Judging by the number of bared ankles appearing on the streets this summer, the rolled-cuff look of 2009 appears to have become the rolled-cuff epidemic of 2010. Legions of young men, including ones who are not bicycle messengers, are rolling up their pants legs to such high-water lengths that one is tempted to inquire where exactly the auditions for the Huckleberry Finn revival are being held. A style born on the shores of the Mississippi has been reinvented for city streets.
"It's almost like a masculine shabby chic," said Tom Julian, a fashion consultant and the author of two men's style books with Nordstrom.
Every five years or so, the fashionable man discovers some styling trick to make the same old thing wearable in a dandy new way -- the deep jeans cuff, the double-flipped shirt-sleeve cuff -- and then others follow suit.
The newest look, a lightly pinched cuff that should fall about an inch or two above the ankle, is likely a result of two factors. First, the skin-baring shrunken-suit style popularized by Thom Browne has, by now, become as acceptable to the mainstream as flat-front khakis. Second, the glorified boat shoes and retro canvas sneakers on the market seem to cry out to be worn with pants that will show them off. (A third, less likely factor might be the heat.)
"As cropped pants have become such a style, this is an easy way to get around shortening your pants by 3 inches," said Josh Peskowitz, the style editor of Esquire.com, who had rolled up his pants that morning. "It's noncommittal."
Getting the roll right is harder than it looks, and the experts differ on technique. Julian suggests rolling 1 inch of cuff three times for cotton canvas trousers, and a single 2-inch cuff for dark jeans.
For slightly looser pants, such as chinos, Peskowitz advises creating a peg by pinching the fabric slightly at the front during the rolling process. Starting from the bottom, you flip once, making as small a fold as possible, then twist the front of the pants leg by about an inch, then roll twice more while holding the pinch tightly. The pleats should stay in place.
"You want to make sure that both are pointing inward -- for the left side, fold it to the right. For the right, fold it to the left -- to stay symmetrical," he said. "I just figured that out a couple of weeks ago."
By the way, there are several don'ts. No formal shoes. No rolled-up skinny jeans. No wool pants -- the rolls won't stay. No bootleg pants, which should be burned anyway. And since rolled pants are meant to look casual, nothing about the outfit should be dressy, at the risk of looking too studied. While you're at it, stop trying so hard.
Jim Moore, the creative director of GQ, said the goal should be to look nonchalant, since you don't want to make the roll so perfect that it draws attention.
"The roll has to feel a bit unintentional," he said.
Given the unlikelihood of accidentally rolling up one's pants, Moore offered some clarification: "You have to channel Johnny Depp for that moment and ask yourself, 'How would Johnny Depp roll up the bottom of his pants?'"
If you still can't figure it out, you might ask Depp about shorts.