Men’s jeans are a minefield of varying sizes, weird cuts and strange fits. Use our handy guide, and make sure you get a pair of denims that fit comfortably and make you look your best.
Skinny, slim fit, regular, relaxed, boot cut… Admit it, guys: you think you know what all of these terms mean, but you still end up hopping around your room, with your new jeans stuck halfway up your legs, screaming out loud: “I could’ve sworn I was a size 34!” Use this handy guide to find out – once and for all – how to get a pair of jeans that’ll actually fit you.
This one’s easy: it’s circumference, in inches, of the pants’ waistband. Only, it’s not really. A couple of years ago, the world’s leading denim jeans manufacturers quietly introduced a little thing called “vanity sizing”, where those waist sizes went from a hard-and-fast inch size to a more-or-less number. That explains why one brand’s Size 32 is another brand’s Size 36 – and it explains why when you hold two pairs of jeans up together, they’ll look quite different even though they’re supposed to be the same size! (And there you thought your denims were shrinking in the wash…)
This is often the mysterious second number on your jeans’ label. It refers to the measurement from the bottom of the jeans’ crotch to the bottom of the leg. Basically, it’s the length of the inside of your leg. If you buy a pair that’s too long, then get them shortened – either by taking them to a tailor, or by asking your mom to blow the dust off her old sewing machine. If they’re too short, then you can either convince yourself that short pants legs are trendy (they were, two seasons ago), or shop around for a longer pair.
This term refers to the distance from the bottom of the crotch to the button at the top of the fly. Low-rise jeans are a matter of personal taste. They usually look great on women and on men who have perfectly flat tummies; but not so much on dudes who have a bit of a belly boep happening.
This is where things get interesting. The cut – or fit – of your jeans refers to how the fabric has been cut around the legs, buttocks and thighs. Skinny jeans are very tight around all those areas (they’re the ones that look like they’ve been painted on), and they’re best for skinny dudes or guys who regularly skip Leg Day at the gym. If you have more muscular thighs, then go for a Regular fit instead. Slim fit is slightly roomier than Skinny, with more space around the legs. Some skinny and slim fit jeans have elastic woven into the fabric, which helps stretch them out and make them more comfortable. Some jeans are also tapered, which means they get narrower around the ankles; or, for the exact opposite, they might have a Boot cut, which means they’re slightly flared at the bottom of the leg. Unless you’re a hippie, a cowboy or a 1970s throwback, avoid very wide – or bell-bottomed – flares.
Oh, and one last piece of advice: No matter how many times you read this article, or how well informed you are about cuts, rises, sizes and inseams, there really is no substitute for fitting on a pair of jeans. Avoid disappointment (and unpleasant butt- or crotch-crushing fits), and try ’em before you buy ’em!
TRIED ’EM? NOW BUY ’EM!
Your RCS Card gives you access to the RCS shopping network of over 21 000 retailers – including South Africa’s leading men’s fashion outlets!