measurement of around 9” from crotch to waistband keeps your body in proportion.

Flat-fronted styles are currently more popular than pleats, but if you're a larger man or have particularly muscular legs, you might find pleats more comfortable, especially when you're sitting down.

Trouser Styles

Flat-fronted styles are currently more popular than pleatsImage source: Wool-rich trousers from Samuel Windsor


Which Trousers Suit My Body Shape?

Your choice of formal trousers should avoid extremes, but that doesn't mean that they can't also be stylish. The current fashion is for slim fit jeans and casual trousers, but form-hugging suits are only really for young people, and even then, they rarely look particularly flattering.

If you're a light build, go for slim fit rather than skinny. If you're of average proportions, opt for a pair of straight cut trousers - or if you're sitting down a lot, perhaps choose a more relaxed cut for greater comfort. Bigger gents should go for a relaxed fit.

Unless you're a teenager looking for a high fashion suit from a cheap highstreet retailer, you should avoid tapered ankle openings. And unless you're a cowboy or a throwback to the 1970s, the same goes for boot cut and flares - neither of which belong on formal trousers. A straight cut ankle is the way to go.

Finally, whether you go for turned-up cuffs is up to you; an uncuffed hem creates a sleeker look, but a cuff does add weight, helping pleated trousers avoid the risk of billowing.

Which Trousers Suit My Body Shape?

For a smart, elegant look, don’t choose trousers that are too slimImage source: Navy blue wool-rich trousers from Samuel Windsor


What Length Should Formal Trousers Be?

The length of your trousers is known as the break. Broadly, you have three options from which to choose: no break, half-break, and full-break.

No break means the trouser leg comes to an end just above your shoe - there's no fold of fabric at the ankle. This is a style that suits shorter men best, because it helps to give the impression that the wearer has longer legs than he has.

A half-break means your hem rests on the front of your shoe, creating a neat half fold in the hem - just at the front. This is a smart look that's perfectly suited to a pair of formal trousers, and it's the one we recommend.

Finally, a full break refers to a hem which sits lower on the shoe so that there's at least one fold of fabric all the way round the hem. If you're very tall, or have particularly long legs, this style can help balance your proportions.

Buying formal trousers as part of a suit? Take a look at our ‘Essential guide to men's suits' infographic for more advice on cut, colour and fabric.

What Length Should Formal Trousers Be?

A half-break length rests just on the top of the shoeImage source: Wool rich trousers from Samuel Windsor


When choosing formal trousers, it's best to be conventional. Timeless classic is the epitome of our house style here at Samuel Windsor - the perfect combination of traditional tailoring and modern style sensibilities.

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