Sunday, April 3, 2011

Trad Mannerisms: Give me a break

What separates a young trad from the rest of his bros? I'll be writing on sartorial habits that will help you instantly pick out those who are in the know, and those who are part of the clueless majority.

Pants Break

I'm starting off with this topic because it is the easiest to nit-pick. I guarantee you that 99% of the guys on your campus have pants that are too long, and many of them will have pants that drag on the floor behind their shoes. I blame the baggy trend and it makes me facepalm beyond belief. A shorter inseam on your pants will simplify your lines and instantly make your appearance much cleaner. So next time you take your pants to the tailor, ask him or her to hem it to one of the three breaks below.

The most conservative break is the Half or Medium Break. This means your pants will end a fourth to halfway from the ground at the back of the shoe. This also creates a noticeable notch in the crease at the front of the pants near the ankles. Most of the modern fashion world follows this rule and all stylists agree on it so it is your safest bet for general practice.

A half break correlates to a size 32 inseam for my height (6'1"). I personally use this type of break only for denim.

Side View

Front View. Notice the crease at the front of the pants.

Sitting Down. The pants rises a little leaving a minor view of the ankle.

The Quarter or Slight Break is my default and where I prefer most of my pants. This leaves a barely noticeable notch in the pants crease and leaves the pants slightly hanging over the shoe and draping on the back. I use a quarter break for chinos and dress pants at a size 31 inseam.

Notice how the pants barely hangs over.

How much it rises when sitting down depends on the weight or the cut of the pants. These all-season wool pants are light so they tend to ride up easier. Most of my chinos have heavier cotton fabric and will ride up less, but enough to reveal the ankle more than the half break.

A Short or No Break is an instant visual note almost exclusive to the trad and preppy types, so much so it is the "anti-baggy" response to common day style. It can be done for both cuffed and uncuffed pants. The trend was at its height of the golden era of the 1950s and 60s, and trad icons JFK and Miles Davis wore it before giving way to bell bottoms and eventually sloppiness. Now only true preps use it, so if you see another guy walking across the yard showing off his ankles, make a mental nod at him as he is part of the club. Every time you walk or move your legs your ankles will easily show. Pants will ride up highest when you sit so if you have socks on then make sure they extend to at least calf-length to prevent your hairy legs from creeping out. Since the no break is such a key mannerism for the trad lifestyle, I reserve the no break for prep cornerstones like chinos, "fun" pants, and dress pants in a size 30 inseam. Also looks best when you are actively dressing preppy for a particular outfit because it is the single best gesture that differs you from the wannabees (sorry to to sound elitist haha).

The pants will hover just over your shoes.

Notice the clean front and lines. There will be no or very slight notches.

Avoid the very short breaks that Thom Brown uses in his designs. Although true that the 1960s college men in Take Ivy used it as a preppy rebellion, much so how barefeet in loafers first started, it just doesn't fly these days and is on the opposite side of the fine line.

And it goes without saying that the Full Break, pictured exaggeratedly here by the neo-prep brand Bonobos, should never have been thought of much less worn, and yet this is how most people wear their pants. It's tacky and makes your pants appear droopy and a size too large. You know the mental nod to the preppy guy with the short break I talked of? Laugh out loud, stare, and point at the baggy dude with the full break. Seriously. Only embarrassment will save and force him to change his ways.

*Yes I realize it is hypocritical of me to have the main title picture at the top of the site show a guy in Nantucket Reds that are obviously too baggy. But it's a damn cool picture so I'll let it slide.


  1. Good post. I used to buy pants with a 34 or 33 inch inseam. I still do with STF 501s, but for chinos and dress pants I now get a 31. I wish I would've realized earlier how much cleaner of a look it is. The only problem is that 31 inch inseams are hard to find.

  2. Yeah I have to buy my pants longer and then have it tailored down to a 31", except for my Land's End chinos since they hem it for free online. Luckily my tailor only charges $5 per pants.