How to cuff jeans | Men's guide
Friday 27 August 2021
The thing about good jeans is that 90 per cent of the action takes place around your ankles. How you hem your jeans, and how you cuff them, pretty much determines how good those jeans are going to look. Get this bit wrong, and the rest doesn’t matter. You’ll be the guy with baggy bootcuts flapping around your toes. Of course, cuffing trends change over time. In the ‘90s, saggy, skater-style, un-cuffed jeans were all the rage, but denim fashion has (thankfully) evolved since then. Now most guys are cuffing their jeans—and the world’s a better place for it. Here’s our basic guide to cuffing men’s denim jeans. The good, the bad, and the very, very ugly.
Is it OK to cuff your jeans?
In short: yes. There’s no law against cuffing, but for most pairs of jeans, with most pairs of shoes, on most pairs of legs, cuffing will sharpen your bottom half and draw attention to your footwear (this is another reason why it pays to invest in proper sneakers and/or boots. You actually want people looking down there.)
If you weren’t aware, cuffs are the rolled up bits of fabric at the end of each pant leg. All jeans are stitched at the bottom to keep the fabric from fraying. That’s called the hem. You make cuffs by rolling your hem, and there are actually several different ways to do it. We’re going to run through them here.
When shouldn't I cuff?
The general rule is that wide-leg, boot-cut jeans shouldn’t be cuffed. Same usually goes for skinny jeans. One has too much fabric, and the other is snug enough already. Cuffing also doesn’t work if the denim is too thick (anything over 14.75 ounces is going to feel like rolling cardboard). For all other jeans, cuffing is a great way to draw attention to your kicks, or sharpen your silhouette down there. It tends to work better with slim-fit jeans, where the leg naturally tapers down towards the ankle. Of course, if your jeans are way too long (and getting them hemmed at a tailor isn’t an option) cuffing is pretty much mandatory. You can’t have pants that flap along the ground.
The pin-roll cuff
The pin-roll cuff started popping up in the 1980s, but modern-day sneakerheads have embraced it for its high ankle position and clean, no-fuss lines. This works best with narrow shows and slimmer, tapered jeans. (Don’t pin-roll over your chunky desert boots.) To do this cuff, simply fold your hem once vertically, then roll it up about 2-3 inches. You should be able to see plenty of ankle, and the cuff should hug your leg pretty snug.
The single cuff
The simplest cuff, and a good one when you don’t have much hem to play with. To do a single cuff, simply flip your hem outward once. Just once. You should be able to see the contrast stitching on the hemline, plus the denim’s weft (the inside weave). This cuff usually works best with more straight-cut denim styles, especially if you’re going for a smart-casual look. Just pair it with some Chukkas or leather Chelsea boots.
The deep cuff
You don’t see many deep cuffed jeans around these days. This one’s also known as the mega cuff, for obvious reasons. It’s big, it’s chunky, and it’s hard to pull off. The Deep Cuff is really a single cuff that’s been folded way, way higher. Usually about four inches. If you’re a short guy, avoid this cuff, as it’ll really draw attention to your height. Save it for looser jeans with a heavier weave (or better yet, skip it all together).
The stack is kind of an alternative to cuffing. But it only works with very slim or skinny jeans. Basically, a stack is letting your in-seam run low—an extra two or three inches—and then bunching the fabric up around your ankle and calf. The jeans kind of…stack. Rolls of fabric sit one on top of the other. Save the stack for skinny jeans with a narrow leg opening. Or better yet, skinny black jeans. This is a good look for late night gigs or bar-hopping.
The double cuff
This is our favourite cuff, and it’s probably the most popular one of the bunch. The double cuff is achieved by simply folding a single cuff one more time. It’s stronger, thicker, and hides your hemline. This guy is basically tailor-made for chunky boots: Chukkas, Chelseas, Docs or military boots. Anything big and rugged looks good under a double cuff. Just make sure you allow an extra few inches on the hem (to accommodate the double roll).
The bicycle cuff
The bicycle cuff requires a bit more confidence, and the right pair of shoes. It’s basically a double cuff that’s been pushed right up your calf. Usually to just under the knee. This leaves your entire foot and lower leg exposed. Obviously handy when you’re commuting to work, but this can be a streetwear fashion choice, too. Just make sure to match it with something small, slimline and sockless. A low-top sneaker usually works best.
Denim jeans cuff rules
How to cuff baggy jeans
It depends how baggy, really. Huge baggy skater hems belong in bad ‘90s teen movies, but straight leg jeans can still look good, and they tend to have a bit of extra fabric around the ankle. For these guys, we usually recommend a simple double cuff. It depends on the shoe.
How to cuff men's skinny jeans
Skinny jeans need a skinny cuff. That’s the golden rule. Most of the time a stack is going to be your best friend here: skinny jeans already stretch out your leg, so you don’t need to draw attention with a high cuff. That’ll just look weird.
How to cuff jeans with boots
High ankle boots need a high cuff to show off all that gritty, distressed leather. There’s no point buying expensive military boots and then hiding 70% of them under your jeans. A pin-roll or deep cuff works best here, depending on the width of your denim.
Matching your denim jeans cuffs to your shoe style
Low top sneakers
A basic single cuff or pin-roll cuff is usually fine for low tops. You want the hem to finish about one centimeter above the shoe. Enough to give your ankle some definition, but not so much that you’re flashing calf. To be honest, almost any cuff style can work with low tops. They’re super versatile.
Formal low top shoes
For dressy shoes, we recommend either a natural break (get you to tailor to hem your jeans so the fabric rests just on the laces, creating a small fold) or a strong double cuff. You can go either way. Just don’t let the fabric bunch and stack.
High top sneakers
High tops should basically always be cuffed, no exceptions. That’s the whole point of the shoe. Go for a double cuff, deep cuff or pin-roll cuff here, nice and high, so you’re showing the full upper. Cropped hems can achieve the same effect, you’ll just need to get them tailored.
The only problem with cuffing is that it can wear out your jeans faster. The cuff creates a tight fold, which degrades the denim over time. This is especially true for unwashed, raw denim, which can be kind of fragile. The best way to prevent holes and tears in the hem is to switch up your cuffs regularly. Try double for a while, then go single, then maybe try stacking, to give your jeans a break. It’s also a good idea to roll out your cuffs after each use, and keep a few pairs of jeans on rotation. This will stop any one pair copping full-time cuff duty.