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What Type Of Jeans You Should Wear (& How They Should Fit)

Everything you need to know in order to ensure your next pair of jeans fits like a big denim glove.

Words by: Paddy Maddison

What’s the most important thing about a pair of jeans? The selvedge line? The weight of the denim? The country of origin? For some people, sure. But if your primary goal is to look your best, not to brag about your denim’s superior thread count or fades, the first and foremost thing to consider is fit.

Fit is king when it comes to dressing well. It doesn’t matter how much a garment costs, whose name is on the label, or which high-end boutique it came from – if it doesn’t fit, it’ll never look good.

This holds true across all of menswear, but it goes double for denim. With so many cuts to consider and different rises to choose from, picking the perfect pair of jeans can be a challenge. And that’s before we even get into what works for different body types.

In this guide, we’ll answer all of your burning questions about what type of jeans you should wear and why. From understanding the different fit options to decoding sizing, here’s everything you need to know in order to ensure your next pair of jeans fits like a big denim glove.

How does jeans sizing work?

Men's jean size measurements

Men’s jeans size key measurements

Sizing is just one aspect of how a pair of jeans fits, but it’s undoubtedly the most important. This determines how your denim sits around the waist and how long the legs are. It’s usually expressed as two measurements in inches, one for the circumference of the waistband and another for the length of the inside leg. For example, you might see something like ’32×30′ printed on the label. The waist measurement always comes first, so these theoretical jeans would be a 32″ waist and a 30″ leg.

Simple, right? Well. not so fast, because things get a little more complicated if the denim in question is raw. This type of denim will either shrink or stretch depending on whether it’s unsanforized or sanforized respectively. Don’t be confused by the terminology, it’s essentially just a fancy way of saying whether the jeans have been pre-shrunk or not.

For sanforized denim, you’ll want to go a size or two down from what you normally wear, as they’ll stretch significantly in the waist and seat. As a rule of thumb, go as small as you can while still being able to fasten the top button. Unsanforized denim is less common, but for these jeans, the opposite is true. Buy a size too big, thus allowing for shrinkage to occur later on.

What does jeans rise mean?

One key factor that’s often overlooked in terms of fit is what’s called the ‘rise’. This is the term used to describe the distance between the bottom of the crotch and the waistband. It determines where the jeans sit on the waist or, in the case of drop-crotch jeans, how far the crotch hangs down.

High-rise jeans

High on the waist with the waistband sitting somewhere just below the navel. This is a good rise for bigger guys as it helps to flatten the stomach. It also works wonders for those with short legs by helping to balance out proportions.

Mid-rise jeans

The most common type of rise and the one that works for the most people. The jeans sit naturally on the waist, a couple of inches below the navel.

Low-rise jeans

More common in women’s jeans, the waistband sits low on the waist. This type of rise is most commonly found in slim and skinny jeans. Steer clear of la low rise unless you have long legs, as otherwise it can make them appear shorter.

Drop-crotch jeans

Not exactly en vogue at the moment, but still worth a mention. Drop-crotch jeans sit on the waist with the crotch extending down towards the knees an inch or two further than in other styles. Again, this type of rise will give the appearance of shorter legs, so proceed with caution.

The most common jeans cuts

A good fit is about more than just size and rise. The ‘cut’ refers to the overall shape of the jeans, and how they ultimately hang on the body. There are countless variations, and every brand has a few of its own, but to keep things simple, let’s take a look at six of the most common – the six from which all other cuts are derived or composed.

Regular-cut jeans

The original and best, regular-fit jeans have been around since the very beginning and haven’t fallen from favour in well over a century. This cut is straight (hence you also seeing this style labelled as straight-cut jeans) with no tapering towards the ankle, and the leg is loose and comfortable without straying into baggy territory.

How to wear regular-fit jeans

The beauty of regular fit jeans is that they go with almost anything. It’s a neutral cut that’s not too loose and not too slim. Wear it with anything from low-profile canvas sneakers and a T-shirt to big boots and heavy outerwear.

Slim-cut jeans

This flattering cut is narrow in the leg, usually with a slight taper towards the ankle, but not always. It can have any type of rise, but mid rise and low rise are the most common.

How to wear slim-fit jeans

Slim-fit jeans are pretty versatile, but we’d recommend staying away from overly bulky footwear and outerwear that makes you too top-heavy. This will help to keep your overall silhouette nice and balanced.

Skinny cut jeans

Skinny jeans are one step narrower than slim jeans. They hug the leg all the way down to the ankle, and often feature a low rise. It’s a tricky style to pull off successfully, and one that you may want to give a wide berth unless you’re a rail-thin Parisian teenager or an aging rockstar.

How to wear skinny-fit jeans

If you want to wear skinny jeans, the rules that apply to slim-fit jeans go double. Keep the top half fitted and slim so as not to throw things off balance, and opt for streamlined, low-profile footwear like Chelsea boots or penny loafers.

Tapered cut jeans

A great option for anyone with thick or muscular thighs, tapered jeans are loose and roomy around the seat and the thighs, tapering down the lower leg towards the ankle. There are lots of different variations of this cut, including regular tapered, slim tapered and relaxed tapered to name a few.

How to wear tapered-fit jeans

The great thing about tapered jeans is that they’re extremely versatile. Because of their mixed proportions, there’s not much they won’t work with.

One thing to keep in mind is that this cut can make those with the broadest of shoulders look a little top heavy. Still, that’s just splitting hairs. If you’re looking for a do-it-all cut that’s flattering and will work across the board, this is one of the best.

Relaxed cut jeans

Relaxed-fit jeans are exactly what they sound like. The cut is straight or slightly tapered in the leg with a slouchy fit that leaves plenty of room for movement. They’re supremely comfortable, but not exactly smart, so if you’re searching for something sharp, keep looking.

How to wear relaxed-fit jeans

Avoid anything overly fitted up top, instead opting for loose, boxy garments. Footwear wise, it’s a case of go big or go home (within reason). Small shoes will be drowning in all that denim, so stick to footwear with a bit of heft to it for best results.

Bootcut jeans

Bootcut jeans, or flares as they’re sometimes known, are straight and slim in the leg, flaring out towards the ankle. They were originally designed this way to allow them to be easily worn with work boots, but the style has become a fashion statement in its own right, fading in and out of popularity over the decades.

How to wear bootcut jeans

This is a tricky cut to pull off, but the best way to do so is by going for a slightly cropped leg and staying away from anything too flared. Keep the profile subtle and wear them with 70s-inspired clothing like cardigans, knitted polos and casual suede footwear like loafers or Clarks Wallabees.

What jeans should I wear?

Different types of jeans work best for different body types. If you want to be assured of the perfect fit, take note of yours and use the guide below to find the style that works best.

Best jeans for slim body types

Slim or skinny guys are straight up and down, and their jeans should be too. Avoid anything overly relaxed or excessively tight, as these two extremes can make you appear smaller than you actually are.

Instead, go for a classic slim or regular fit, either with a straight leg or a slight taper.

Best jeans for athletic body types

Athletic guys have broad shoulders with a slim, lean build. Most cuts will work well on this frame but again, slim and regular are the two that will fit best.

A slim-fit jean with a straight leg, in particular, will be very flattering, as will a taper fit if you’re carrying more mass in the thighs.

Best jeans for those with large waists

Larger men often view denim as the enemy. It’s restrictive, tight and unflattering, right? Well, not necessarily. All you have to do is pick a pair of jeans made with stretch denim, and select a fit that’s flattering to your body type. That means steering clear of anything labelled slim or skinny, and instead shopping for styles with more room in the leg.

Classic straight-leg jeans like Levi’s 501s will always work well, or why not go for something with a slight taper for a more streamlined look?

Best jeans for muscular men

Muscular guys have an inverted-triangle body shape. Any legwear should be working to balance this out and add some width to the bottom half. If you go for slim or skinny jeans, you’re going to look overly top-heavy, so stick to a regular or relaxed cut to balance the proportions out.

Tapered jeans can be useful here too, particularly if you’ve been hitting the squat rack extra hard.

Best jeans for short men

For shorter guys, the goal is to elongate the frame, or to create the illusion of length. To do this, avoid low-rise and drop-crotch jeans at all costs. All they will do is make the legs appear shorter, which is the exact opposite of what you want.

Instead, stick to slim-fit denim with a mid rise. These will make the legs appear longer and stretch out the frame overall. Cropped styles are also an option here.

Best jeans for tall men

Over six feet tall? Lucky you. When it comes to jeans there are just a few things to keep in mind though. Stay away from slim or skinny fits, particularly if you’re on the skinny side yourself. These will stretch the body out and can make you appear lanky.

Go for a classic regular fit with a mid or low rise. This is going to be the best option when it comes to keeping proportions balanced and flattering your figure.