A well-made, well-cut and nicely-fitting pair of men’s jeans are an omnipresent component of any mans wardrobe. There are few items that have stood the test of time as well as a good pair of jeans. They can be dressed up or down, worn in almost any circumstance and if looked after correctly, will last a really long time.
Put simply, all men should have a good pair of jeans in their wardrobe.
The trouble is, there are literally hundreds of different brands, styles, cuts, occasions, denims etc so if you aren’t sure what you want, you can end up confused.
With that in mind, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to men’s jeans. In the guide you’ll learn about jean cut, stitching, colour and care. At the end of our guide to men’s jeans, you’ll be armed and ready to pick out a great pair that will last you a long time.
Ultimate Guide to Men’s Jeans: Cut
Let’s start with the cut. The cut is shape that the denim has been cut in and as such determines the fit. There are typically 6 different cuts…
- Skinny – made famous by rock stars, the skinny jean is a tight-fitting cut that works well with skinny guys. If you have bit legs or a bit of a belly, run a mile from skinny. They just won’t flatter you. Skinny jeans only work for very slight guys.
- Slim – slim cut jeans are slightly more generous than skinny, but less so that straight cut. They taper from thigh to ankle, but again aren’t great for guys with big legs or a bit of a belly. They work well for thin men, but any muscle and count yourself out.
- Regular/Straight – these are historically the most common cut. The leg is the same width from thigh to calf and is generous enough for most men to wear well, even guys with big legs. Straight cut jeans typically don’t change with fashions so are more timeless.
- Tapered – tapered jeans are ideal for men with bigger legs who still want the shape of a slim cut jean. They are more generous in the thighs but taper down to a smaller ankle opening. It means when with big legs (gym-goers mostly) can still look good without worrying about their legs.
- Bootcut – the bootcut jean is a more toned-down version of the flare cut. The ankle opening is slightly wider than the calf, meaning it sits over boots and bigger shoes. The bootcut comes in and out of fashion and at the time of writing is seen as something slightly out of style.
- Relaxed – this cut is more generous. It suits bigger guys well as it lacks the tighter fit of some other cuts so is both flattering and more comfortable. It’s harder to find relaxed cut jeans that look good, but it’s not impossible if you look at the major brands.
Ultimate Guide to Men’s Jeans: Rise
You may have heard of jeans having a ‘low rise’, ‘short rise’, ‘regular rise’ or ‘high rise’ – this is the distance between the middle of the crotch seam (right between your legs) to the top of the waistband. It usually ranges from 7 inches to 12 inches.
Whilst seemingly unimportant, it can dramatically change the look of the jeans when they are being worn.
If you have short legs for example, wearing a low rise or short rise jean will make your legs look even shorter, as the jeans will sit lower on the hips. The reverse is true for longer legs – if you have particularly long legs, wearing a pair of high rise jeans will make your legs look disproportionately long because the jeans will sit high on your waist.
It’s important to point out that this isn’t relative to height, it’s about your proportions. Don’t automatically assume that tall men have long legs and short men have short legs. It’s relative to your overall proportions – you may have shorter legs and a longer torso, for example.
There are all kinds of denim and the one you choose will be relative to your needs. As expected, they vary in price, characteristics, look and longevity. Here are the major denim types available today…
Denim Blend – lots of manufacturers opt for a denim blend, something like 98% denim and 2% elastic or even lycra. This is designed to make denim stretchier, more comfortable and to help with the fit. Critics suggest it isn’t as long lasting, whereas fans say it makes for a better wearer experience. Many high street brands use a denim blend exclusively now.
Raw Denim – this is known as the purists denim to many. It’s a denim that hasn’t gone through any pre-washing to prevent shrinking. It’s also harder-wearing and takes time to ‘break in’. If you’re a true denim enthusiast then you might opt for raw denim, but to most wearers it’s too much effort for now enough reward – you risk ruining the colour and the fit if you don’t treat raw denim correctly.
Selvedge Denim – this is in reference to the manufacturing process, whereby the edge of the denim fabric is woven to prevent unraveling, which helps increase the longevity of the material. It’s woven on a particular type of loom so mass-production is difficult. This make Selvedge denim much harder (and often more expensive) to find. Japanese denim is often selvedge woven on traditional looms.
Ultimate Guide to Men’s Jeans: Colour and Washes
For the most part, denim comes in a handful of colours – blue, black and white. Of course there are exceptions, but lets stick with the classics. For the vast majority of men,
- Blue is the way to go with darker blues typically being smarter, light blues more casual/80’s rock star.
- Black for rock stars and goth’s.
- White, which is best left to Italians!
Washes are slightly different. The denim wash is the process through which is fabric is treated prior to wearing, where the dye is removed or toned down. There are various stages of wash…
Rinse Wash – this is the most basic wash, used to stop the dye in the fabric from running. The true denim purists will often go for a rinse wash, but if you’re new to this world maybe avoid it as washing your jeans can ruin the colour. More often than not, rinse wash denim is darker.
Mid Wash – the most common wash of the lot. This is a stage further than rinse wash, more of the dye has been removed and the colour is significantly lighter. This is the mid-range blue hues that most of us are familiar with when it comes to denim clothing.
Light Wash/White – the longest and deepest of the washes. This is where most/all of the indigo dye has been removed and the fabric has faded to a much lighter colour. Some say this leaves the denim feeling much softer, but that largely depends on the manufacturer.
Ultimate Guide to Men’s Jeans: Care
There is a strong school of thought that says you should never, ever wash your jeans. You should merely air them out in fresh air when they have been worn a few times. The way you should deal with stains is to wash the stain in isolation and never wash the whole garment, according to these guys. This is probably the correct way if you have raw denim jeans.
There are other people who say washing jeans is fine, but you must always wash them inside out and on a cold (30 degree wash). This helps to prevent shrinking and the washing away of the dye. Again, there is nothing wrong with this if the washing instructions tell you so.
Always read the label!
Whichever way you decide to clean your jeans, make sure it is appropriate for the garment you have. Get it wrong and you may have made a very costly mistake!
Ultimate Guide to Men’s Jeans: Style
In a world of ever-changing fashions, there are some basic rules that always remain clear…
- Go with the cut and fit that flatters you. Spend time on this – it’s the most important aspect.
- For a class look, avoid rips or ‘out there’ colours. They go out of fashion.
- Pick a length that touches the top of your shoes. Any less and it looks like you’re in your Dad’s jeans. Any more and you’ll look scruffy.
- Typically speaking, the darker the blue, the smarter the occasion you can wear your jeans to.
- Keep the branding subtle and to a minimum. Go for class, not crass.
Our guide to jeans is comprehensive, it’s not just a ‘pick these’ kind of guide. We all have different styles, opinions and dimensions, so work with what you have and find the best style, colour and fit for you and your requirements. Get it right and you’ll have a staple of the modern wardrobe.