Trousers, until the early 19th century, were more of a pair of tights that got wider under the knee, and sometimes featured a cloth strip passing under the shoe to stretch them.
In the mid-19th century emerges straight fit trousers, and with them two types of lower leg sections : hems and turn-ups. Workers were then shortening their pants with a turn-up. It is the most practical solution to avoid tripping in this ill-fitting work clothing, made from industrial measurements.
Sometimes upper class men would do the same to avoid staining their trousers when city streets weren’t yet fully paved. But it is Edouard the 7th — then Prince of Wales — who (to his great surprise) made the turn-ups fashionable in the 1890s by rolling up his trousers on a rainy day in the countryside. His grandson, the Duke of Windsor, also adopts it for a stylistic reason : because the additional weight carried by the turn-up improved the fall of the cloth on his pleated trousers.
The turn-up is progressively adopted and, from the mid 20s to the verge of the Second World War, it is synonymous with elegance. During the war, they are prohibited in the United States and the United Kingdom so as to save fabric. In a true spirit of contradiction, American zoot suiters, English thugs and French zazous kept on wearing it.
Following the end of restrictions, the turn-up is trending in the 50s, but the 60s’ youth regards them as old-fashioned and prefers hems. For the next decades, hems and turn-ups are more of a personal choice, independent from trends.
GRANT, Cary, act. Hôtel de Paris, Monte-Carlo, Monaco. 1939.
DELON, Alain, act. VENTURA, Lino, act. GABIN, Jean, act. VERNEUIL, Henri. dir. Le Clan des Siciliens. 1969. 117 min.
GALE, Tony, phot. The Rolling Stones in Hide Park. London, United-Kingdom. 1964.
PARKS, Gordon, phot. Three american students. Bethune-Cookman College, United-States. 1943.
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