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When you’re out in the market for pants, usually causal chinos or jeans, you’ll often come across various types of pant fits (or ‘cuts’), such as ‘slim’, or ‘straight’ (though, many, many more exist, which we’ll cover.)
These refer to the way the trouser is cut in the leg, more specifically, how much fabric is left in different portions of each leg, such as the thigh, calf, and leg opening.
Despite the ‘cut’ mainly affecting the shape and amount of fabric in the garment’s legs, it can have knock-on effects on the fit and fabric volume in other areas, such as the seat, and hips.
This means that, even when keeping the size of pant consistent (for example, size ’32’), different trouser fits (cuts) will fit closer to a ‘correct fit’, that’s maximally comfortable and aesthetic, for your body type and leg shape, and style preferences.
If you don’t know how pants should fit properly for you, I’d highly recommend checking out my category-leading article on pant fit to understand how much room you should have in each area, so you can understand how moving between pant cuts can get you closer, or further away from, the ideal.
Properly understanding the influence of pant cuts on the resulting comfort and aesthetics of a look, and as a result, figuring out which fits I should be wearing, absolutely changed the game for me in terms of my pants, so I can’t stress its importance enough.
Read on for a complete, topic-defining and self contained overview of the most common pant fits you’ll see out there in the world, followed by which one(s) you should look into for the most aesthetic, and most comfortable fit possible, for you.
- 1 Types of Pant, Jean and Trouser Fits
- 2 How to Choose a Pant or Jean Fit
- 3 The Low Down…
Types of Pant, Jean and Trouser Fits
Below, you can find an infographic that outlines all of the pant and jean fits.
For reference, the infographic, and all of the photos in the rest of this article, are in relation to my average to muscular leg shape and body type. Consequently, the middle of the road fits get me a fit that’s close to how pants should fit a body, as per my epic guide.
If you had slimmer legs, then the fits that provide ‘less room’ would get you closer to how pants should fit, and give you a similar result in terms of comfort and aesthetics.
So, because the fits with more or less room may not look quite right on me, that doesn’t mean that they won’t work for you.
This next section will list each common pant and jean fit from ‘least room’ to ‘most room’, and what you should expect from them.
Skinny Fit: Pant and Jean Fit With the Least Room
Provides a Comfortable and Aesthetic Fit For – Those with skinny legs.
If you’re taking into account my fit guide, in almost all cases – apart from like, really skinny guys – skinny fit pants and jeans fit ‘incorrectly’, as you don’t have that 1″+ fabric in areas that need it.
Skinny jeans are cut straight through the leg, but don’t have a wide circumference.
On an average man, they provide the classic ‘skin tight’ fit, which allows no room in the thighs or calf. This makes it impossible for skinny fit trousers to have a nice drape, and uncomfortable.
Moreover, this leads to a very small leg opening, which, according to my guide on the optimal hem widths for your height and weight, also makes skinny jeans a bad aesthetic choice for most men.
However, despite the current trends moving towards looser fits, they’ve been in and out of popular fashion among the masses over the last decade or so, and are actually technically wearable to those who can physically fit into them, because they’re always going to be found in a stretch fabric.
That said, unless you’re so skinny these actually ‘fit’ correctly, I’d highly recommend avoiding them.
Slim Tapered Fit
Provides a Comfortable and Aesthetic Fit For – Those with skinny to slim legs.
Again, taking into account my pant fit guide, I would find that in most cases, slim tapered pants are too slim for most men.
Like all tapered fits, this pant cut is not cut straight. Most brand’s slim tapered fit starts off with their slim fit in the thigh, and moves down to a skinny fit taper in the calf, from the knee down. This specific example is perhaps even slightly looser than I’d usually expect from the knee down. Usually, it’s unbelievably tight for me, but in this case, it was still hugging my leg, but was ok comfort wise – perhaps a result of the super stretchy fabric.
However, there are definitely those who can pull these off, such as:
- Those with slim legs, who these will fit right for, and;
- Maybe those with larger legs who are going for a more rock’n’roll aesthetic.
That said, I still feel that these are a bit tight for average frames.
I feel that the name of this fit is slightly deceptive, as it initially suggested to me that the trouser tapers down into a slim cut from a regular cut thigh; this is actually ‘regular tapered’. So, the ‘slim’ is actually referring to the thigh fit, and the tapered just lets you know that it’s going to taper down into the next slimmest cut.
Provides a Comfortable and Aesthetic Fit For – Those with slim to average legs.
Pants cut in a slim fit will probably fit most average men best, and actually conform to the ‘fits correctly’ pointers mentioned in my fit guide, with a a resulting ‘clean line’, depending on the fabric.
Most brand’s slim fits are cut straight, with a narrow, but not restrictive, circumference throughout the leg.
On me, however, though looser than the previous fits, I find that slim fits are still a bit tight on me, basically everywhere. That said, for those with skinny legs, these may be slightly too loose.
Straight Tapered/Regular Tapered
Provides a Comfortable and Aesthetic Fit For – Those with average to large legs.
Regular tapered trousers may be too baggy in the thigh for men with slim to average legs, though some who prioritise comfort will likely still be able to pull these off, albeit with a roomier thigh.
These pants start with a tailored/straight/regular fit in the thigh (depending on the brand and style), and taper down to a slim fit in the calf. This makes them perfect for those with abnormally thick thighs, who still want a tapered leg, such as myself, as there is a bit of extra room provided up top, with a definite compression in circumference at the bottom.
Unfortunately, I find that these are the most elusive pant and jean fit on this list. Though, you may have me to blame, because it seems that whatever works best for me, is typically the hardest to find!
Provides a Comfortable and Aesthetic Fit For – Those with average to large legs.
Those with average to larger legs will likely be able to pull off tailored fit well, which is mainly reserved for most brand’s formal pants, such as suit trousers.
Most brand’s tailored fit trousers are again usually cut straight towards the hem, but feature more room in the thigh and calf than slim fit, but less room than the upcoming regular and classic fits.
So, in most cases, it will still provide a trim, closer-to-the-body, fit, but with more room for movement compared to most slim fits.
Depending on the brand and the sizing, these may be suitable for those with thick thighs.
Provides a Comfortable and Aesthetic Fit For – Those with average to large legs.
Those with average to larger legs, who perhaps prefer a more relaxed look, will probably feel great in a pair of straight fit pants.
Most brand’s straight and regular fits are similar to their slim and tailored fits in that they’re cut straight down towards the hem. However, they usually feature a wider leg circumference throughout, for increased comfort, and a more relaxed (but not sloppy) look.
Straight fit jeans are also appropriate for those with thick thighs such as myself, due to the increased room allowing them to ‘fit correctly’. However, this may come with the added issue of a slightly ‘baggy’ calf, as though there’s enough fabric in the thigh, the remaining fabric doesn’t taper in.
There may be a bit too much excess fabric in straight cut pants for men with average body types, especially in the calf, however, this allows the opportunity for a custom fit through tailoring.
Relaxed Tapered/Athletic Fit
Provides a Comfortable and Aesthetic Fit For – Those with large legs.
As these pants leave an above average amount of fabric in the thigh, relaxed tapered pants will probably be enjoyed most by those with larger thighs and legs, who like a tapered leg.
Most brand’s relaxed tapered fit feature a classic, loose, relaxed fit through the thigh, which tapers to a straight cut hem from the knee down.
The extra amount of fabric throughout means that these pants and jeans will probably drape rather nicely on most men with thick legs.
Most pants in this style are ‘cropped’, which means the inseam is deliberately shorter than a ‘correct’ fit. This allows these trousers to achieve a specific, contemporary look. You can read more about cropped breaks at my awesome article regarding pant lengths and pant breaks.
However, though these trousers will look more proportional and ‘normal’ on those with thick legs, the cropped finish may put off some thick legged gentlemen with a preference for classic style.
Those with average or slim legs, or a ‘classic’ taste, may want to avoid this style, as some may find the extra room too baggy, and that the cropped, higher hem, doesn’t look quite right. However, those into street style, or alternative dressing, may find the relaxed tapered fit a really great way to make their outfit stand out, while enhancing comfort.
Classic/Loose: Roomiest Pant Fit
Provides a Comfortable and Aesthetic Fit For – Those with very large legs.
Larger gentlemen, or those with thick legs, will probably be able to pull of classic fit pants and jeans best.
Most brand’s classic fit pants feature a straight fit throughout the leg, with a wider overall circumference than straight fit pants.
Because of this, these have too much extra fabric in the calf for those with average legs.
However, they work well for those carrying extra weight throughout their body, because they have extra room in the thigh, but a straight, non-tapered leg. This overall wider leg balances out proportions on larger guys, and prevents any leg tapering from making them look odd.
Due to no tapering and the relaxed fit throughout, pants cut in a classic fit have a wide hem. However, this can be advantageous, as mentioned.
In all cases, the extra room will likely be generous enough to provide comfort to almost all gentlemen.
Bootcut (Retired fit, mostly for jeans)
Bootcut jeans were pretty popular in the early 2000s, and you can spot them a plenty in boyband music videos. However, they’ve – for the most part – been lost to this subculture.
They have a classic fit from the thigh, until the ankle, and then employ extra fabric to curve outward, to make room for chunky boots that are typically worn with them.
As it’s so roomy throughout, any leg type can technically wear these. However, I’d argue that they’re very out of proportion and ‘unaesthetic’ on most people, even those with thick legs, as the purposeful additional visual weight at the hem draws unnecessary attention. That said, if you’ve got a super developed upper body, boot cut pants could look balanced… but it’s probably not a risk worth taking, unless they’re in trend.
Flared (Retired fit)
We haven’t properly seen flared pants in mainstream fashion since the 1980s, though I’m sure they’ll make a comeback one day, even just for irony. They were spotted in the early 2000s, and have come and gone, mainly in womenswear, ever since (where I feel they belong, and actually look great).
You won’t find men’s flared trousers for sale from most regular shops, but only really at speciality retailors, if at all.
The thigh can take the fit of any of the above pant or jean fits, however in all cases, there is a dramatic widening of the trouser circumference from the knee down to the pant hem. This makes it almost the opposite of a taper, as the fabric isn’t gradually going in, but going out.
Though I wouldn’t recommend anyone seriously wear these, if you decide to, I would suggest that you reference how the thigh is cut against the correct fit of a pant thigh (as per my guide), to judge if a specific pair is correct for your body type.
How to Choose a Pant or Jean Fit
You might have only been wearing a certain pant cut, such as ‘slim’, for most of your life.
And this is fine, but, as I’ve alluded to, it might not be the best aesthetically, and comfort wise, for you.
The best pant fit for you, and the one that you should be wearing, is the one which gets you closest to the ‘correct fit’ that pants, jeans and trousers should have. Again, like a broken record, you can check out my super easy to understand resource to help with this.
But, what makes it difficult is that it’s different for everyone, and depends on your body type, and leg shape.
The rest of this section will give you some general pointers on which pant fit will likely be best for you based on a ‘correct fit’, depending on if you’re starting your pant fit search from scratch, or if you’re currently comfortable with a pant fit.
If you decide to switch up your pant fits as a result of this advice, it will probably feel a bit strange at first, but trust me, if you switch to the correct ones, you’ll thank yourself (and hopefully me, haha) in the future.
Pant Fit Selection Guidelines (Starting From Scratch)
- Do you have slim thighs and legs? -> If yes, try skinny and slim tapered fit.
- Do you have average thighs and legs? -> If yes, try slim fit, regular tapered and tailored fit.
- Do you have thick thighs and legs, but an average body? -> If yes, try regular tapered, tailored, straight/regular and relaxed tapered fit.
- Do you have thick thighs and legs, but a heavier set body? -> If yes, try straight/regular, relaxed tapered, classic/loose and bootcut fit.
Pant Fit Selection Guidelines (Starting From Your Favourite Cut)
- Is your thigh and calf tapering too tight in accordance to the ‘correct fit’ guidance? -> If yes, move up to the next ‘non tapered fit’. (e.g. skinny to slim fit)
- Do your thighs fit in accordance to the ‘correct fit’ guidance, but your calf tapering is too tight? -> If yes, move up to the next ‘non tapered’ fit (e.g. slim tapered to slim)
- Is your thigh too tight in accordance to the ‘correct fit’ guidance, but your calf tapering is correct? -> If yes, move up to the next ‘tapered fit’ (e.g. skinny to slim tapered)
- Do your pants fit in accordance to the ‘correct fit’ guidance? -> If yes, then you have the correct cut!
- Is your thigh too loose in accordance to the ‘correct fit’ guidance, but your calf tapering is correct? -> If yes, move down to the next ‘non tapered fit’ (e.g. relaxed tapered to straight fit)
- Do your thighs fit in accordance to the ‘correct fit’ guidance, but your calf tapering is too loose? -> If yes, move down to the next ‘tapered’ fit (e.g. classic fit to relaxed tapered)
- Is your thigh and calf tapering too loose in accordance to the ‘correct fit’ guidance? -> If yes, move down to the next ‘non tapered fit’. (e.g. classic fit to straight fit)
- Repeat until you’re happy with the cut.
So, those are the rules. If you want a slightly roomier or tighter fit that doesn’t conform to the ‘correct fit’ that I propose in my other post, consider moving one fit up (for a roomier fit), or one fit down (for a tighter fit).
For example, if you have slim legs, it recommends skinny and slim tapered, but if you prefer a looser fit, you could try moving up to the slimmest of the ‘average’ category, of ‘slim fit’.
It’s also important to note that you need to make sure you’re selecting the correct pant waistband size before attempting the above. If you can’t find any pants that fit, you can try going up a waistband size, which will change the fit of the leg. However, you will have to get the pant waistband taken in by a tailor.
The Low Down…
Understanding the impact of, and choosing the correct, pant fit, can make or break your aesthetic below the belt, and may be the only thing standing between your current discontent and pant bliss.
Make sure to familiarise yourself with the content of this article, so you can go out there, and actually purchase with intention!