Why do people up (or cuff) their jeans?
Almost every time I’ve photographed jeans in recent months, someone has asked about the turn-up. That’s why I thought it deserved a dedicated post to inspire people to move forward.
Interestingly, I think the reason it’s exposed more is because there are more people around who don’t wear them. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
The turn-up on jeans has gradually become the dominant fashion over the past 20 years, in parallel with the popularity of high quality, often Japanese denim.
There are a few reasons that people point out. One is that those raw Japanese jeans often came in one length, and it wasn’t easy to find somewhere to replace them properly. Another is that it had a way of showing the inside of the outer seam at the bottom – a sign of quality. And third, perhaps the smaller factor, is that it was seen as authentic — basically harming the denim back to workers wearing them, and they had to be rolled up to fit.
The reasons don’t really matter though, as I don’t think this is the reason most people cuff their jeans.
Rather, they do it because they like the look (more casual, some visual interest) and because everyone else is doing it. Turn-up on jeans has become so ubiquitous in many places that it’s rare to see someone not cuffing their jeans (even people who have no real interest in the clothes – it just feels weird). .
Now none of us on this site like the idea of following fashion. But as discussed in the past, what we think about clothing depends largely on the associations that are part of mainstream, long-term fashion.
If it looks like a statement not to cuff your jeans — maybe buttoning a polo shirt instead of it — then doing it is just about fashion in the broadest sense. After all you have only two options.
That said, there are a few objective reasons why it’s a good idea to turn up jeans.
That means you can customize them to any length you want – maybe a little less with shoes on, maybe more for clearance on a wet, puddle day. This creates more of a feature of fading at the hem — the so-called roping — that may appeal to those (like me) who admire the fade of jeans in general.
And then there are the reasons we’re familiar with sewing—the cuff interrupts the line of the trousers; They are a bit more casual; They provide visual interest, but can also make legs look smaller.
I think these classical factors are mostly relevant with dark denim.
It’s only then that someone who really wants to visually lengthen their legs (for whatever reason) will find a turn that makes a difference.
And what makes the biggest difference is whether someone looks smart without a jean turn-up. I can see the point of view that it’s easier to wear an unfussy, dark jean with black shoes, for example. And vice versa—that a turn-up helps if you’re wearing a dark jean with a light, chunky, textured shoe, like a tan suede, Alden Longwing.
A reader asked why don’t you shorten the jeans to the right length. Well if people want them to be cuffed, that is their ‘right’ length.
And if you’re into vintage jeans, you might not want to cut them short because you want to retain the rope — it might look weird if there’s a strong fading somewhere but nothing down the leg (even if it’s a thong). Will come with time) )
This can be really a pain if you find old jeans that are great elsewhere, but are too long. In that case your options are to make a larger turn-up, like double cuffs (see . piece here – ‘Japanese cuffs’) or get a change tailor to cut them to length and sew the back of the turn-up. Leave it hidden. (This section covers how many jeans are replaceable.)
The latter is visually the most satisfying, but feels a bit unprofessional. I think it’s quite personal that you care, and which of those three you go for.
Why should I turn my jeans? Partly because I like that blocky and slightly more casual look. But I agree that it is also partly because it is more traditional – the current convention.
When you see people deliberately wearing jeans without a turn-up, it looks like a look (to me, in my locale, social group, social media group), done more for effect. You’ve been seeing years with fashion brands, and more progressive magazines such as L’Etiquette (above).
But as mentioned in the beginning, this can change, and I’ve played with not having a turn-up when the length of the jeans allows — it looks a little neat, maybe even more straightforward.
The key word there, as always, is ‘play’. This is not a seasonal fashion, it is a trend of over a decade; And it’s a small thing, not like a cut-off or letting your trousers go around your ankles. So play with the options, and accept that a part of how you feel will always be social.