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Mar 2, 2011

High-Water Men's Pants - Yea or Nay?



Readers, if you haven't witnessed the trend in person, you've probably seen it in magazines.  I speak of the creeping high-water pants look for men.


I discussed it with the Vinyls this morning over breakfast and things got quite heated.



Allan loves the look and Ken -- rather predictably -- hates it.   He's a traditionalist.



Men have been rolling up their hems for years, especially when wearing high top sneakers, desert boots, and classic shoes (like penny loafers) with no socks -- kind of a preppy/dandy look.


No, what I'm talking about is this -- the much-discussed (relatively speaking) Thom Browne silhouette.


Do you see the difference?

Rolled hem casual:


Hurricane Katrina:


Preppy Paul:


Buster Browne:


Living on the edge of Chelsea's gallery district as I do, I see this look, not often exactly, but when you do see it it definitely sticks in your mind so it's like more people are wearing it than actually are.

I'll say only this: it suits some, but it doesn't suit me.  To me it looks infantile; there -- I said it.


 More so than in women's fashion, men's fashion trends seem to exist in a separate parallel universe.  Beyond certain neighborhoods and professionals, you just don't see them -- ever.  Why is that?

Thom was showing this in 2009.  Other than MPB, when's the last time you saw a man in a pencil skirt?


In closing, friends, what's your take on all this? Is it just a few fashion designers pushing the envelope to garner publicity or is this high-water/shrunken-in-the-dryer trend something real in the fashion zeitgeist?

Obviously with fashion, the more you see something the more normal and "right" it looks (cough, cough)...



Of course people can wear what they want; live and let live I always say.  But we're allowed to have an opinion about it.

So I ask you: men's high-water pants -- yea or nay?

And if you care to distinguish, do you feel differently about the rolled-at-the-ankle look than the hemmed-practically-to-the-calf thing?  And how high is too high?  Is this more of a tall man's thing or a short man's?


Would you or your man ever don this look?  Or does he already?

Jump in while the tide's out!

59 comments:

  1. I'm not a fan of the high water look, we're really short, and yeah, if the high water look is in, then I'd have to hem more pants!!

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  2. Yeah I have to agree I find it much more acceptable with the casual rolled cuff than the 'Bid-ness' suit. The more formal ones even seem ok when the socks are pulled up and you can't actually see the ankle.
    So maybe I am just anti-ankle skin.

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  3. I totally get Beth's dilemma!

    That being said, I like the high-water look on slim men for casual attire. It just won't work on more rotund silhouettes. Rolled or hemmed is all right as long as it's a casual setting. Dressy high-waters = oxymoron.

    Keep in mind I was a teen in the 70's and went to a prep school. I still dream of men in frayed Duckhead khakis and button down collared Oxfords in pastels! LOL!

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  4. Why would anyone deliberatly want to look like Pee-Wee or Steve Urkle?

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  5. Haha to Tina's comment.

    Yea to rolled casual in a casual setting. A big NAY to the others. And while we're on the subject, a nay to cuffed dress pants too, unless they're on a stuffy Wall Street financier, D.C. lawyer, or my grandfather.

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  6. OMG, I had forgotten all about Steve Urkel, thanks to Tina for embedding his image in my brain! :-)
    Nay on all accounts!
    Although I must admit that sometimes a trend that I put off as totally unwearable, grows on me as I see it more often.
    Not this one though!!!!
    Gross! (still thinking about Steve Urkel!)

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  7. The hemmed ones just look like they've outgrown their pants to me, rather pitiable. Rolled ups only to cuff length or if you're going wading too.

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  8. With a rapidly growing teenage boy in my household, we fight this look alot. New school trousers every six months keep ankle exposure in check. And for the record..'ankle swingers' are never cool to a 15yr old EMO boy.

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  9. Well it's funny. I roll my hems up reasonably often, but I'd never wear a short hem. Except when I'm wearing "capris" (sadly, they're called "manpris" by the ladies in my life as an effort to discourage me). So I guess I *would* wear a short hem. I'm so confused.

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  10. My favorite men in pencil skirts moment:
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7nzkv_david-bowie-klaus-nomi-tvc15-boys-k_music

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  11. I'm in the anti high-water. Even the rolled cuff is only acceptable say at the beach where one is anticipating high-water.

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  12. Well, I was a teenager in the 70s and wearing high-water pants (by girls or boys) was the seen as the height (heh heh!) of geekdom. I don't think I will ever like it and, frankly, these guys look ridiculous in them.

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  13. I have to admit I am a fan -- but then I have always had a thing for Don Knotts and Pee Wee Herman, so I am certain I can trace it back to them. The caveat is the wearer must also have the physique of Knotts and Herman and the short pants should also be worn self-consciously and a bit playfully.

    Growing up in the 70s, I think I was traumatized by all the bell bottoms around me, so when I started seeing short pegged pants, they seemed rather exotic and rebellious to me. And so, by extension, so does the wearer. Of course, I realize most people think it looks ridiculous and I understand why, but that only serves to make me like the pants and wearer more. It takes some balls for a grown man to rock the high waters, unashamed.

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  14. Rolled for casual maybe. It is something unbalanced looking about the naked ankle and the weighty shoe beneath it that doesn't look right. Rather like clogs on a full skirted girl, when strappy sandals are needed. It does seem more balanced with a thick sock like Paul's (Newman not Ruebens!)

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  15. i don't mind the rolled hem - i do it myself quite often (although i ain't a man!). socks or no socks or crazy argyle socks with some cheap knock-off keds, yes please.

    the shrunken highwater look just doesn't do it for me, though. it looks like the poor guy got stuck with the wrong inseam :(

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  16. I am a nay on the high-waters. Hubby would look like a munchkin in them as he is only 5'7"..and that is stretching it.

    BUT...I am really, really grooven on those two tone bell bottoms. I think they would look fabulous in a velvet with gorgeous vintage buttons. I may have to look that pattern up.

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  17. Good grief -- focus, Sassy, focus!

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  18. I'm glad you discussed this important topic with the Vinyls. Now, get in touch the Charlie Sheen and get back to me.

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  19. As a tall, skinny guy pants-shopping would be much easier if I could swallow my reservations and wear pants like that, but... yuck.

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  20. I think shoe styles may be a reason why women can get away with short trousers, and men (at least according to many) can't. Women have all sorts of dainty, high heeled, footwear to choose from, which can create some sort of balance with trouser shapes like these. Men don't.

    That, and of course the fact that all of fashion's craziness which ends up being accepted by the masses, has been concentrated in women's wear for at least the last few decades...

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  21. Personally, I don't mind showing a bit of ankle, but I deplore the look when paired with a matching suit jacket: that's when it becomes creepily infantile, like ill-fitting prep school duds. Give me the option of rolling my cuffs, I suppose. Capris (or 'clamdiggers' as some call 'em) can look good too, in the right milieu, but that pencil skirt suit? Pass.

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  22. Nay, the silhouette is just wrong looking. I'm all for going out of the box and by no means conservative, but it just makes the body look out of proportion and not pleasing to the eye. Kinda like how women in the US still cling to those capri pants, that make most of us look like we have stunted legs. Sorry Allen, I love you, but Ken is right on this one.

    I do however, like the casual rolled hem in the right setting.

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  23. The only place I see high water pants are in magazines or online. However, I kind of like them. I would not mind being in NY and seeing all the interesting people there.

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  24. I'm with Ken on this one: BIG NAY! But I also think that length isn't particularly flattering on women either. If you are tall, it breaks up your beautiful long line and if you are short, it makes you look all choppy and shorter.

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  25. HUGE NAY on the highwaters

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  26. No way, don't like it at all! Mind you I live in Oman where it is more "religiously correct" for the mens dishdasha )long dress robe) to be a similar look however most of them wear it ankle length.

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  27. Where I live we are what seems like decades behind New York fashion-wise, so I have never seen a man in person wearing short pants. Judging only by the pictures you posted Peter, yes to a casual look, Oh My God no never in a million years No to a suit look, it just looks dumb and like they're trying too hard.

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  28. I like that full plaid suit at the end. I think if you're going to do it in a non-beachy aesthetic then you should do it full on nerdy. Personally, I think men's capris and high-waters are a much needed nuance but then again my boyfriend refuses to wear them. Oh well.

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  29. It makes the guys look oddly juvenile. In general I am uncomfortable by adult clothing that is infantizing. It's creepy that women want to look like baby dolls or that men want to look like boys outgrowing their pants. I'm puzzled by what the underlying message is.

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  30. Definitely nay! Being tall, pre-sewing I suffered from this look in varying degrees and I always felt silly - like I couldn't afford proper length pants (never mind that most pants are at least 1-2 inches too short off the rack). So I can't understand why people pay top dollar to get this look! It's crazy!

    And men in pencil skirts? Maybe I'm too much of a traditionalist but also a nay for me. Can you imagine people taking you seriously at work if you rocked up wearing this?!

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  31. Especially worn with stilettos...

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  32. I can cope with the casual rolled hem look, but the high tide look is silly and don't get me started on men in capris!

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  33. Nay! Nay! Nay! to high-water pants. I know, donkey sounds--and men with those skinny, skinny jeans look as if they have donkey legs. How is that for an evaluative comparison?

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  34. nay nay nay. In spanish we call those "brinca pozos", something like jump the puddle heheheheheh.

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  35. Highwater pants are a definite nay nay! They are awful and anyone who wears them looks like Marty McFly, in my opinion.

    Now, rolled cuffs, a la Rockabilly, are a definite yes, in my book. ;)

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  36. The first thing that popped into my head when I saw the first picture was Pee Wee Herman. I think women can pull of this look but not men (thank Pee Wee and Urkel for thank).

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  37. They look like fourth-graders after a growth spurt. Ugh. Looks good only on Pee Wee.

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  38. It's a big ol' NAY from me. And no, my conservative dressing, liberal thinking man would never wear them (though he might roll up work pants if he were crossing a creek... what was I thinking? No, he would just get them wet.)

    Big apologies for that sentence structure/punctuation. Egads!

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  39. I don't like highwater pants on anyone, male or female. Now I am having flashbacks of that period of time in my youth when my legs grew (and grew, and grew) to their current 38-inch inseam (I wish I were kidding) length. Right when those Simplicity elephant bells like that pattern (which I covet BTW) were in style. I kept growing out of my pants and being mortified when a month would go by and they'd have reached the highwater stage again. The pain...

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  40. I'm with you on this, Peter: NAY! Unless it's a casual rolled up hem, in which case it could even legitimately be for wading.

    Having said that, on women it can look great - if (and only if) the proportions are right. Even then, I find some kind of rolled hem, cuff or even just a seam near the bottom makes it look a million times better.

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  41. Paul Newman and Pee Wee look good. I don't like most of the others, but with the right accessories I think I might.

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  42. I'm voting nay. Except the second to the last photo -- the guy with the striped shirt and socks -- I think he looks cool. Rolled-up pants are okay, especially if you're just stepping off a sailboat or something that would have required bare ankles.

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  43. I kinda like the Thom Browne look, but as with many runway looks--it can only be worn by someone very skinny!

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  44. The only acceptable place for that look is the deck of an expensive sailboat and even then only with no socks and Sperry Topsiders!

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  45. Rolled linen pants barefoot at the beach . . thumbs up. High water pants any where else are just wrong!

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  46. Hi Peter,

    Kristin of K-Line introduced me to your blog :-)

    I don't care for the high water look on men!

    My sweetie Martin and I have been catching up on some of your posts. I'm getting back into sewing and he wants to sew too. He just ordered this pattern:
    http://www.sovintagepatterns.com/catalog/item/7552593/8131493.htm
    because he likes French cuffs and the detachable collar. Anyway, we were browsing pattern pickings at the big 4 and were shocked at the paucity of patterns for men!

    Where do men who want to sew find cool patterns? We agree with you that something awful happened to men's fashions after WWII. At least as expressed in patterns. Probably ready to wear too. Help!

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  47. Big thumbs down for that look- Pee Wee Herman...well that says it all.

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  48. High waters remind me of the worst of the Jerry Lewis movies-- his geeky characters had things like high water pants.

    I can't picture Tim Gunn in high waters. And he's my reference for all things wonderful about male fashion.

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  49. I have to say that over-all I don't favor the flood-water pants, but if a stylish fellow with the right attitude struts down the street showing a bit of leg- or some festive hosiery, then good for him!

    I would put the kibosh on the pencil skirt, but a floor length, leather a-line is rather fine, and a proper kilt is tha' BOMB! Howie Nicholsby has also done a fine job of modernizing kilts to offer some nice alternatives to the modern man's all-too-often limited fashion choices.

    Whatever the look, it's all about the attitude and confidence that the wearer possesses.

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  50. This just looks like someone ran out of "trendy ideas" and decided to shorten the pants legs just to mix things up.

    This is just a current trend that looks sloppy on even the most stylish and confident of men.

    By next fall this trend will have been completely forgotten.

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  51. Some of the pants in the photos were past "high water", they were flood stage. And trust me, after last May in Nashville, we know our floods.

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  52. I absolutely hate it! I live in Hartford, Ct., and I've yet to see any man on the street wearing it. Another pet peeve are shorts that are cut above the ankles, unless your 6 feet tall, you look like your standing in a ditch!

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  53. I really like the high water! I think it pushes the envelope. Male fashion is dull and they deserve to have ways to have fun. I do agree that one would have to be skinny to pull this off, but we all have our fashion limitations.

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  54. I can't stand the look. It's just another fashion trend that about 1% of men have decided to take to in order to look cutting edge. Problem is, in exactly 1.4 years it will go out of style and those guys will be left with a bunch of little boy pants in their closet.

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  55. the old guard really do clump together don't they.

    what is infantile is not necessarily, ontological so. it is normative, that is to say, conventional

    i'm going to guess that most people who posted here are older than 25. mods and skinheads wore cropped pants. they did not do it "to look infantile". stop pretending that there is such a thing as a timeless fashion--many of you will have to face up to the fact that your kids or your younger siblings no longer know who pee wee herman or urkle are.

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  56. I think this article is cool, because as a Muslim man, I'm not allowed to wear my pants below my ankles. So it's nice to know that you can still look fashionable with shorter pants in a formal setting. I suppose if you have long socks you can pull it off.

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