Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Pleats And Cuff Debate

I was having a conversation with a close friend of mine, not so long ago, when he relayed to his fiancee that I wear pleated trousers with no cuff, or turn-ups as we South Africans call them. Upon hearing this assertion I immediately deduced that he was inferring that I might be trangressing a sartorial rule. A rule, it appears, I have been trangressing for the longest time. On the surface trousers with pleats should be complemented by cuffs, conversely, flat front trousers generally shouldn't have a cuff. However, times change, rules are broken and fashion has evolved into personal and subjective extensions. This has culminated in pleated trousers without cuffs, and flat front trousers with cuffs. As egregious as this may seem there is allowance for both styles to co-exist interchangeably, on one garment, too.

A transient dive into the history of cuffs reveals that cuffs are of Anglo-American origin; while the origin of flat front trousers are considered continental European. As subjective and personal style can be it is important that adherence to sartorial rules occurs, because the discerning eye privy to such seemingly indispensable details will know that the mixing of these two styles should be executed with caution. Cuffs with flat front trousers can be worn quite well. We should, therefore, be disabused from the notion that flat front trousers shouldn't have cuffs and pleated trousers should have. A learning point for me lies in the fact that a middle ground exists wherein single pleat trousers are considered versatile and can accommodate cuffs or not.

Another rule to be cognizant of is the functionality of pleats. Pleats are there to facilitate a fuller shape, and since cuffs add weight to the bottom of trousers they make pleats stand out. What about suits? I may have erred on this one too. In my estimation, since a suit is considered formal and conservative, it follows that pleated suit pants should have a cuff and suit pants without pleats shouldn't have cuffs. This makes sense especially when considering the overall aesthetic which includes the cut of the suit. Winter weights such as flannels, tweeds, worsted wools are handsomely complemented by cuffs. Summer weights such as linens, tropical wools, cottons, should be straight with a taper. You will find that even summer footwear is accommodated by the tapered trousers. Generally, cuffed trousers will have a single break and the uncuffed will have a slight or no break at all.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

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