Finding a pair of jeans with the perfect wash, fit, length and price tag can be — to put it mildly — a challenge. Still, with a trusty tailor you needn’t worry about items two and three so much. Waists can be taken in, pant legs cinched, hemlines altered.
But tailoring or slashing (all the rage as of late) your hems is just so…permanent. While we see the merits of having your bottoms altered to fit your specific size and shape, we say leave the length alone. Striking the perfect jean-to-ankle-to-shoe ratio is a daily struggle and the more material you have to work with, the better. In the end, the key to always hitting that just-right height isn’t a trip to the tailor — it’s knowing how to cuff jeans with aplomb.
[ The Best of the Best Jeans for Fall, Categorized ]
Several well-respected denim designers have cosigned the untailoring trick. Loewe’s Jonathan Anderson recently updated the label’s signature fisherman jeans with a contrasting, exaggerated cuff. Frame’s best-selling Le High straight-leg jeans come with a simple roll installed.
Not to sound like a cheesy infomercial, but do you struggle to recreate these fitted, fashion-forward folds at home? Whether you’re a fan of Anderson’s super dramatic mid-calf cuffed jeans or in the market for a subtler effect, we got you. Scroll down for a visual guide to all the style star-approved cuff styles.
The Once-Over Cuff
If you’re wearing a mule (or, for that matter, any ankle-exposing shoe) or don’t have a ton of excess length to work with, consider a clean once-over cuff. To create this simple cuff, fold the bottom hem of your pant up just once. It’s important that the fold hits at most an inch above the ankle bone — you want to get that coveted leg-lengthening effect, you don’t want to leave an awkward amount of skin exposed. Otherwise, how narrow or wide you make the cuff is totally up to you. We like this one with vintage-feeling (read: relaxed fit) denim.
The Raw Hem Cuff
Basically, repeat the once-over cuff process on cutoff hem jeans. This’ll make your punky denim feel a little more classic and, as an added bonus, keep those flyaway threads from touching city streets or other such questionable surfaces.
The Mid-Calf Cuff
A post shared by Lizzy (@lizzyvdligt) on Apr 25, 2017 at 3:20am PDT
This over-the-top fold amps up any outfit, but looks especially good with stiff-straight or wide-leg denim (made with 6-foot-1-inch supermodels in mind). Note: The best thick, shin-skimming cuffs measure under 6 inches. Also, not to sound like a broken record, but make sure your DIY hemline hits above the ankle bone. Lastly, for an even sassier look, Vogue editor Steff Yotka recommends adding some colorful stitching at the edges. It’s easily removed and keeps your cuff firmly in place throughout the day.
The Rolled Cuff
A post shared by Paloma Elsesser (@palomija) on May 10, 2017 at 10:04am PDT
Here, newly minted catwalker Paloma Elsesser demonstrates one of the most versatile cuff styles, the rolled cuff. To achieve this look, first pinch and tuck your bottom seam, then fold up your pant leg two or three times. Note: Overly narrow rolls lead to bunching. For a subtle, relatively flat end result, keep your rolls around an inch in width. This style looks particularly great with a sneaker or ankle boot.
The “Hello” Sailor and 1986 Cuffs
About a minute into the denim-centric installment of J.Crew’s informative video series Style Hacks, the company’s former (sob) Chief Design Officer Somsack Sikhounmuong and editor Halsey Anderson guide you through two #branded, slightly altered takes on the mid-calf and rolled cuffs.
Finally, if you’d still rather have the wristwork done for you, we’ve rounded up a few of our fave pre-rolled jeans in the slideshow below. (Oh, and because cuffs tend to look better/are more visible on blue jeans, these are all blue jeans.)
[ Next: The Best Fall Denim Looks as Told by the Runways ]
1. Play Around With Proportions
Apart from being a quick-fix for bottoms that we didn’t have time to alter, the main reason to cuff pants is to create a break that gives the illusion of slimmer ankles. This means shortening the length of your jeans, allowing you more room to play around with proportions.
Up your stylish anté by trying to find a good balance between differing jean widths and the rest of your outfit – you can do this by layering different lengths, or by breaking up your outfit into coherent chunks.
We love how Poppy Delevingne used a genius combination of lengths, colors, and textures to complement her cuffed jeans, putting together a seamless outfit out of seemingly incoherent pieces. We are also huge fans of how Julianne Hough broke her outfit into chunks, pulling it all together with an earthy color combination.
Julianne Hough goes out for lunch on Melrose Place, Los Angeles, October 3, 2013; Poppy Delevingne at the London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2014, February 15, 2014; Lucy Mecklenburgh at the Petits Bisous Boutique party in London, United Kingdom, February 13, 2014
2. Know Your Cuff Types
Cuffing your jeans and pants isn’t as simple as rolling the hem up to your desired length. There are a number of different cuff types, and it’s important to know which ones to use where.
Cuff types generally differ in two areas: 1) the height and 2) the thickness of the cuff. Thin, pressed cuffs generally look best with skinny jeans, while thick and bulky ones often complement loose and ragged pants.
This is not the be-all-end-all rule in cuffing, of course, as Gwen Stefani clearly demonstrates below. Despite having a slightly dropped crotch and a raggedness to her denim, she chose a blunt pressed cuff to create a sophisticated feel to her outfit.
Rihanna parties at Bjouis nightclub after her second DWT Twickenham show in London, June 16, 2013; Anna Friel leaves the Vaudeville Theatre after performing in the play Uncle Vanya in London, January 3, 2013; Gwen Stefani at the Paddington Los Angeles premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre, January 10, 2015
3. Cuff According to the Occasion
The type of cuff you choose can make or break the feel of your outfit. A nicely pressed cuff paired with pointed toe heels easily creates an outfit that exudes sophistication, while a messily rolled up cuff goes well with sneakers, a simple tee, and an oversized tote. Allow your cuffing to echo the vibe that you are going for.
We love how a similar pair of jeans donned by Poppy Delevingne, Ashley Tisdale, and Jessica Alba can have such different auras simply by choosing different cuffs.
Poppy opted for the pressed type for her sophisticated night out while Ashley decided to tone it down a notch by folding up the hem. Jessica, on the other hand, decided to go the extreme youthful route but donning a messy cuff to go with her sneakers and tee.
Poppy Delevingne at the London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2014, February 17, 2014; Ashley Tisdale is seen on Robertson Blvd after shopping at Intermix in Los Angeles, August 6, 2013; Jessica Alba grabs lunch from Le Pain Quotidien in Beverly Hills, September 28, 2013
4. Wear Pretty Shoes
When you’re out to show more skin below the cuffs, why not go the distance? Venture out by wearing shoes that are fun to show off, such as those with gorgeous cuts, crazy colors, or a barrage of texture.
We recommend shoes that show off skin and those that have gorgeous ankle straps. If you’re still not content with that, experiment with colored socks as well.
We love the simplicity of Pixie Geldof’s choice of classic but modern footwear, which perfectly complements her haircut and the oversized tee, as well as the crazy cut of Gwen Stefani’s heels and Rihanna‘s brightly colored pair.
Gwen Stefani visits an acupuncture clinic in Koreatown, Los Angeles, July 16, 2014; Pixie Geldof at the Diet Coke 30th anniversary party held at Sketch, London, January 30, 2013; Rihanna leaving the Lowry hotel in Manchester, June 13, 2013
5. Don’t Cover Your Ankles
Oftentimes, we cuff for the sake of shortening ill-tailored jeans. This in itself is not bad, but when you let functionality take over without double-checking your style, you’re most likely to end up amiss.
Cuffing adds bulk to the ankle area, and when you leave no room for that area to breathe, you will create an unflattering shape for your body. Congratulations, you just missed the entire point of cuffing.
We don’t really have much to say about Alicia Keys and Natalie Imbruglia, apart from how bottom-heavy their one-fold cuff has made them appear. Oh, and Rita Ora, please lose the warmers. And everything else, for that matter.
Alicia Keys at the 2004 Billboard Music Awards held at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, August 12, 2004; Rita Ora leaves her house in West London, United Kingdom, on March 18, 2015; Natalie Imbruglia at the 2005 95.8 Capital FM Awards held at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London, England, March 23, 2005
6. Don’t Roll Up Pants With Wide Ankle Width
As much as creating breaks in cuffing seems like an easy concept to grasp, these breaks have to be seamless. Cuffing jeans that are consistent in width throughout will create a tree trunk-like silhouette with harsh breaks, as opposed to nicely proportioned ones.
The same advice goes for flared jeans – do not attempt to cuff them if you wish to avoid having bells as ankles.
Fergie, Christina Aguilera, and Lori Loughlin all missed the opportunity to create a svelte denim look for themselves by falling for this cuffing mistake. Remember, cuff to create nice proportions.
Lori Loughlin out shopping in West Hollywood, October 22, 2013; Christina Aguilera at the Disneyland 50th Anniversary “Happiest Homecoming On Earth” Celebration in Disneyland, California, April 5, 2005; Fergie at the Teen Choice Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, California, August 16, 2005
7. Don’t Cuff Tight Skinny Jeans
Apart from skinny jeans making your legs look like they’re suffocating, cuffing them will emphasize that look of your skin wanting to burst out. If your pants are too long and folding is inevitable, try folding the hems inward once. However, we still recommend not wearing skinny jeans that are way too small for you.
Hilary Duff and Michelle Heaton kind of make us want to scramble for a pair of scissors to help their legs breathe. The tight looking cuffs at the end aren’t helping at all.
Michelle Heaton outside the Embassy Club in London, England, September 29, 2005; Hilary Duff takes her son Luca to baby class in Sherman Oaks in Los Angeles, March 6, 2013
8. Don’t Overdo Cuffing
When we have the freedom to decide what kind and how much cuffing to perform, we have a tendency to overdo the folding and the rolling. Start a little at a time, trying out different varieties, and progress from there.
Overthinking or being lazy will get you in the trap of the “too” – too big, too high, too low, etc. There is always a nicer way to cuff your pants.
Sarah Jessica Parker and Duffy seemed to have perfected the cuffing-in-a-rush technique, while Estelle seemed to have spent quite some time in front of the mirror deciding how much to cuff. Don’t fall into the trap of overdoing cuffs.
Estelle at Mariah Carey’s birthday party and record launch of “The Emancipation of Mimi” held at Tantra Nightclub in London, England, March 26, 2005; Sarah Jessica Parker takes her children to school on a cold day in Manhattan, February 12, 2014; Duffy at the All Points West Festival at the Liberty State Park in New Jersey, August 8, 2008
Credit: FayesVision / Will Alexander / Lia Toby / TNYF / POP / PNP / Jody Cortes / David Mepham / Nikki Nelson / Daniel Deme / Michael Wright / Owen Beiny / Ryan / WENN.com
The Classic Roll
This is the most versatile, basic cuff. It works with any pair of jeans on most shoes, but we recommend saving it for subdued low top sneakers or dress shoes for the best effect. Assuming your pants are normal length, two cuffs should suffice, but three can look good with high top sneakers or boots.
Try the classic roll cuff with these all black, slim fit jeans from H&M. They’re timeless, just like the double roll cuff, so you can break them out anytime.
Buy: H&M Slim Straight Jeans $34.99
The Working Man Cuff
It’s difficult to pull off, but magical when it works. It’s the way working men used to do it, so it looks best with work boots (like Red Wings) or old school high-top sneakers (Converse). For the best effect, we recommend a cuff about 1-1½ inches tall.
If you want to give the working man cuff a shot, you’ll need some special jeans that can handle the style swerve. Try these raw selvedge denim jeans from Rag & Bone. Even if you don’t like the big cuff, you’ll still have an incredible pair of jeans in your wardrobe.
Buy: Rag & Bone Raw Selvedge Jeans $195.00
The Pin Roll
This one gives a tapered look, even if your pants are straight-fit. To accomplish a pin roll, pinch the hem of your jeans, fold over (essentially making the hem narrower around your ankle), and fold to keep it in place. It’s a great trick if you’re rocking slim sneakers or dress shoes.
We like the pin roll on a slightly wider fit pair of jeans, so we recommend these Levi’s 513s in a classic denim-blue color.
Buy: Levi’s 513 Slim Straight $69.50
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How to Cuff Jeans | THE FOLD
While cuffing your pants anyway gives you a more casual/less stuffy feel, folding is the more traditional and less casual of the two. To fold your pants, you want to do each fold (on both legs) at the same time before doing the next fold. You can lay them on a flat surface or do it with them on. You want to make sure the folds are the same length as each other and that the folds are even all the way around your leg. Folding allows for quite a bit of improvisation in terms of how big each fold is (remember the first and second folds don’t have to be the same length). One of my favorites is what I call the double fold. If your pants are extra long, this works well. Do a very large single fold on both legs. The fold the cuff in half to create a two-layer look.
How to Cuff Jeans | THE ROLL
To roll your pants, you must be wearing them. Grab the front of your pants hem with both hands and begin rolling up. The rest of the pant leg will follow suit. You can adjust for super errant pieces of material by tucking them into the roll. It’s super easy to get the two cuffs at the same height with small adjustments to your roll, or tucking in extras. Rolled cuffs have a much more laid back vibe than folding (think rolling up your cuffs to play on the beach) and don’t allow for as much creativity in terms of size, but the look is so classic, that you can get away with it in a variety of situations.
WHY/WHEN SHOULD YOU CUFF YOUR PANTS? Besides the unpredictable weather, cuffing your pants is a great way to have a warmer temps look while still dressing appropriately for the elements. It also adds a little pizzazz to an otherwise normal outfit. And finally, cuffing your pants lets you show off your shoes. We all love our shoes, but so often, we hide them under pant legs. So take advantage of the spring weather and show off your favorite shoes (a maybe a little leg too)!
HOW HIGH IS TOO HIGH? The height of your cuff depends on your taste as well as the material and cut of your pants. Softer, more pliable pants will roll more easily than thick denim. Both will fold pretty well, however. A general rule for height is to cuff your pants at least 1-2 inches above your shoes! And consider the bottom of your calf muscle as the absolute highest you should go – it’s uncomfortable and unflattering. The feature image is a good example of where to stop.
How To Style Pinrolled Jeans
Denim works best for pinrolling because it’s most likely the sturdiest material you’ll find in your wardrobe. Stiff denim (preferably selvedge) is even better for holding the shape – and the extra weight at the bottom of your legs will make your jeans hang better.
That said, chinos also work well with pinrolling – but the lighter material makes them slightly more likely to unravel so keep the fold as tight as possible. Stay away from pinrolling dress trousers – this look is designed to be informal and lightweight cotton just won’t hold the shape.
Pinrolling isn’t enough to save dad jeans, either. It’ll only make things worse because the excess material will only bunch and look heavy. Nineties hip-hop fashion might be back, but you don’t want to look like you’re going to a Boyz II Men concert. Straight-leg cuts are about your limit but even then, slimmer styles work better. Looser legs or (whisper it) bootcut styles will be more difficult because they have a wider hem and will be tougher to pinroll neatly and get a good effect from.
Pinrolling works best with casual outfits. A plain jumper, shirt or T-shirt is a good call. If you’re unsure, simply pinroll one side of your trousers and stand to the side as you try on different tops in the mirror.
What Shoes To Wear With Pinrolled Jeans
Picking what jeans to pinroll is only half the battle. Deciding what shoes to team with your pinrolled jeans is also a skill. Hero trainers are the obvious choice because the trend is designed to show them off in all their glory.
More formal styles of footwear can work well too. Boat shoes, loafers, smarter boots and brogues all look good under the right pair of jeans or chinos. We’d argue that Oxfords are a shade too formal and sandals just clash for some reason.
The general advice is to not team your shoes with socks, and let those (m)ankles see the light of day. Go for a trainer sock to prevent the need to peg your nose as well as your trousers. And if you really want to show off some hosiery, stick to something tonal that works with the denim or something statement like a luxe pair of outdoors-inspired socks.