Q: I've noticed guys in my office wearing cuffs on their pants. The tailor says I'm too short for them. Is he right? If not, how wide should they be?
A: It is nonsense that cuffs make a man appear shorter. True, an eye-catching belt cutting across one's middle visually affects how tall he appears; but a horizontal line so close to the ground does not affect the eye one way or another. What is true: Cuffs make any outfit appear to be better-tailored. Plain bottoms -- especially on suits -- seem to have less finesse. When short men avoid the up-to-date look of cuffs, it reinforces the concept that only tall men are sophisticated and clothing-aware.
Cuffs are rich in associations. The Ivy League crowd has always worn them. Brooks Brothers traditionalists have never even considered lopping off the bottoms of their trousers. Such an abrupt edging is not for them. Movie idols of the '40s wore their fastidiously tailored suits cuffed. Cuffs are essential to the cachet of British "bespoke" (custom-made) Savile Row tailoring. And today's updated dresser recognizes the polish cuffs add to a pair of pants. They give trousers a more finished look; some feel they also help pants hang better.
Since finishing the hem is often included in the cost of the garment, occasionally tailors recommend plain bottoms because they are easier to finish. Many knowledgeable dressers wear their casual pants uncuffed, and suits and dress slacks with a cuff.
As to the width of cuffs: The wider, the more conservative. Cuffs at Brooks Brothers are up to 1 3/4 inches; other shops recommend 1 1/2 ; the trend-driven dresser wears his as narrow as 3/4 of an inch. A happy compromise is 1 1/2 inches for traditionally cut suits, or 1 1/4 for updated, ventless styles.
Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.
Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.