Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Going to great lengths to get right pant fit

Question: My husband has a difficult time finding casual slacks the correct length without having a tailor shorten them. He wears a 34-inch waist, 29-inch inseam, and it seems that everywhere we go for inexpensive slacks, they do not have them short enough. Any tips?

Answer: This has long been a widespread problem for men because of the way the clothing industry operates. Men's trousers have always been made in one of two ways: Either they come with unfinished (that is, unhemmed) bottoms or they come with the bottoms hemmed and ready for wearing. And this difference usually depends somewhat on the cost of the pants.

Both fine-quality dress trousers and expensive casual slacks come with the bottoms left unhemmed, requiring a tailor to measure and shorten them. Obviously, this is necessary to get a perfect fit every time for each man. But it can be a nuisance because there is no getting around the fact that about four steps are involved: the shopping, the fitting, the waiting and the picking up or delivery. (Most stores include the cost of hemming, but some charge for it.)

For casual and inexpensive pants, manufacturers usually take into account that men hate the extra steps in the process, so they eliminate them and make pants in the most commonly worn sizes and inseam lengths. In the past, men who wore less-popular sizes had to spend more time (and more money) having pants altered for an ideal fit. (If pants come with finished bottoms _ that is, ones that are already hemmed _ there is usually a charge for changing the length.)

But in this great country of ours, when there is a dilemma, someone comes up with a solution. Today, the better catalog companies, such as Lands' End, L.L. Bean and Eddie Bauer, will shorten inexpensive pants with no tailoring charge, either with cuffs or without. Prices for their pants range from about $35 to $75, depending on the fabric.

Of course, a man needs to know his correct inseam length, allowing for fabric shrinkage. One advantage you may not have expected: All three companies will shorten to your exact inseam length (even {- and \-inch increments) for a near-custom fit. Now that you know you have more to choose from, I wish you happy hunting.

Write to Lois Fenton/Style for Men in care of Floridian, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Send e-mail to Fenton welcomes questions about men's fashion and grooming for use in the column but cannot answer mail personally.