When you talk about the length of men’s pants, you are dealing with what we style gurus call the “break”. If you are an average-shaped guy wearing a traditionally tailored pant – and this includes slacks – the material should “break” on the top of the shoe, leaving a well-defined but shallow horizontal crease just above the ankle. The incredibly useful sketch just to the left is a perfect example. To get this look, mark the spot on the top of the shoe halfway up the laces. Then hem the pants so their length comes to a point between this spot and the top of the sole. Or just ask your tailor for a single break when you buy the pants.
There are a couple of ways you can work outside of this rule for some visual pop. If you are taller than average, you can go for a “double break” – your pants fall on the shoe with two horizontal creases, one just above the other. On shorter guys this just comes off looking like your pants are too long, so if you not over six feet in height you want to avoid this at the risk of appearing dumpy. But if you do have the height for this it is a dynamic and powerful look and it ensures that your pants are long enough to hang properly on your gangly legs when sitting down. To get a double break the hem of the pants should come all the way to the top of the sole … and if you are doing this with slacks, you also want a vented hem.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you have pants with a highly-tapered ultra-thin leg – and you are also appropriately thin – then you can go for no break at all. The hem of the pants should just barely brush the top of the laces. This gives you an edgy take-no-prisoners runway style kind of look, and if you can pull this one off then I tip my hat to you and your awesomeness. Be warned, though: If your waist is more than 32 inches this is not for you. Just back away.
Finally, you may remember that at the start of the summer a number of designers were taking their hems even higher, right up off the shoe. This had no redeeming value at all and it fortunately disappeared as quickly as it arrived. Hooray for small favours.