Tricky Style Problems Part 1: How to Wear Cropped Trousers Without Freezing to Death

This, dear reader, is the first in a series of posts, where I will attempt to deal with some of those tricky style issues which fox us (me) from day to day.

Today I want to tackle the issue of the cropped trouser: so chic, so cool, so difficult to get right in all its forms.

The Cropped Cigarette Trouser

I like slightly tapered, slim tailored trousers which end just on or around the ankle. I don’t have any problem with what to wear on top: a chunky jumper or a sweatshirt if I’m feeling casual; a silk blouse or print shirt for more formal occasions. The other day I saw a young woman in a cropped sweater over a white shirt over a sharp pair of cropped slim trousers. That looked great and will be appearing before too long, on a Mrs Mutton near you.

At this time of year, the other end, though, is a nightmare: heels, boots, ankle boots? Let alone socks? If so of what nature? Or tights? It’s all so DIFFICULT. Here’s what I do.

coppred pants and heels

For ages I wore heels with this length of trouser, usually a classic court shoe. Then I realised that there’s something quite nice about the gap between the top of an ankle boot and the bottom of the trouser so I started rolling out my chelsea and ankle boots – some flat, some higher. I sometimes wear brogues if I’m fancying a more androgynous look. I don’t think a high cut shoe looks quite as good as an actual boot with a bit of a rise above the ankle, but that’s just personal taste.

ankle boots and crops

But what about underneath that? When there’s a nip in the air, I can’t be exposing even a millimetre of bare flesh to the world. And when sitting down (as I do most of the day) it won’t be simply a millimetre. It will be a whole scaly, Muttony shin on show and the colder it is, the scalier and bluer it will be, like a dead mermaid.

Tights under trousers solve the problem of shin gap but feel like defeat. On the practical side there’s static cling so everything bunches and hangs wrong. On the other, it feels claustrophobic (or is it only me?). And there is nothing more middle-aged than the top of a pair of tights peeping over your trouser waistband.

Knee socks (unless you are very delicate in the calf area) turn your knee area into a powerful super magnet so your trousers will ride up and cling there. It doesn’t matter how frantically you push one side down back to your ankles with your other foot, that trouser leg is staying put. Who knows or cares if pop socks will work? They are not to be countenanced.

Cropped pant street

I have found it’s best to embrace the gap and opt for ankle socks – after all, a little flash of (moisturised) shin never hurt anyone. When wearing flats and a plain outfit I tend to go for cheery, colourful, flamboyant socks, like Happy Socks (although if you find them a tad garish, Paul Smith does wonderful, tasteful patterned socks).

If you can get them in your size then blockey socks that reach your mid calf are a good choice. If I’ve got a lot going on colour wise, I plump for navy and grey mercerised cotton socks from wherever I can get them (small men’s sizes from M&S or womens from Falke). I’ve no clue what mercerising does but ooh, what fine, thin socks it produces.

My absolute favourite ankle socks, of which I own dozens, are glittery and come at the bargain price of three pairs for £8 from Top Shop. They work particularly well with heels, because they are less chunky than wooly or cotton socks. I like them with court shoes, bare legs and a pencil skirt in Spring. But they add a little rock’n’roll whether you wear Louboutins or Lacoste. topshop-gunmetal-gunmetal-fine-glitter-socks-product-1-13970809-407022366

Top Shop Glittery Roll Top Socks, many colours £3.50 or 3 for £8


The only downside to them is that they don’t last long and of late I’ve noticed that the quality isn’t what it was. They have developed a tendency to wriggle their way under your foot which is disproportionately annoying over a day of wear. I’ve discovered a pricier, better quality and more enduring version at Tabio.Tabio glittery socks

Tabio Glitter Low Crew Socks, several colours, £14.50



The Rolled Up Boyfriend/Girlfriend/Frankly I Can’t Keep Up With What They’re Called Jeans


I like to wear these with heels, when I’m going out (IF I ever go out), or with trainers or skate shoes. Stan Smiths work if you like them (they never seem to fit me), or chunky ankle boots like DMs or a Blundstones.

Personally I don’t wear them with little velvety pumps or Converse or ballet shoes or any really flat shoes because suddenly my proportions are revealed in their full horror – yes, I am half dachshund. Something chunkier at the end of the legs disguises this and makes you look cute like a character from Trumpton.

Here especially, that little flash of ankle looks good but you will need some trainer socks or similar. You don’t want to be rubbed raw in your DMs as, unless you’ve been wearing them for three years nonstop, they’ll be uncomfortable enough already.

Socks, then, to the rescue.

The trainer sock is a treacherous beast. As keen as snuggling under your instep as my beloved Top Shop glittery socks. You’d have thought science might have better things to be thinking about but, no. There has been a huge innovation in the field of trainer insoles: le tout monde is raving about an innovation from American skateboarding brand Stance (available at ASOS) which, according to the legends, do not shift. They have a sticky heel grip thingy which seems to keep them in place.

Well supposedly. Perhaps I just have dancing feet, but they shifted on me. Others say not.


Stance “invisible” socks, £5.50, ASOS BUY ME HERE

The Wide Cropped Trousers Formally Known As Culottes/Gaucho Pants/You’ll Remember Them When You See Them

black pants

Whenever I point out a trend to Mr Mutton to ridicule, as sure as eggs I’m going to go hell for leather for it about 12 months later. This happened to me with “wide cropped trousers’ which I first noticed on a Trendy Wendy in Camden and almost crashed the car: “CULOTTES!! You’ll never catch me in THOSE again!”

Now I have two pairs: one longer pair from Boutique at Top Shop in black wool (like those in the picture above) and a knee length vintage leather pair I bought in my local vintage treasure trove. With both of them I wear tights. Somehow the fact that they are as near as dammit skirts, makes tights a more natural option.

The longer version can look cool with bold patterned socks. I always feel like a bit of a bonkers old maddo when I try this look, like Meryl Streep in “Mama Mia”. As far as I’m concerned this is one for the lambs, but it could look rather chic on some of you. Don’t let me put you off.

The minute I plunged into the world of culottes, sorry “wide cropped trousers” (nearly gave away my age there for a minute) I knew exactly what shoes I would wear with them. I fancied retro high heeled loafers or tight knee high boots. I hoped I’d look like Kristen Dunst in “Fargo”. In fact I looked like the blonde one in Abba.

Back to the drawing board. It turns out the leather ones look nice with flat mannish shoes and work quite well with some high heeled high cut shoes I picked up cheap in the Clarks sale (but don’t tell anyone). The longer black ones seem to suit flatforms; trainers; retro looking loafers or chunky black creepers. Mind you, Mr Mutton thinks they’re hideous whatever I wear them with.


Kirsten Dunst in “Fargo” – I loved this styling -very Jackie magazine, 1974

The Classic 60’s Capri Pants

Audrey in crops

Perhaps the trickiest of the cropped trousers for normal, non Audrey humans to wear, is the capri pant. These have become a staple of a casual Summer wardrobe. I’m surprised they are quite so popular. They really are not terribly flattering, cutting off ones legs, as they do, at their broadest mid calf point.

For me the modern capri pant, all stretchy and tight, like Bonsai skinny jeans, is more like a 50’s pedal pusher. I think a true 60’s capri should be slightly longer and more structured, with pleats at the waist like a chino. And much, much more stylish.

But the modern shorter ones are the leisure wear survivors of the fittest. When the temperature creeps upwards, they are ubiquitous, accessorised by flip flops – occasionally even wedge flip flops. If I ruled the world this would infringe local by-laws anywhere further than thirty yards from a beach.

Unless you have the bella figure of a former ballerina, don’t even think of wearing these with ballet pumps. This is a look for petite little birdlike women, with slender legs like foals and very lovely they look too.

For anyone with proper legs built for kicking in doors, kneeing someone somewhere sensitive, or getting a heavy bike up a steep hill –  standard British women’s legs – then capri pants are only to be worn with a Sixties kitten heel.  Otherwise the more athletic and toned you are, the more you will look like an amateur wrestler and that simply isn’t fair.

Grace in crops

One Response to “Tricky Style Problems Part 1: How to Wear Cropped Trousers Without Freezing to Death”

  1. Sarah

    This thorough appraisal of trousers had me snorting into my coffee this morning! I’m utterly bemused as to what to wear with a lovely pair of ankle skimmers and turned to google images for help. I work with a group of women 10-15 years younger than me and frankly don’t want to feel like a nana when I rock up to our spring meeting tomorrow! I too have very British legs and the thought of showing my shins has had me turning to the buscuits in fear all weekend!


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