Proper trouser height – how to find your natural waist

One of the most commonly repeated mistakes men make, when wearing trousers, is in wearing them on or below their hips. It’s the most unflattering and boyish option for the male physique and not particularly comfortable.

The image above is where you'll commonly see men wear their trousers. This position, on the hips, shortens the legs and lengthens the torso, throwing the silhouette out of proportion.
The image above is where most men wear their trousers. This position, on or below the hips, shortens the legs and lengthens the torso, throwing the silhouette out of proportion.

Classic, well-tailored trousers look best when sitting on your natural waist (above your hips, where your waist narrows). Sitting in this position lets the trousers to hang comfortably, without the need for a belt to be pulled tightly, just to keep them up. With the trousers sitting at your waist, your hip bones act as a natural barrier to them falling down as easily, meaning the belt can do less work, adding to the overall feeling of comfort. With trousers below your waist, you’ll find yourself constantly pulling your pants up during the day, which most of us get used to, but once you have your pants above your hips, it’s hard to ever go back.

Aesthetically, with the trousers sitting in their correct position, it has the visual effect of lengthening your legs and shortening your torso, which makes for a more visually appealing sense of proportion.

Traditionally, for trousers being worn in this position, pleats are added to allow the cloth to clear the hip-bones and drape in a clean line to your shoes. The added benefit (or primary one, depending on your priorities) is that the pleats make for even more comfortable wearing, as they’ll expand as you sit down, removing the likelihood of any tightness across your thighs.

Seon Hwang and Salvatore Ambrosi. Seon, here, showing how the pleats add fullness to the trousers front, allowing them to clear the hip bones and drape cleanly to his feet.
Seon Hwang and Salvatore Ambrosi. Seon, here, showing how the pleats add fullness to the trousers front, allowing them to clear the hip bones and drape cleanly to his feet. (image courtesy of

Being worn on your waist also allows for side adjusters or braces to be used in place of a belt, allowing for small adjustments to be made for the perfect fit. Side adjusters aren’t a realistic option on hip-worn trousers, as they don’t have the necessary strength to defy gravity like a belt can give.

Side adjustment tabs. I have these put on all my suits now, in place of belt loops.

For most casual trousers (chino’s, jeans etc)these can be worn lower, if you prefer. The lower they are, the more casual they’ll appear. I wear summers linens and chino’s with pleats on my waist, but my jeans sit on my hips. Any higher and they don’t look right, in large part because they’re flat fronted and flat fronted pants usually look wrong when worn too high.

Paul Newman, showing that even casual trousers, worn above the hips are more flattering than those worn below
Paul Newman, showing that even casual trousers, worn above the hips can still work.

The first time your wear your trousers in the classic, waisted position, it will feel odd, but have some faith and stay with it for a couple of weeks and you’ll find it hard to go back to wearing your pants on or below your hips.

The final word is that if most of your trousers have been made with a lower position in mind (as most ready to wear trousers are these days), it may not be possible to simply lift them up, as the cut would mean they’ll become very tight in the crotch. If wearing trousers on your waist is something you’ve decided you’d prefer in the future, just be aware of this when making future purchases and choose pants which will sit properly, above the hips. Most makers vary the height with which they cut their waist and crotch, from model to model, so unless you’re having trousers made for you, you’ll need to try different cuts until you find one which works for you.

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  1. says: Lachlan Rodd

    Hi Andrew, great article. I have a pair of heavy wool Ralph Lauren ones with side tabs that sit like this nicely, easily my favourite dress pants. Pleated, nicely finished and works with heavier cyclist thighs. Do you have any other suggestions for off the rack trousers that fit your description, these are very hard to find in Australia. (Melbourne)

    1. says: Andrew Doyle

      Hi Lachlan, thanks very much. Nice to know someone else is in the same boat!
      I agree with your point about Ralph Lauren trousers, I’ve had success with several pairs in the past.
      I’d try Henry Bucks (check the downstairs room). They’re range is bigger than most places and the quality is always very high.
      r.e. heavier thighs; If you can’t find any that are ideal off the rack, just look for trousers with some extra allowance along the thigh seem, then have someone alter them for you. It won’t cost much and you’ll have the room you need.
      Hope that helps.

  2. says: Jordan Daswell

    Hey Andrew!
    Interesting article. I tried wearing my pants where you suggested today (they’re currently resting at my navel) and I have to say I felt a bit dorky. Normally they would sit at my hips due to they fact that I always considered people socially awkward if they wore them higher. Should I push past that stigma?

    1. says: Andrew Doyle

      Hi Jordan. Haha, push through, push through! Like most changes to the way you wear something, it takes a little bit of time to get used to the difference because you’re so used to seeing yourself look a certain way. Even try wearing them a little higher at first and adjust as you begin to feel more comfortable with it. Within a couple of months you’ll feel ridiculous having them back where most men wear theirs.
      Part of it working properly is to do with the trousers themselves, ideally they’d be cut to sit higher (a higher “rise”) which makes them look much more natural when sitting above the hips. With a “standard” rise (which these days means “low”, if you raise them too much, then they’ll be tight at the crotch and seat and look a bit odd.
      From a ready to wear perspective, stores like, and all stock trousers with higher rises, which will look great worn above the hips. Maybe give a pair from any of those stores a try and see if you feel a difference.

      1. says: Rob

        I feel the same as Jordan above. I have a pair of higher rise trousers that sit at my navel, and I feel so dorky wearing them. I’m a younger guy (24) and most my age are wearing low-rise trousers. I know better – these trousers are highly comfortable, but I can’t get past feeling so self-conscious and dorky! I fear onlookers think I am just a nerdy dude haha. Thoughts for a younger guy like me?

        1. says: Andrew Doyle

          For me it always felt pretty natural as the balance of proportion looks so right. Maybe just give it some time and you’ll naturally become used to it. After a while, wearing anything low on the waist will look and feel uncomfortable. I still wear my jeans lower, but they’re casual and suit a lower position.

  3. says: Jay S

    You mentioned “I tend to wear my trousers somewhere between them being above my hips and below the narrowest point of my natural waist”. Where is this point with respect to your navel? How high do your actually wear your pants (again, with respect to your navel)?

    1. says: Andrew Doyle

      For more formal trousers (i.e. not jeans and chino’s etc) then they sit a fraction below my navel. That’s just where I feel most comfortable with them and have them made accordingly. Others might prefer them slightly above or below that point. What matters is proportion; if your legs look nicely balanced with your torso, then trousers will look good.
      For jeans and chino’s I wear them a little lower (just above my hips) as they look too formal if they sit too high and that’s not what you want in an informal item of clothing.

  4. says: Matt

    I have to say, trouser height is what keeps me for buying a bespoke suit in Sydney. It just reminds me too
    Much of how my mother wears her tracksuit pants! agree that pants very low on the hips can make legs look short, but if you look at the picture of Seon, above, his torso looks about 10 inches long, which seems even more distorted to my eye. The clinched waist and pleats also make the hips look kind of womanly. I’m sure they are more comfortable though.

    It’s interesting that so few catwalk suits are cut like this? Anyway, I suppose everything comes down to familiarity in the end.

    1. says: Andrew Doyle

      Hi Matt,

      The tailors in Sydney (Bijan, John and Leng) would bring the height down for you without any issues, if that’s what you wanted.
      They don’t have to be worn overly high at all, just not flailing about the tops of the thighs where a lot of men wear them these days.
      Seon’s look is the extreme of the higher-waisted spectrum, but I think he pulls it off well. You’re right though, they would be very comfortable for him to wear, but they’re equally comfortable several centimetres shorter than that, too.
      The cat-walk is another beast altogether and completely fashion focused. No doubt fashions will change again in the years ahead and trousers will be up around arm-pits.

  5. says: Daniel

    Torso-leg ratio would play a part in determining trouser height? I have long legs relative to my torso. If I wore pants on my natural waist, I’d be three-quarters leg. Although I could cover up with a sweater, jacket or waistcoat. I haven’t tried pants on my waist (nor can I because I live in Perth, severely limited range here) but I imagine with pleats it would be very comfortable to sit in. And prevent the “unholy triangle” showing up under a jacket.

    1. says: Andrew Doyle

      Yep. Proportion matters. If you have particularly long legs (lucky) then don’t feel the need to wear trousers too high on your waist, but certainly above your hips at least.
      Keep an eye on places like P. Johnson as they often travel for trunk shows and I’m pretty sure that Perth is on the rotation.
      My pleated trousers are invariably the most comfortable, so they’re worth having made as soon as you get the chance.
      You can also check out places like as they carry some of Rota’s pleated trousers and I own a few pairs of those. Not as good as bespoke or decent made to measure, but still nice.

      1. says: Wen

        Now that you have received your P Johnson trousers, how would you compare them to Rota?

        I know Simon Crompton compared the pair and argued that Rota is better in terms of construction quality.

        “JON 1 month ago
        Hi Simon, quick question: how would you compare the quality of Rota (Drakes) trousers to the PJohnson trousers?

        Simon CromptonSIMON CROMPTON 1 month ago
        Better. There is less in quality of trousers than there is jackets, but there are hand details in the Rota, an apron inside the waistband, and so on. A much higher level of make.”

        1. says: Andrew Doyle

          Hard for me to make a direct comparison as the Rota trousers I own aren’t from Drake’s (they’re from M. Bardelli in Milan). Rota make for a large number of brands and those brands can choose from a many options in construction, one of which is hand-work. My Rota’s from M. Bardelli (3 pairs) are machine made, so are no different from P. Johnson. I’ve never had any quality issues with my Rota’s, the finish is clean and simple and they’re a good value option for well made ready-to-wear trousers.
          I recently picked up my finished P. Johnson trousers and one button came off the other day (on the fly) and two others have broken thread on the buttons. Whilst those haven’t loosened yet, they’ll eventually come off, which is super disappointing for a new pair of trousers.
          Aside from that pretty significant flaw, the finishing is similar to my Rota’s, clean, simple, basic and machine made.
          The other thing to note is the importance of quality of the fit. The Rota’s are ready to wear, so it’s down to their factory pattern which dictates how well they fit (beyond basic alterations after purchase) whereas made to measure should fit very well. Fit has to come first with any clothing, but the whole point of bespoke and made to measure clothing is that it should fit very well. If it doesn’t fit well, then it doesn’t matter how well it’s made, they’ve failed in their primary purpose.

  6. says: Art Peterson

    Yes, and I have a pair of “Anchor Blue Big Baggy Jeans” which fit perfectly at the proper waist height, so I went to their store to buy some more, but they’ve changed their pattern and they are no longer long enough in the crotch to work waist high. I really don’t care about the “big baggy” aspect, but the ride comfortably at waist high I do care about. Is there any company that makes Jeans (like blue jeans/denim) to ride at waist level?

  7. says: Phillip J. Moodie

    I have just turned 80 and the advice in your article is pure 1955, but it is soundly based.

    I think maintain an optical balance is the most important point. I enjoyed the read.

    1. says: Andrew Doyle

      Thanks Phillip. Style, proportion and balance are timeless. A lot of elements of menswear in the 50’s valued these guidelines and it’s a main reason why the men of the era are looked upon as having been so effortlessly stylish.

  8. says: Stanley

    Do you think the mid rise rtw trouser is not preferable? As most of them doesn’t high enough on the rise, so you can’t pull them up on your natural waist , and they just able to sit a little bit higher on your hip bone

    1. says: Andrew Doyle

      Pulling them up, if they’re not cut to be worn high, will have the inseam pull at the crotch. Uncomfortable and not a good look.
      Higher rise RTW trousers from makers like Rota or Berg and Berg ( are a better solution if MTM or bespoke isn’t an option.

  9. says: Rye

    I’ve been trying to wear my pants at the waist and it is definitely uncomfortable. Should I continue to push through. As you said the more you do it the easier it is to wear your pants there.

  10. says: Rye bread

    Love the article. All day I have been wearing my pants around the belly button and though it feels dorky I have to say the longer I wear them there the more comfortable I realize it is. It makes me wonder why I haven’t been doing this for awhile. Thank you for the suggestion and getting me to a place where my pants look good and comfortable.

  11. says: Schaefer Method

    Dear High Waisted Fans,

    this is Felix and Gertrud from BoerlinBoerds. We are writing to you because you are a fellow lover of high waisted pants.

    To keep our indie label thriving, we are now running a Crowdfunding campaign for our high waisted designs, and if it is not much to ask, we would be very grateful if you can like or share the campaign.

    We hope you are having a fantastic Tuesday.


    Gertrud and Felix

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