It’s hard to overstate the power that jeans can have on an outfit. I don’t want to be dramatic here, but the wrong jean can make or break your otherwise carefully chosen ensemble. Having grown up during the era of skin-tight skinny jeans, I can attest to how bad one can look when the proportions are off. Which is why it’s important to know jean terminology when it comes to slim cut, straight, cut, and boot cut.
The proper denim jean is one of the most versatile styles of pants out there. Both in terms of fit and formality, jeans have the envious position of being perfectly acceptable at just about any event except a wedding, funeral, or court date.
Across the board, brands put their own mark on the simple denim blueprint (consider Levi’s own numerical style, for example), and so it’s not always easy to decide what may be best for you or how you want to dress. These are the most popular fits and what they really look like so you can demystify each style.
A straight leg jean is exactly as it sounds: the width at the thigh is consistent all the way down to the ankle. This jean is versatile in terms of who is wearing it and when, as it is great for a variety of body types while also being a good jean for the office or a casual Sunday.
The Best Straight Leg Jeans For Men
- Todd Snyder Straight Fit Stretch Jean in Faded Wash: $158
- J Crew 770 Straight-Fit Jean in Three-Year Wash: $128
- Levi’s 514: $70
A light variation of the standard straight leg jean, the straight tapered jean gradually narrows toward the ankle, giving it a slightly updated look. It’s still going to be wider in the thighs and seat, but without the bulk toward the cuff, making it a better option for a more fitted casual wear.
The Best Straight Taper Jeans For Men
While the traditional straight leg jean is quite roomy in its thigh, the slim straight cinches that in a bit to create a narrower frame all the way down the length of the leg. This is a favorite for guys looking to wear their jeans and not have their jeans wear them. For my thick-thighed brethren, this one can help give the appearance of slimming down a bit without being too constrictive.
The Best Slim Straight Jeans For Men
- American Eagle AE Airflex+ Slim Straight Jean: $50
- Levi’s Made & Crafted 511 Jeans: $228
- AG Jeans Everett in Elliot Bay: $200
Opposite to the slim straight jean is the relaxed straight. Even roomier than the standard straight fit, this one allows for added comfort and moveability. This jean is hard to pull off for shorter guys, who may get lost in the excess fabric and weight of the jean on your frame.
The Best Relaxed Straight Jeans For Men
Slim fit jeans hug the leg from the thigh to the ankle but traditionally are roughly the same width through the entire leg. These jeans are going to be better suited for skinnier legs if you fall into the camp of guys who often forgets about leg day. The seat of the pants will also be tighter than a straight leg, giving it more definition.
The Best Slim Fit Jeans For Men
- Huckberry Flint and Tinder All-American Stretch Denim – Slim: $158
- Todd Snyder Slim Fit Lightweight Japanese Selvedge Jean: $298
- Uniqlo Slim Fit Jean: $50
Similar to the straight taper, the slim taper narrows in toward the ankle and tucks in slightly more than the thigh. This slight shift can help elongate the leg, especially on a thin frame, while looking a bit tailored, which is great for dressing up with dark denim and a suit jacket.
The Best Slim Taper Jeans For Men
The opposite of a taper is the bootcut. These jeans hug toward the thigh and flare out slightly at the ankle. While this flare isn’t dramatic, it isn’t a great fit for especially thin guys, as that extra room starts to veer into bell bottom territory. Like the name says, these jeans are going to look best if you’re tucking a boot underneath, or at least not pairing it with something slim, like a loafer, that will contrast too much against the extra fabric toward the ankle.