How To Get Jeans That Fit

It is a common refrain on this blog that size & fit are the most important things when it comes to clothing. However, sizing a pair of jeans can be confusing because there are so many different variables to consider.

What’s the difference between an outseam and an inseam? Would you look better in high-rise or low-rise jeans? What the heck is bootcut?

If any of those terms confuse you, have no fear. Here’s a quick cheat sheet of the different measurements that go into picking out the perfect pair of jeans:

Pant Sizing Cheat Sheet
Pant Sizing Cheat Sheet

Here’s a quick breakdown of what those mean:

The two most important measurements to remember are numbers 1 & 2. When you’re buying a pair a pants, you will often see a number that says something like “32/34”. This is the length of the waist (1) and the length of the inseam (2).

1) Waist

The waist of the pair of jeans should be loose enough so that it is comfortable, but tight enough so that it does not slide down your hips. In general, you want to get a waist size that is fairly close to your actual waist, or your jeans will bunch up when you tighten it with your belt.

2) Inseam

The inseam is the length of the jeans from the crotch down to the ankle. This should generally be long enough to cover the top part of your shoes, but this will depend on the type of shoes you wear and what style of jeans you are going for. Try to wear the shoes you plan on wearing with the jeans when trying them on.

3) Outseam

The outseam is the measure of how long the pants are from top to bottom, and is typically only used when you are having clothing made to measure.

4) Cuff

The cuff is the opening at the bottom of the jeans for your legs. For standard straight leg jeans, this width is pretty close to the thigh (8). However, if you get jeans with a wider base such as bootcut or bellbottom jeans, the base will be much wider. Having a wider cuff will make you look more stable and stronger, as long as you don’t overdo it.

5/6) Front Rise/Back Rise

The rise of a pair of jeans is the measurement from the waist to the top of the crotch. A longer rise will make your torso seem longer but make your legs look shorter, while the opposite is true with a shorter rise. In general, you should have enough room to feel comfortable, and make slight adjustments depending on whether you are taller or shorter.

7) Hip

The measurement of the hips is another big factor when it comes to the comfort of a pair of jeans. Again, try to get a pair of jeans that is loose enough to be comfortable, but not so loose that it is baggy. Having tighter hips will tend to restrict movement, but can also look good on you if you have a tight booty (girls like to check out your ass, too). Slim fit and skinny jeans are usually pretty tight in this area, and can give a more svelte, hipster look.

8) Thigh

Again as with the hips, you should try to get jeans that are roomy enough in the thighs to give you mobility, but tight enough to show off your body. Straight leg and bootcut jeans typically give you ample room for your thighs, whereas slim fit jeans run tighter.

Other Considerations

One last thing to consider when picking out jeans is the rise of the jeans. Rise in this sense does not refer to the measurement of the rise given in 5/6 above, but about whether the jeans are high rise or low rise.

These two terms refer to wear the pair of jeans sits on your body. High rise jeans begin higher up than regular, mid-rise jeans, while low rise jeans sit lower, either on or below the hips. The two extremes are usually not advisable for most guys, but getting jeans with a slightly higher rise can make your legs appear longer, while opposite is true with low rise jeans. See these images of high rise jeans and low rise jeans to get a better idea of what they look like.


Hopefully that gives you a good idea of the different things to look out for when picking out the size of your jeans. As you gain more experience shopping, you will learn to recognize jeans that have the right fit for you, but it will take some trial and error in the beginning, so experiment, experiment, experiment.

Also, even once you learn your sizes, different brands will tend to have different sizes from each other, so you will still want to try items on, even though you know your waist size and inseam length. And finally, it’s usually pretty difficult to find something that fits you exactly off the rack, get thee to the tailor and have your jeans made to measure for the perfect fit.

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