The end of cuffing season is finally upon us, as the day after Valentine's Day is the officially recognized expiration date for those quickie relationships that begin out of wintertime chilliness and desperation. The weather's finally getting warmer: break up with your temporary mate(s) and roll up your pants in anticipation of the Cuffing Season that really matters — the season in which we all cuff our pants.
That classic small roll at the end of a pair of jeans is frequently seen at Emerson, especially in the cold-but-getting-warmer months of the year. This is a statement that says, "I'm not afraid of my ankles becoming frostbitten. But I am somewhat afraid of my jeans becoming dampened by a flood." But you're probably just trying to say, "I'm pretty cool," which is true — but could there also be practical, functional reasons for the cuff? What can the cuff do for us?
According to a blog post by Levi Strauss, the cuff was introduced soon after the invention of blue jeans. Not only was this a surprisingly bold fashion move for 1870s-era cowboys, but it also served several practical purposes. Because denim is notorious for shrinking after washing, these Levi-wearers would strategically buy jeans longer than their legs. The cowboys began cuffing and found that cuffs are also super nifty extra pockets! You can put all kinds of things in there: coins, cigarettes, your juul, a light snack, what have you.
In the decades following the initial appearance of the cuff, its relevance came and went. Women did not begin cuffing until the 1940s, around the time they started wearing jeans and working in factories, and found it necessary to cuff their pants so as not to get them caught in machinery. This functional practice soon found its way into the fashion world, with icons like Marilyn Monroe and Princess Alexandra of Kent wearing jeans with large cuffs in the early ‘50s. Unfortunately, the cuff began to disappear in the ‘60s, following the invention of preshrunk fabrics — but was thankfully brought back as a more shallow, tight roll by mid-‘80s hip-hop culture, and again during the ‘90s, when vintage fashions became popular. Now, at Emerson, it’s not a shocker that cuffed jeans are all over the place, since it isn’t uncommon to see students dressed per multiple decades simultaneously, evidently channeling vintage of all sorts.
For some, 'tis always the season for cuff. Writing, literature, and publishing major Kailey Chalmers ‘20, a self-identifying professional cuffer, claims she always cuffs her pants, no matter the weather. "When it's cold I wear long socks, and that looks cute too," said Chalmers. Antonio Terrell Weathers ‘20, also a WLP major, has been doing it "all the time" since his childhood.
Many are still waiting for perfect, pleasant weather to come. Journalism major Shelby Grebbin ‘19 says she can imagine herself cuffing her pants if she were "wearing a breezy cotton shirt and running around on a beach barefoot." However, merely 24 hours after making this statement, Grebbin was spotted in Center Stage wearing cuffed pants, with no cotton shirt or beach in sight. Clearly, the influence of the cuff on Grebbin's own wardrobe was much stronger than she had even realized.
Other Emerson students simply do not have the desire for any cuff at all. Creative Writing majors Olivia Cama ‘21 and Harper McKenzie ‘21 both chose not to cuff their pants, but only because they prefer to wear sweatpants or leggings, which, to quote McKenzie, are "uncuffable." Acting major Karin Hoelzl ‘19 also rarely cuffs, though not out of lack of interest; as an acting major, she is confined to leggings. Visual & Media Arts major Bram Lowenstein ‘20 has more hostile feelings towards the cuff, stating, "I don't see how it applies to me," although he would consider cuffing if he were given "a really good appeal."
For those still hesitant to unmask their virgin ankles to the world with a confident cuff, here is some good old Emerson encouragement and advice. In the words of Creative Writing major Vasantha Sambamurti ‘20, "a cuff says, 'don't fuck with me.'" She also recommends cuffing as a means of highlighting other features of an outfit. "I like to cuff my pants to show off some of the cool socks I have: fungi, flowers. Women shooting arrows."
Ayo Xavier ‘20, another Creative Writing major, also uses cuffing to accentuate her stylish socks. "Why am I spending money on socks if no one gets to see them? I had a guy hit on me based on my shoes and my socks." A good cuff can also draw attention to one's best physical assets, Sambamurti says: "I like to show off a little bit of leg...hair." A third Creative Writing major, Jake McManus ‘20, agrees: "It's a good way to mix things up in the lower-leg region."
But cuffing excellently is also about knowing when not to cuff. There are bad cuffs, as McManus cautions with an anecdote: "My friend Riley back in high school had a terrible cuff. It was always crooked." Weathers agrees; there are some conditions under which the cuff is a no-go. "Tbh, whenever I dress formal I don't cuff my pants."
In the aftermath of cuffing season, I hope we can all give denim cuffing a try. While the unfamiliar ankle breeze may be shockingly frigid at first and leave you feeling vulnerable on Boylston, most chronic cuffers are unable to break the habit once they start. Unlike your wintertime relationship cuffs, pants cuffs are here to stay. In the wise words of cuffer Kailey Chalmers, "I will not cuff a man, but I will cuff my pants."
Photography by: Aidan Nolan