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One of the most important elements that impacts how pants look, and their comfort level, is their rise.
The pant and trouser ‘rise’ is where the trouser waistband sits in relation to your hipbones and ‘natural waist’ * ** – essentially, how high they’re worn.
Though there are only a few options, it’s very possible that you’re wearing the wrong pant rise based on one of many factors, such as your body type, height, and pant style.
Informing yourself of your different options when it comes to pant rise, and which will work best for your circumstance, could be an easy way to take your style to the next level, and address your potential frustrations of ‘not being sure why your outfits don’t look right’.
Read on for an overview of the three main trouser rises ***, and which will likely work best for you, so we can finally answer the age old question of where pants should optimally sit on a man!
Notes for advanced readers:
- * Your ‘natural waist’, for simplicity, is most people’s belly button/navel – but more generally, it’s between your ribs and the top of your hips.
- ** Your pant rise is technically calculated by the distance between the trouser waistband, and the seat seam.
- BUT, for simplicity, I will refer to the different types of rise in relation to where they sit on your body (bottom of hipbone, top of hipbone, etc), as actual measurements can vary depending on heights and weights.
- *** Also, pants have two rises, the front rise, and the back rise.
- Again, for simplicity, though the front is usually higher or lower than the back, this article will assume they’re on the same level.
- You can check out more advanced reading, for the like, 1% who are really into this stuff, at Permanent Style.
Types of Pant Rise
There are three types of pant rises, each sitting at a different position between the hips and natural waist.
To help illustrate, check out this nifty infographic I’ve prepared!
The rest of this section will go through each of the above rises, and any specific points to note on each one.
Low Rise Pants
Where Do the Pants Sit?: The waistband of low rise trousers hit around the bottom of the hip bone, and produces the most ‘modern’ look.
Most Appropriate For: Those with proportionally shorter torsos compared to their longer legs.
Usually Worn On: Jeans and chinos; lower formality pant styles.
- As a low rise lacks formality, low rises look most at home on casual pant styles, such as jeans.
- Can help balance out those with short torsos.
- Because low rise trousers sit so low on the waist, if you’re wearing them with a tucked in shirt, the shirt is more likely to become untucked.
- An inherent consequence of low rise pants is that, as there’s a lack of support from surrounding bones, they potentially fall down easier.
- If worn with a smart jacket, such as a blazer, shirt can poke out between the buttoned jacket, and the pants.
- Not a super versatile rise in terms of being optimal at many formalities.
Medium Rise Pants
Where Do the Pants Sit?: The waistband of medium rise trousers hit between the bottom and top of your hip bone.
Most Appropriate For: Everyone, but especially perfect for those with balanced torso-leg proportions.
Usually Worn On: Jeans, chinos and trousers; all pant styles of all formality.
- With mid rise pants, you usually won’t have any issue with shirts becoming fully untucked, as there’s enough depth to keep the shirt engaged.
- As mid rise pants are slap bang in the middle of the formality spectrum, they look appropriate when worn with pants of any formality, so are king when it comes to versatility.
- As they’re worn higher up, they receive more support from the hip bones, so take longer to fall down if unsupported.
- Aren’t perfectly optimal for providing visual balance to those with imbalanced leg or torso proportions.
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High Rise Pants
Where Do the Pants Sit?: The waistband of high rise trousers hit on, or slightly above, the belly button (natural waist). This will be between the top of your hip bone, and the bottom of your ribs.
Most Appropriate For: Those with proportionally longer torsos compared to their shorter legs.
Usually Worn On: Trousers, dress pants, and smart chinos; more formal pant styles.
- Most people report finding pants worn at this high rise much more comfortable than those that sit lower on the waist.
- If you’re wearing a tucked in shirt, which you most likely would be with high rise trousers, there’s excessive ground for the shirt to cover before it becomes untucked.
- For reference, I have rather ‘average’ proportions (important in the next section), and enjoy wearing high rise trousers in more formal outfits. This is because I find a high rise trouser allows the leg fabric to drape more elegantly down the leg, with less wrinkles, which I feel is super important to produce polished formal looks.
- I also enjoy that high rise trousers produce a look that harkens back to the classic ‘well dressed’ aesthetic of eras gone by.
- Because of the sometimes drastic change between wearing low rise and high rise pants, they can take some time to get used to wearing.
- Can look a bit ‘too traditional’ to some.
- Will overemphasise the leg length of those with proportionally longer legs.
But High Rise Pants Look ‘Old’
High rise pants used to be the dominant pant rise, but lower rise trousers became more popular during World War 2 due to fabric shortages.
Though you might feel that wearing high rise trousers will make you look like an old man, it’s less an affect of the rise, which primarily affects just the proportions and drape, and more the amount of extra fabric left in the trouser.
A pair of ‘classic’ high rise trousers from the 30s would not follow my super awesome pant fit guide, and would have a lot more extra fabric, pretty much everywhere.
So, as long as you don’t find a pair of high rise trousers with multiple fit pointers in to the ‘too big’ categories in my guide, you will aesthetically look good (assuming you can wear high rise trousers, which is covered next).
That said, it won’t be a ‘modern’ look, as low rise trousers are really the 21st century staple. They’ll be classic, but might draw attention from people who haven’t seen them before.
Purchasing High Rise Pants
Though high rise pants are available from some specialist stores, they’re hard to find ready-to-wear.
If you’ve not tried them before, and wish to, but carry excess weight in the midsection, and are used to wearing lower rise trousers, you may have to size up in high waisted trousers, or have them taken in, as your measurements increase from your lower hip up to your natural waist, which is where high rise trousers sit.
Which Pant and Trouser Rise Fits Best For You?
Most people have generally ‘balanced’ leg to torso proportions, with no excessive bias in either direction. This means most people will be ‘fine’ with any trouser rise (though, a medium rise will, on average, be the ‘safest’), so I don’t believe matching your trouser rise with you body type is ‘essential’ to being ‘well dressed’, if you’re only casually into style.
But, it is nice to allow for some variety in your wardrobe, and admittedly it can be an important detail to be aware of if:
- You want to stand out, as different rises produce different ‘looks’.
- You want to optimise your aesthetic impact.
- If comfort is a big factor to you.
- If you do have a significantly disproportionate body.
This next section will cover various factors that I feel you should take into account when deciding on the perfect pant rise for you.
By Body Proportions
Your trouser rise visually changes the proportions of your leg and torso lengths, which can make you appear either more, or less, in proportion – so, you’ll want to match your inherited bodily proportions with the ‘correct’ trouser rise for the best visual ‘fit’.
I’ve created yet another nifty infographic that gives you some pointers which trouser rise will be best for you.
To explain this infographic further, for an optimal trouser fit:
- If your torso is proportionally longer than you legs (you have short legs), a medium to high rise will work to add length to your leg line, and balance out your proportions.
- If your torso is proportionally shorter than your legs (you have long legs), a medium to low rise will work to shorten your leg line, and balance out your proportions.
- If your torso is proportionally similar to your legs, I feel you can pull of any rise. (medium is preferred)
This logic also allows us to explain what you should avoid, to avoid looking disproportional:
- If your torso is proportionally longer than you legs (you have short legs), avoid wearing low rise trousers that visually shorten the legs further, as they’ll make you look ‘top heavy’.
- If your torso is proportionally shorter than you legs (you have long legs), avoid wearing high rise trousers that visually lengthen the legs further, as they’ll make you look ‘bottom heavy’, and slender (though, I have seen this pulled off before, for a more ‘feminine’ look).
- If your torso is proportionally similar to your legs, you can wear any rise, because they won’t throw your proportions off.
We can also apply this to body type, irrespective of your proportions:
- If your body type is top heavy, a medium to high rise can add visual weight to your legs, and balance out your proportions. If your ‘top heavy-ness’ is a result of fat retention, medium to high rise trousers additionally provide more stomach support, and sit over the belly, rather than under it (which could cause your stomach to bulge out and over).
- Though it’s uncommon to be bottom heavy in men, a lower rise can add visual weight to your torso, and balance out your proportions.
- High rise trousers drape particularly well over thick thighs.
Contrary to what some articles present, I don’t believe height has an effect on what pant rise you should choose
However, I believe – if you’re much above average in height and skinny, or below average in height and carry more fat in the midsection – though the rise you want (where you want your trousers to sit) won’t change from what you’ve determined from the above proportion infographic, the means you have to take to get there might be different from someone of average height, who off the rack trousers are made for.
It’s a little bit complex, so for a more in depth explanation, I’d highly recommend checking out my guide on buying pants and jeans that fit perfectly.
Some people suggest that a medium to higher rise can work well for younger gentlemen to give them a more mature appearance, whereas lower rise trousers should be avoided by older guys, as it can look like they’re trying to ‘recapture their youth’.
Personally, I feel, when it comes to pant rise, just stick with what proportionally looks best, and your height, as described above.
By Pant Style
Though an unwritten rule, and something I’ve never seen anyone else acknowledge, from my experience, I find that certain types of pants tend to be frequently worn with, and look best with, certain rises.
For example, I feel:
- Jeans look best with a low to medium rise.
- Chinos look best with a low to medium rise, but can be pulled off correctly with a high rise.
- Dress pants and trousers look best with a medium to high rise.
Of course, you can wear any pant style, with any rise, but anything outside of the above ranges I feel carries unnecessary risk to the average dresser, that only someone who really knows what they’re doing may want to attempt, to achieve a specific look.
I go into a lot more depth about these pant style and rise pairings in my post about how pants should fit
Alternatively, Gentleman’s Gazette cites an old tailor’s formula for determining your ‘optimum’ pant rise, as being:
(Usual pant waist size / 52) * 18
So, for me, I’m – at the moment – a 32″ waist size (rather, I have a 32″ waist, I have not reduced my identity, and identify as, a waist size), so my measurement will be 32/52 * 18, which is an 11″ rise.
Though I’ve simplified it here, the rise of a trouser does very quickly transform into a more in depth topic, especially considering the angle between the front and back rise. For a more technical look at trouser rise, I’d highly recommend this post by Permanent Style.
The Low Down…
In my opinion, ensuring you’re wearing the correct rise for you, mostly in accordance with your bodily proportions, is key to a perfect pant fit.
But hopefully after this article, you know how high pants should be worn, and exactly what to look for in this area to make you look, and feel, as good as possible.
However, pant rise isn’t the only important factor when it comes to getting trousers that look and feel sublime. For this, I’d highly recommend checking out my complete guide on how pants should fit, so you can remove any doubts you may have, and nail 50% of your outfit.