Where Should Your Pants Hem Hit Your Shoe?

I am going to paraphrase here, because the chorus of voices demanding answers to this question has become a cacophony that drowns out all else:

Q: Where should your pants hem hit your shoe? Fashion types mentioned Derek Lam's 10 Crosby line, where pant hems dragged across the floor, and Kate Moss' very-tall-shoes-with-voluminous-pants moment at a Chanel show. More everyday types wanted to know about (a) work and (b) jeans. Even a male Lucky staffer wondered. Related questions rained down: What length is the right length for pants? And how do you wear the same pants with different heel heights?


A: The outpouring of confusion on this issue necessitates a longer-than-usual response. Fashion director Anne Keane and senior fashion editor Elle Strauss spent parts of several days hunched over a computer, comparing photos, rearranging various pant/shoe combinations on the floor, shaking their heads, reassessing, fiddling, denouncing, hemming, hawing and, in the end, triumphing, with this compendium of pant-length/shoe-style combinations:

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Straight-leg was the category that gave our editors the most agita. "It's so hard to get right," said Elle."Because it can look so wrong!" Anne frowned. "People just shouldn't get straight-leg!"

They said this but then were forced to laugh at themselves when every single pair of straight-leg pants they Googled was sold out. "The people have spoken," Anne finally conceded. Pumps or flats work with straight-leg (they shuddered visibly when I brought up boots and sandals), and the pants themselves should be cropped (or cuffed) at the anklebone or above.

Illustration by Lauren Friedman

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Skinny is the easiest. Pretty much any shoe, from a flat to a gigantic platform to a tall pair of boots works. The thing to remember is the skinny really features the shoe. Skinny pants are like two long arrows pointing down at your feet. So feature some fantastic shoes! Flats look great with cropped skinnies, though you can also leave them long. It's purely a matter of which look you like better. Leaving them longer will, in theory, make your legs look longer, but showing some skin by having them cropped can be really flattering too. (The only way to have it both ways is to leave them long and cuff them every so often.) If your boots are gigantic you can tuck the jeans in, but the fashion department is iffy on this last bit.

Illustration by Lauren Friedman

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Wide-leg pants must always skim the floor. If the hem gets trampled on and lived in, so much the cooler. Anne and Elle insist that only platforms go with this look, as in exhibit A, near right. (I secretly believe that if you were a no-way-never super-anti-platformer, you could hem your wide-leg pants to skim the floor when you were wearing flats. Who would know? I would caution that the longer your legs, the better this secret second option might work.)

Illustration by Lauren Friedman

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Baggy/boyfriend jeans or pants should be hemmed or rolled up above the anklebone, and worn, says Elle, "with a tough, feminine shoe." Anne concurs: "You have to show some ankle with a baggy, or it just looks enormous and sloppy." No flats (unless you're totally casual and going for sneakers, in which case make doubly sure your ankles show and make triply sure that you don't look like a clown, which is a real and disastrous possibility). And no pumps, no kitten heels. The only possible boot is an ankle bootie (a tough, feminine one).

Illustration by Lauren Friedman

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