It wasn’t all that long ago that you would have been ridiculed for wearing anything resembling cropped trousers.
Given that the prevailing rule for trouser length has for decades been that the hem should come to lightly rest upon the top of the shoe, forming a break at the shin, it isn’t any wonder that when cropped trousers came onto the scene they were simply regarded as trousers that didn’t fit.
Womenswear was the first to incorporate cropped trousers in the form of capri pants, but for men, the old sartorial rules held fast until only relatively recently. Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a suit sashaying down a fashion runway that doesn’t finish at or above the ankle. Indeed, some brands – we’re thinking Thom Browne specifically – have built their entire raison d’etre around this modern cropped look.
What started in suit silhouettes has now spread across all genres of contemporary trousers to such an extent that cropped trouser lengths are now simply just another style signifier of a modern man’s wardrobe.
So if you’re looking to #freetheankle this season, here’s everything you need to consider before taking the plunge, and the brands making the coolest cropped pants today.
Cropped Trousers: What You Need To Know
Even though cropped trousers have become a key part of contemporary summer wardrobes for quite a few years now, there are still a few questions to answer – such as how much can you crop, and can all trousers be cropped? The following should clear up any ambiguity.
Fit and Style
For the most part, cropped trousers can pass in any guise. The most popular and versatile look would be in smart cotton chino form, with either a straight or tapered leg.
These can be worn with sneakers for a contemporary look or with loafers, Derbies et al. for a more sartorial vibe. Adding a turn-up helps to accentuate the cropped look by giving the hem some detail.
One thing to be mindful about is the degree of taper in the leg – you want it to be gradual and subtle, otherwise you risk your legs looking like the Eiffel Tower upside down. This is clearly not a good look, especially when we’re talking about tailoring.
More contemporary wide-leg styles can also look slick in cropped mode, and there are plenty of brands (see below) who have specialised in this silhouette. From baggy jeans to wildly wide Japanese-inspired looks, loose cropped styles can be really useful when attempting to get creative with your overall silhouette.
One point is that cropped trousers with a turn-up hem with generally look that bit more refined and less like you’re wearing your little brother’s pants.
Cropped trousers are a good fit for most body types, especially tall people who find it difficult to find trousers with long enough legs. High-waisted styles will look more natural when cropped, which is why a lot of the cropped trousers on the market are of a tailored construction.
Again, be mindful of the degree of tapering through the leg, especially if you have chunky thighs. If in doubt, opt for a straight-cut style with enough room in the leg to maintain a svelte but not skinny silhouette.
With the diverse array of cropped trousers available now, you can find a pair to suit every type of wardrobe and occasion.
Chinos are by far the most versatile option since you can wear them in a preppy, smart or dressed down way, but more fashion-forward guys will certainly find no shortage of more avant-garde designs that are perhaps wider in the leg and of a more streetwear persuasion.
When it comes to cropped trousers, it’s less about the fabric and more about the silhouette and construction of the trouser that will make or break your look.
All of the brands listed below construct both cotton and wool styles, depending on the season, so simply pick the material that complements your existing wardrobe best.
The Best Cropped Trouser Brands
High-street minimalist COS is one of our favourite go-tos for pared-back staples, no matter the season.
Its edit is both huge and eclectic, and given the Scandinavian giant’s contemporary aesthetic, you can expect a tonne of cropped trouser styles in every guise, from sleek tapered tailored options to straight-leg wool versions via summery wide-leg pants, all offering you change from £100.
Alexandre Mattuissi, the founder of AMI Paris, was one of the first luxury designers to make cropped tailored trousers a mainstay of every seasonal collection.
AMI’s carrot pants came beautifully tailored in pleated form with turn-ups, and with a crop that was shorter than most, helping to emphasise boots or sneakers.
While a lot of Mattuissi’s new season trousers have gone in the other direction, with flowy oversized silhouettes, the cropped carrot pants are still an evergreen feature, with the addition of a double-pleated style to keep the single pleats company.
Founded by Pierre Mahéo, Officine Générale has generated a dedicated following in love with the house’s brand of quiet luxury. The label’s trouser collection is a sartorial dream, full of beautifully tailored mid- to high-waisted styles that generally finish somewhat cropped.
The Hugo pants are Officine’s go-to cropped style, coming complete with a belted fastening, single pleats and turn-ups. They come in a variety of fabrics, from Oxford cotton twill to Italian fresco wool, and are such a great addition to a relaxed tailored wardrobe.
Foremost among the new breed of contemporary minimalist brands is Studio Nicholson, for which shape and fabric are the dual roots of its creativity.
As such, the label has entirely adopted the cropped trouser silhouette, creating a plethora of loose, wide-leg, high-waisted styles that add volume and shape to its discerningly understated palette.
With little to no pattern or embellishments, the silhouettes do all the talking, so if you like your cropped trousers quietly avant garde, you’ll love Studio Nicholson’s aesthetic.
Setting the bar for sustainable fashion is Arket, which prides itself on a transparent approach to fabric resourcing and garment production.
Being a Nordic brand the aesthetic is of course minimalistic, using a restricted colour palette played out across a contemporary selection of garments, of which the cropped trouser plays a key role.
Arket’s regular cropped cotton-linen trousers offer superb value for summer wardrobes, while the label also produces a range of cropped responsible wool iterations in black and navy tones for year-round styling.
American designer Thom Browne’s avant-garde aesthetic is instantly recognisable thanks to the grey palette and stripes motif, but also the fact that his tailoring has a distinct cropped finish.
We’re not just talking trousers here, but also his tailored jackets. The latter might not be to everyone’s taste, but certainly Browne’s tailored wool pants would be a great fit in most modern sartorial wardrobes.
Italian behemoth Gucci shows no signs of diluting the maximalist approach catalysed by former creative director Alessandro Michele. Sabato De Sarno is now at the helm, and he is steering the luxury ship on an adventurous course of bold prints and luxurious fabrics.
While the fashion house has massively expanded its collection of silk track pants to accommodate a streetwear-inspired international customer, most of its tailored styles come with a subtle cropped finish.
If you like interesting colours to elevate your sartorial wardrobe then you won’t be disappointed at Gucci.
The King of stealth wealth, Brunello Cucinelli has long been regarded as the must-have brand of the mega-rich, focusing on the exquisite use of some of the finest natural fibres known to man.
Cucinelli’s aesthetic has always been ahead of the curve with his relaxed and informal approach to tailoring. Naturally then, the cropped trouser plays an important part of his collections, cut with a flattering taper and elegant turn-ups, in an array of excellent seasonal fabrics.
From chinos to double-pleats, Cucinelli’s croppers are a level above.
PT Torino is a trouser specialist so it goes without saying that the Italian brand has an exemplary range of cropped silhouettes to elevate your seasonal wardrobe.
Its eclectic collection is without doubt the most comprehensive on the market, and the construction quality does not disappoint.
From regular flat-fronted cotton twill chinos to single-pleated virgin wool trousers, if you can’t find a pair of stunning cropped pants here, then we can’t help you.
Hailing from the menswear Mecca that is Naples, Low Brand is a new tailored concept available at a handful of online stores. It specialises in that southern Italian brand of tailoring that is sophisticated yet relaxed, and the cropped trouser is a key feature.
With both straight-leg and tapered styles across suits and separates, Low Brand’s quality:price ratio looks exceptional and well worth further investigation.