A style guide to jeans
Jeans are a staple item for everybody’s wardrobe. Invented by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis in 1873 as a workwear fabric, they have since grown into iconic fashion items.
They have become ever more popular throughout the year, adapting to the trends of each decade and literally becoming THE fashion item that defines each music style. From disco to metal to grunge, each music style has its jeans.
Today, we have endless options for jeans. From tapered to skinny to straight leg, we have a ridiculous amount of choice. Enough for us to get lost and confused.
Here’s a guide to help you identify the different models out there.
Measuring your jeans
The Inseam length is how you measure the length of a pant. It is the measurement from the crotch to the hem. On your body, it is the measure from the top of the interior leg to the bottom of the ankle.
If the length of is not right, it can make you look sloppy with all that extra material bunched up below the knee. Normally, the hem should touch your shoe, but not cover it and graze the shoelace.
Professionals talk about the right length by referring to the horizontal crease that sits on your shoe as a full break, medium break, etc. This is mostly a preference, but a medium break with the jeans falling midway between the top of your shoe and the top of the sole is the conservative choice of most people.
But sometimes you might prefer some extra length, like when you want to roll up the hem of your jeans.
One of the most important characteristics of well-fitting jeans is waistband size. Although quite obvious, many people wear pairs that do not fit their waist.
You should not need to wear a belt to hold your waist, nor should it be so tight that it cuts off your circulation. One of the most noticeable signs of a pant being too tight is a “pocket flare”. This relates to the pocket gaping and not lying flat on the body. If you want some room there, go for a pant with pleats.
To measure your body waist properly, do not wear jeans or a belt. If you wear jeans when measuring, subtract three cm from your figure.
This refers to the distance between the bottom of the crotch of the jeans and the top of the waistband. This tells you how high or low they will sit on your waist. It is between a range of 15 to 30 cm, and they make such a difference to the way jeans fit.
Jean’s rise is important because it specifies where they sit on your body, establishing your perceived waistline.
In this style, the waistband will sit way above the navel and fasten at or above the narrowest part of the waist. If you want a long body or the look of longer legs, this style is the one for you. The high waist look of the jeans will make the legs look longer.
High-waisted jeans show off your waist, so keep that in mind when choosing a top. A fitted bodysuit, crop top, or tucked shirt are good options. Cardigans, blazers, and trench coats also complement the high waist of high-rise jeans.
Photo by Екатерина Шумских
Medium rise waist
Also known as mid-rise, normal raise or regular rise. This is a pant style where the waistband rests just below the navel. A medium-rise waist is usually what you see favoured in men’s chinos and dress pants.
Mid-rise jeans cover a good portion of the waist, allowing you to wear a cropped sweatshirt or hoodie. They also look good with a belt, making a tucking turtleneck or shirt a good option.
Photo by Ronailson Santos
Low rise waist
This pant style places the waistband way below the navel. You can say even about 8 to 10 cm below your navel.
This is a very popular pant style for jeans, but one that is the most misused. Low rise does not give off any right to show your butt to others, but some ignore this and there goes the good name of low-rise jeans.
Low-rise is best for casual looks like jeans, and they’re not for everyone. If you have short legs and a long torso, is better to avoid this style. Unless your legs are much longer than your torso, stick with a regular rise for business casual and formal wear.
Although low-rise jeans allow your waist to shine, wearing a crop top is not the only option. Even an oversized blouse or un-tacked shirt are excellent options. You can leave the top unbuttoned if you really want to show some skin.
Photo by Tnarg
As the name implies, straight-leg jeans have a silhouette running straight down to the bottom. They have a consistent leg width and feel somewhat comfortable in the thigh. While occasionally confused with skinny jeans, the straight-leg ones differ in that they do not taper towards the bottom but have an even leg width throughout. Straight-leg offers a comfortable, classic fit and is a popular cut, especially for jeans. The leg openings allow fitting over boots.
This style goes with many tops, including T-shirts, turtlenecks, or button-down blouses. Pair it with a top that showcases your waist. Wear a tucked-in shirt or a bodysuit or crop top if you don’t want to tuck in.
Photo by Harsh Raj Gond
This style has a cut where the legs are increasingly narrow from hip to ankle. Cigarette jeans are a good example. It can make your legs look longer and consequently make you look taller. This is a good style for the petite build.
For a casual look, you can wear these jeans with an untucked v-neck t-shirt, polo or blouse. White sneakers can complement the look. You can make the look a bit more formal with a tucked-in shirt and a blazer or jacket worn on top. Add a trench for an additional touch of style and a winter look.
Photo by Anna Shvets
This style has a slight flare to its legs starting from mid-calf, which makes its leg opening slightly wider than the straight-leg jeans.
If you have a wider upper body (aka apple body shape or inverted triangle body shape) this style balances your look and makes you look better proportioned. This is true for both men and women.
These jeans look great with v-neck type short sleeve tops, better if untucked. Tops that cover just below your waist can balance out the jeans style. You can also opt for cropped tops if you are wearing a high-waisted style. A tucked-in shirt and a cropped jacket is also a great combo.
Photo by form PxHere
It is a very relaxed style and is usually looser than straight-leg jeans. They are normally available in low- to mid-rise versions with cuffed hems. Is a very comfortable option, and figure-enhancing for most.
You can balance the looseness of boyfriend jeans with tank tops. If you go for a high-waisted style, you can pair it with a crop top, while low-waisted will go better with a long shirt, maybe a button-down, or a cardigan.
Photo by aaajeans form PxHere
Cropped jeans have a hemline just above the ankle. With an inseam falling between the length of Capri pants and full-length ones, cropped jeans expose and highlight the narrowest portion of the leg.
Pair cropped jeans with a blazer, button-down shirt or a cardigan. For a summery look, you can wear these jeans with a crop top or a tucked-in shirt.
Photo by aaajeans form PxHere
Distressed jeans feel and look intentionally vintage and worn in. They can feature rips, tears, fraying edges, or fading dye.
For a pure rock & roll look, just go for a black round neck t-shirt and a black faux leather jacket or blazer. Otherwise, knitwear and trench in tonal colours will make it a classy outfit.
Photo by RODNAE Productions
Flared / wide leg
Flared pant styles have a wide leg opening with the flare starting just below the knee. The hem circumference can even go up to 50 centimetres.
If you aim for a ‘70s look, a tight crew neck t-shirt or a singlet are great options. A crop top will also do justice to these jeans. Finish it up with a faux-leather jacket. For a more contemporary look, a cardigan worn over a shirt, rigorously tucked-in, or a turtleneck are great options.
This is a style that has a generous fit. You have extra ease around the hips and thighs for effortless movement.
Given the casual nature of this style, long crew neck t-shirts and loose shirts are great options for an urban style. Even a denim shirt could be a great pairing. If you wish to be a more formal, go for a tucked-in shirt and add a blazer if you feel a bit cold.
Photo by Jeff Denlea
This is the most popular fitting style which has an average fit along all parts of the body: waist, thighs, hips and legs. Most men’s jeans are usually a classic fit.
In terms of tops, there is nothing better than pairing a classic pair of jeans with a white t-shirt and a jacket or blazer. The beauty of classic jeans lies in their simplicity, and maintaining that simplicity is key. A neutral colour crop top or a loose shirt are also good options.
Photo by Anna Shvets
Slim-fit jeans are tight trousers that have a snug fit through the legs and end in a small leg opening that can be anywhere from 22 to 50 cm in circumference, depending on size. This is the most flattering style which suits almost all body types.
If you wish to wear casual, a long sleeve t-shirt or shirt is more than a valid option. You can layer it up with some slightly oversized knitwear. A belted cardigan is a great option to highlight your figure.
Photo by HONG SON
Skinny fit style means it is tight fitting to hug the body in all areas: waist, hips, thighs and hem. Although very similar, skinny pants sculpt the shape of the figure of the wearer and are tight while the slim-fit ones have narrow leg openings, but do not flap or flair out.
Wear a cardigan as a top or tuck a white blouse. A trench coat over skinnies and a plain top can make your outfit quite classy. Any oversized knitwear or untucked shirt provides an irresistible contrast.