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May 7, 2013

Men's pants length: how short is too short?



The inevitable hem length post, readers!

Just as with contemporary women's fashion, it seems like when it comes to once well-established rules like men's pants length, tradition has been cast aside in favor of...just about anything

You see highwater hems everywhere (at fashion shows at least, and frequently here in New York City).  They aren't just for clam diggers anymore.











There are a zillion websites that address the men's pants hem length issue and most of them lean toward the traditional: the pants should “break where your pants fall on your shoes, creating a horizontal crease in the fabric across the front of your pant leg" (this according to Askmen.com)  But obviously there's no clear consensus anymore or it wouldn't be an issue in the first place.  

It seems that if you're wearing your pants with sneakers or with a desert boot type shoe, a shorter pants length looks sportier.  For business attire, it's better to err on the side of tradition.

I'm hemming my pants tonight and I'm leaning toward this:



Yes?  No?  Maybe?

Whatever I decide, I won't be pressing a sharp crease in the hem, just in case I change my mind.  I have to see how the pants look with the jacket, which I haven't even started yet.

Friends, is this short-enough-to-show-your-ankle fad (trend?) best left for rail thin, six-foot European models and the under-twenty-five set?  Can a quinquagenarian carry this off without looking ridiculous?

What do you think?

91 comments:

  1. I am not a fan of the high-water look, in general. Especially with a nice suit. I say err on the side of tradition...you will get more longevity out of all your hard work.
    If you go short, get some awesome socks.

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  2. Longer! Unless the whole suit is meant to be a statement...then go for short, but maybe a bit shorter so that it doesn't look like a mistake.

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  3. oh I would say that's too short

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  4. If you are going to wear them short I say right at the malleous or a little above (that knobby thing on your ankle. Though I prefer a regular length where there is a little break right where it hits your shoes.

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  5. I think that cut of pant should be hemmed at the "traditional" length. I like the look of tapered pants hemmed at the ankle but straight or wide legged pants look odd hemmed at that length. I don't think height, age, or build matters.

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    Replies
    1. This is what I was going to say - I think ankle length pants look best when they're tapered. Thanks.
      Devon

      Delete
  6. Short hems are ok if it's a casual look without a suit jacket...
    but if it's short shorts that you're asking about, well... then... it's never too short (so long as the body is in fine shape)!!!

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  7. To my eye, I prefer the shorter hem with a narrower leg, giving the whole thing a slightly "shrunken" effect. With a fuller leg I would prefer a longer length.

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    Replies
    1. I concur. Shorter then taper. Wider then lengthen.
      Cheers, pocket-maker

      Delete
  8. I like the high-water hem, but from this pic it appears your pants may not be cut slim enough to look right at this length.

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  9. I like the shorter length, but definitely with a cuff. And with pants that taper. It's a cute look! Especially for New York. I saw that all over when I was in NYC last summer. :)

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  10. You can totally carry off the shorter length. I think it's quite stylish - as long as you don't go too short (I agree about stopping at the malleous). And make sure they're very slender in the fit.

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    Replies
    1. Chiming in with a positive on the ankle length. I keep noticing that hem length on the dudes this season on Mad Men and really love the look.

      Delete
  11. I think in fashion shots it looks edgy. But in real life it just looks wrong. Just not quite right.

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  12. Don't do it! You're putting time and labor into this: KISS, and in this case, keep it more traditional, too.

    BTW there is a strange tailoring thing that men's bespoke tailors do to mens' pant legs: they press the front of the knee so that the paint leg, seen from the side, looks a bit dished forward below the knee...

    And that's what a really strong bust of steam, however you achieve it, is for, apparently: molding fabric, especially wool, into shapes!

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    Replies
    1. I don't know, but now that you mention it, my guess about the reason for dishing the seam below the knee out is so that the crease continues to look sharp even after the man has been sitting. If you think about it, when you sit, your pants' legs come up a bit over the knee.

      Delete
  13. I think you should go longer.

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  14. Maybe, but I'm kinda leaning towards more of a no. I think it can do odd things visually to the silhouette.
    I can see on more of a jean or sporty pant, but with a suit, it just looks like it got shrunk in the wash. Or you are wearing your little brother's suit.

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  15. Insofar as I think the shorter lengths work at all (and I don't care for most of them), I think they work best with casual and/or trendy fabrics and very narrow pants widths. The guy in the wide red gingham pants looks absolutely clownish to me. I think your wonderful fabric and fairly traditional suit styling really cries for the classic "breaking across the shoe" hem length.

    I think you can't go wrong asking yourself, What would Cary Grant wear?

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    Replies
    1. Cary wouldn't consider it for one split second!! LOL!!

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  16. I think you could pull off the short length easily. It's about your confidence, not your age.
    I do wonder though, if anyone actually wears those highwater hem business suits to work- or if it's just more of a casual look?

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    Replies
    1. I think it all depends on where you work. I doubt you'd wear highwater pants to a law firm, but if you worked in fashion...

      Delete
    2. Every man I've ever seen in fashion (outside the corporate side) pretty much wears black jeans, a black T, and fussy little black black boots. I've always wondered who the runway suits, with the chilly ankles, corsetlike jackets, and inevitable oversized leather bag, are really for.

      Call me a traditionalist martinet, but I say put two more inches on those trousers and look like a gentleman.

      Delete
  17. Personally I don't care for the shorter pants. That aside I think your hem circumference is too wide to go with the shorter look based on the pics shown. Hem them at a more traditional length, so they break on the shoe.

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  18. Personally, I like the traditional hem on men and don't understand the short length. It looks like the man's pants shrunk! I'm pretty traditional though. :) I agree with the anonymous comment two up from me about Cary Grant - men just looked so sharp back in the day!

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  19. I work in India and I find myself rolling up my pant legs and wearing sandals - all to keep my body cooler in the 100+ heat. I dream of wearing 3/4 pants, light sandals, no socks. I don't care if it's fashionable, I just want to stay cool. But if I can make it fashionable, BONUS!

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  20. I think your pants may not be cut slim enough for the higher hem look but hard to tell from your picture. I admit I do kinda like the shorter hems but I like it when the legs are slim cut. Otherwise, I would say a longer ,traditional hem length is good too.

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  21. The shorter look isn't limited to rail thin men, or even tall men, but I do think that it only looks intentional and stylish on slim fit trousers. Yours are much too loose at the moment. If you did go for the slim fit + shorter hem, those loafers are perfect to evoke the Italian Sartorialist look like this guy: http://www.thesartorialist.com/photos/on-the-street-navy-footies-milano/

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  22. Well Pee Wee Hermnan has always rocked the short hem so i say roll with the trend :-)

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  23. Oh dear. Have I ALREADY hit that frumpy old bitty stage in life?! Because I think every one of those pictures looks like a dry cleanng/laundry disaster, like "You put my suit in the DRYER?! What were you THINKING?!" Which is why the models all look so grumpy in these photos.

    God -- I'll be asking them to "turn down that loud music" at the hair salon before you know it...

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    Replies
    1. At least you didn't say "beauty parlor!"

      Delete
  24. Too short! Unless you LIKE looking like an idjit...IMOHO, at the very least the hem should touch down on the shoe in the front and be a tad LONGER at the back to meet the back of the shoe and prevent the too-exposed-at-the-back look..I have agonized over pant length at length myself and after much observing of pants on others, have come to the conclusion that long pants look best when hemmed at a slight angle (longer in the back) to avoid that"just right in the front but high-water in the back" look.I agree about the "break' over the arch of the foot thing, but I have also seen that one taken to extremes and it ends up looking like the tailor did a lousy job of hemming the pants. It ends up being a personal choice, I suppose, but I do think those pants are really too wide for that "flood" look; I agree that short like that is OK for a narrower pant.

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  25. I feel that this "high-water" look belongs to that category of fashion snickerbait known as Trying Too Hard.

    The minute a man's clothes say "look at me!" they're all wrong.

    Emily Post used to say that a man's clothes should look as if they grew on his back. That was in 1922, and no one since has ever given better advice.

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  26. Peter...that length is perfect...if you're planning to add fringe...
    I agree, it looks like Pee Wee Herman trying too hard.
    I suspect all those models are a "few" years younger than you are...
    If you want those pants to be in style for part of the summer...fine..later on, they're going to be "passe'"....

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  27. Longer unless you're committing to wearing boots with them in perpetuity.

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  28. No - too short! High water pants are geeky and unattractive. The only way such pants look "normal" on a guy is if the hems are intentionally rolled up to attain the short length (and then, it had better be hot weather and the guy is wearing sandals or loafers without socks...). Otherwise, it just looks like the wearer is clueless. Go with a length that is classic, or these will shortly (no pun intended) end up hanging in the back of your closet, unworn and unloved....

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  29. I hate that look, so I'm not a good person to ask. Those pants are so beautiful, please don't do that to them.

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  30. I think Bill's suggestion to add fringe is worth considering, if your heart is set on that length.

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  31. No, NO ,No. Cropped pants are horrible for women and now this disease is spreading! The proportion is just so unflattering for all but the very tall.

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    Replies
    1. But the very tall look like they can't get pants long enough when they wear that look!

      Delete
  32. I'd go with a more traditional length.

    If you're not adding cuffs I'd cut the bottom of the trousers on a slant so the back of the leg falls lower on the back of the shoe. I think it's supposed to create a longer line and add to the illusion of height.

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  33. You can't have it both ways! I like high waters, but yours aren't high enough! Whether you go traditional (lower) or cropped (higher), it has to look intentional. Right now it looks accidental.

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  34. For the record, the little-boy-growing-out-of-his-suit look (gray suit, white shirt, no tie, hands on hips) is my least favorite of the bunch. The dark suit, with casual shirt and white dock shoes, is my favorite look.

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  35. Longer, shorter are for under 25s, on older guys they just look like they have shrunk in the wash.

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  36. the question is also just how tall you are in real life, cause pants who are hemmed longer give the illusion of having longer legs (since I am 5.0 I would question the 'longer legs' bit and just say if they get cut off as short as yours or shorter, my legs look even shorter)

    I personally would go with a longer length, because with me people would just assume that the pants shrank in the wash :-)

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  37. I agree with Giggles. A longer pant gives the illusion of height.

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  38. For these particular pants I'd go for the more traditional length. But if you make a more casual style once I'd definitely try the shorter length, I think it can look really cool when you wear it with a pair of slim jeans and a more relaxed look!

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  39. Loads of opinions, here's another one:

    If it's a really summery suit, then maybe. If you're planning on wearing this in fall or winter, no way.

    But if you do want a high hem, you need to shorten it more, because otherwise it just looks accidental and "wrong", you want to make sure that it looks intentional.
    And please don't wear visible socks, then. If you must, then statement socks are the way to go maybe.

    If you're not sure yourself, traditional is the way to go, IMHO. If you have to ask, you'll always feel a bit insecure with the high waters.

    Agewise I think your fine. You're lean and more on the sportive side, so that's perfect, I think.

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  40. Most of the "fashion" suits look like the guy couldn't find one that fit! I prefer the traditional length for men's pants. I am not traditional about many things, but on that one I am pretty firm. I like a half break.

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  41. It's a bit "Jethro Bodine" for me. I like the traditional hem in dress pants.

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  42. In every one of those "fashion" shots the entire suit is too tight. Don't even get me started on the short-sleeved jacket! Please please please lower the hem. If you make it so the hem just touches your shoes it will still be shorter than traditional, but at least it won't look as though you're wearing your little brother's suit.

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  43. If you have enough fabric or can get more or some that coordinates with the jacket, make a sceond pair of pants (slimmer legs with the short version) for times when you want that look since you live in NYC. Jackets are a lot of work not to mention suit pants so get the maximum use from your tailoring efforts. You might not want the clam digger beach look pants for attending a funeral type attire. With two pairs of pants you can have your cake and eat it too.

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  44. Grumpy cat says no.

    Respectfully, I think you tend toward too-short trouser hems in general, and a longer look would suit your frame better.

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    Replies
    1. I'm sorry, Peter, but I agree with ParisGrrl.

      If you're set on the shorter length, mssewcrazy's suggestion is a great one.

      How about holding off hemming at least until the jacket is made?

      Spud.

      Delete
  45. That 'Jethro' length is horrible! I never see it in suits or those super skinny pants either. I think it's a look that stays on the runway but isn't accepted by the masses. Men are so much more resistant to change and that length of pants is definitely one that won't fly!

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  46. Is this suit for the short term or the long term? If it's just for the next few seasons, a shorter length will be fine if it's the look you like, but if you want to be wearing these pants for a decade maybe the more traditional length would be better?

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  47. GAHHH!! Too short for this pair of pants. Too me, the high water length is good only in skinny leg pants and jeans and definitely not as part of a suit.

    If you want the high waters, make some skinny leg casual pants, I think that you could pull off.

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  48. For these pants, traditional length works better for me. I think worn with a suit jacket, it would look like it was a mistake. That said, I do like the shorter hem on a slim, sporty pant.
    Rhonda M.

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  49. I actually love floods (call it the J. Crew length) but I think the leg of your pants is too wide... it's more successful with a slightly slimmer leg.

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  50. My first unedited thought was, "YeeeeHawww Paw! [This punctuated by expectoration of chewing tobacco.] A new pair a breetches!"

    Edited thought: Maybe in seersucker, but not in those lovely trousers.

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  51. No! I can't even believe you asked the question. But maybe you were 'just pulling our leg' to just get a 'rise' out of us. :-)

    Seriously, no on the silly short hemline. Just no.

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  52. I am sensing a consensus here...

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  53. Hugo Boss has THE most up-to-date looks and I love their styling. Check it out here and they show many lengths.
    http://store-us.hugoboss.com/mens-dress-pants/21400,en_US,sc.html

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  54. You Can also have a hi-low Hem. But this is for the classic look argument. Hem the front at break point. Then lengthen the back no more than an inch (otherwise it's too harsh an angle) so you'll have a longer look in the back. You may need to pull Open the side seams to accommodate but very slight.
    By the way, the jackets in those pictures just break all tradition which is probably intentional. For example, the waist point is not cut at the waist, belt buckle is exposed (a no no), the suit jacket is too short for the model. Unfortunately, the masses think this is how a suit should look - not the case in the real world and it will not last. With that in mind why make a suit to have it be stylish for less than a season.
    You sought out the fifty's and some sixty's, why change now when that cut is still with us and being revived by shows like mad men.
    Cheers, pocket-maker

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  55. Actually, those suits all look they shrunk in the wash.

    Nope, this "on trend" look is not for you.

    Spud.

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  56. I vote for the traditional pants length.

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  57. NO! take a look at the first pictures you posted. They look like little errand boys that just got scolded by their mother. Sometimes fashion trends change momentarily only to make people go out and buy all new clothes, then the next year they go back so you buy all new ones again. This is one of those times! LOL

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  58. I am late to the ball, but I think these high-water pants are silly looking. You are an elegant, mature (in a good way) man, so regular hem lengths, please!

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  59. No. I'd also like a slimmer more tappered leg.

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  60. That looks is OK if your going for the "clown" look or I borrowed my little brothers suit, it's too small but.... look (personally I HATE clowns)
    it can work if you are making shorts but even then, knee length is fine for short (and those suits with shorts are a laughing stock - the designer should be shot!!)
    I always thought you were meant to try on the trousers (yes, I'm British!!) and turn them up so that, without shoes, they just touched the floor at the heel (or course, they would be the same length all round) then, when you have shoes they are just above the floor.

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  61. NO NO NO ! please hem them conservatively. In six months, the fad will have died out and your beautiful suit will look ridiculous. And you will regret this no end.......

    All those models look like they borrowed their suit from a shorter, skinnier person. Ugh......

    If you want highwater pants, make them quick in a cotton twill and enjoy them this summer.

    Eve

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  62. Oh NO you don't! Think class, think Tim Gunn...

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  63. I'm not a fan of the short look, but I grew up in the 1970s when it was de rigeur to have pant hems dragging on the ground.

    I'm a classicist. I think the pants should be long enough to provide a decent break at the top of the shoe.

    The only way the short look works, IMHO, is if the pants are also very slim. And even then I'm iffy on it.

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  64. I see this fashion statement on the younger set here in San Francisco. I prefer it over sagging but not much. Give me a break!

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  65. If you decide on the shorter length, make sure you have a deep hem - like 5 inches.

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  66. My thinking is...it depends on the man. I have two sons and each tell me exactly where they want it to go.

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  67. I like the ankle hem length very much. Really I like anything in menswear that pushes boundaries. I do think though that shorter people need to avoid horizontal lines that shorten the silhouette.

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  68. With all of the work you are investing in that suit? Aaaaackkkkk!!!!!

    Traditional break at the top of the shoes, please. Particularly if you expect longevity of style.

    BTW, love your buttonholes from your previous post!


    Taja

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  69. The sky be blue, the land be dry; why do you wear your pants so high?

    In other words: NO.

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  70. like the length chosen for one reason. You have loafers withn no socks. Loafer with no socks are the ultimate easy cool. I think that proportion is key. Somehow Mike Brady's shorter jeans and "girly" sneakers from the very early episodes of the Brady Bunch actually works because it is in proportion. They looked good with his cutoff arms of his sweatshirt and the whole thing works.The shorter pant can work for the very savvy willing to wear them not the other way around. I do not like the model in large white shoes, with the suit that looks like he took it to a cheap dry cleaners and the shoes are not serious and therefore the short pant looks clowny. You had better have the whole look very together if you are going to wear short pants.

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  71. I agree with everyone who says NO. Your suit is way too classy to have pants that look like you accidentally got them too short. Classy suit, classy pant length. Please.

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  72. I think the shorter length only works with quite narrow tapered legs - since it seems like you are going with a more traditional width, I think the leg needs to be longer, at least to the shoe top.

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  73. No one looks good with those high water pants. To me they all look like 'old boys' - guys that flunked out of school or were held back a grade and had the same clothes as the year before...

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  74. Eschew fads I say! Go with the classic length with a full break. You're putting all this time and work into this suit. It deserves the length.

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  75. I'd make those just slightly longer. I personally like my pants a little on the shorter side to show off my go to hell socks.

    Sick shoes, btw.

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  76. GO FOR IT!!!MAKE YOUR CHOICES! LONG OR SHORT. DOES IT REALLY MATTER WHAT OTHERS THINK?
    HAVE FUN AND ENJOY HOW IT MAKES YOU REALLY FEEL INSIDE!!!!

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  77. I shared your post in my post today :-)
    http://www.openmindfashion.com/1/post/2013/10/6-tell-tale-signs-its-got-to-go.html
    I like all your photos & text & I like your hem length!

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