The (literal) rise of cropped trousers in recent years is a welcome development in menswear. Where women enjoy legwear of every conceivable length, we have been stuck with shorts and traditional trousers, at least for the last few decades. (NB: We’re not counting three-quarter length pants and neither should you.)
It’s hardly a 21st century trend, though. Men have been cropping their trousers in one way or another since Roman times, when the sun-kissed conquerors stole some style inspiration from the heathens they were defeating in colder climates. But while empires rise and fall, a good menswear staple is eternal.
If you’re looking for a more recent touchpoint, try the mid-1950s, when a cropped trouser became the legwear of choice for Riviera jetsetters. Taking cue from Capri pants – popular amongst women at the time – cotton or twill trousers finished at the lower shin or ankle, allowing for a sockless look with loafers.
After that, streetwear types were the next group to hike up their hems. They realised that cropped trousers have many of the same benefits as pinrolled jeans or chinos: they let your ankles breathe, make you look taller and let you display your prized sneakers. “Why yes, these are limited edition Adidas NMDs, how nice of you to notice.”
How To Style Cropped Trousers
For some traditionalists, of course, a raised hem means a raised eye-brow, but follow a few rules and you can’t fail to look stylish. First, keep the vibe strictly Mr Ripley, says stylist Alex Longmore: “The cut [either slim and tailored or deliberately wide] is the most important aspect of a cropped trouser, so pair with simple white tees and Cuban collar shirts – cotton and linen are your best bet for authenticity.
To get mathematical about trouser length, the safest way to wear cropped trews is with the hem sitting about an inch above your ankle. Let it slide any further up your shin and you run the risk of looking like a teenager on a growth spurt.
The only exception, perhaps, is the skater trend, where a higher break can be used to show of a pair of white tube socks and your new limited-edition sneakers. But the second it looks like you’re wearing pedal pushers, take them off and find something that actually fits you.
For our money, these brands offer the real cream of the cropped.
The Best Cropped Trousers For Men
Frescobol Carioca Slate Blue Tailored Cropped Trousers
Inspired by the Brazilian art of the bat and ball, Frescobol Carioca is a British take on Copacabana sentiments that now extends to a full summerwear line, which includes cropped trousers. Plus, it’s a lot cheaper than a return flight to Ipanema.
River Island Brown Dogstooth Cropped Trousers
River Island has long been a high street stalwart, and for good reason. Since 1948 (though known by a different name at that time), the family-run venture has peddled modern trends at modest price points, meaning you don’t have to drop a bomb to look the bomb.
AMI Tapered Cropped Cotton-Twill Trousers
There’s a reason Parisians think they’re better than everyone else. It’s because they are. And for that, we’ve to thank French labels like AMI – a global brand that lets everyone share in some good, old-fashioned je ne sais quoi. Expect chic tailored tapering on the brand’s cropped trousers.
Reiss Slimfit Chino Cropped Trousers
Extra pounds usually clinch extra quality, but that doesn’t warrant a bank loan. Reiss is one of the few labels to conquer the stylish middle ground, and while its pieces don’t come last-week-before-payday cheap, you can expect a piece that’ll last. Its cropped trousers offer up a refined Riviera cut.
Dickies Slim Straight Work Cropped Trousers
Dickies may well be the sleeper hit of this century. Not only did they make a less-than-expected jump from building sites to streetwear galleries, the label has become a firm favourite of skaters and trend worshippers the world over. Perfect if you’re reason for cropping is a trainer collection you don’t want to be subtle about.
Boohoo Man Straight Fit Cropped Trousers
While BoohooMan falls way below on cost, it’s more than an equal match for more expensive brands in terms of style. Which, considering the Love Island endorsements and tighter-than-tight fits, may come as a surprise. The Manchester-based retailer does clean and classic very well, and that’s all you need for cropped trousers.
Uniqlo Relaxed Cropped Trousers
‘Made in Japan’ isn’t a bankable term solely reserved for the electronics industry. Uniqlo, a label nearing its 70th birthday, proves that the Land of the Rising Sun is also a land of quality apparel. Don’t expect any self-cleaning gadget functions – just well-cut, well-made essentials in all the basic colours you could want.
Mango Pleated Cropped Trousers
For summer wardrobes, it’s better to look towards a country that actually gets sun – like Spain – and Barcelona-based label Mango has a habit of making the trendiest of trends wearable. Case in point: its range of pleated cropped trousers.
COS Relaxed Crepe Wool Cropped Trousers
If H&M is the everyday boy-next door, consider COS – a label under the same umbrella – as the cooler, older brother, probably attending art school. Which is no bad thing. The cuts are flattering, minimalist and guaranteed to appeal to anyone studying a BA in Sculpture at Central Saint Martins.
Zara Cropped Chino Trousers
There’s a reason why Zara makes over $15 billion a year. The Spanish retail juggernaut is responsible a sea of wardrobe staples that look just at home in Manchester as they do Madrid, like their roomy, but still well cut, trousers.