Even though the world has caught up to the rugged, relaxed nature of denim, having a great pair of jeans is still a must for every guy.
There’s a reason why jeans are so popular. And it’s all down to that ‘V’ word. No, not that one, you creep.
Think about it—what other styles of pants work at cocktail parties, concerts, and weddings?
But finding the perfect jeans is a bit like pulling Excalibur from its stone. There’s one pair out there meant for you. Find them, and you’ll wield untold power (actually, you’ll just look nice—but that’s powerful).
In this article, we’re going to break down everything you need to know to find a killer pair of jeans that you’ll want to wear every day.
Are you a skinny guy and everything looks baggy? Simple fix.
Play rugby and can’t seem to find anything that’ll cover your large thighs (seriously, how’d you get your thighs so huge)? We’ll find you the right fit that shows off your musculature without looking like you’re wearing tights.
On the heavy-side? A great pair of jeans will help you show off the best parts of you.
You just need to know what to look for.
That’s why we’re here.
Keep reading to find out what you need to know before buying jeans, what styles work best for your body type, and our recommendations for high-quality denim that’ll become a wardrobe staple.
8 Things You Should Consider When Buying Jeans
Jeans run anywhere from $40 and $1,200 (and beyond).
Good quality jeans live on every part of that spectrum, including the low end. You know your budget more than anyone, so don’t go overboard.
At the same time, jeans are naturally durable and can last many years. If you invest a little money into a perfect pair, you won’t regret it.
2. Body Type
Skinny? Athletic? Plus-sized?
Certain cuts in jeans make a big difference. We’ll get into the specifics of what to look for based on your body type later in the article, but with denim, it’s not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ game.
To get a better looking pair of jeans, we almost always recommend slimming the fit down. A lot of guys out there are wearing relaxed fit jeans when a pair of slim fits or straight-cuts would do them more justice.
The fact is, gentlemen, if you want to boost your style but you’re not sure what to do—ditch your old ideas about what looks ‘good’ on you. Step out of your comfort zone and into something you’ve never tried before. It’s not only true for jeans, but for your whole wardrobe.
For more on stepping out of your fashion comfort zone, check out Peter Nguyen’s post “16 Essential Style Tips” over at The Essential Man. He breaks down how you can start safe and build from there.
The vocabulary of denim can be confusing. What’s the difference between slim fit and skinny fit? What does ‘relaxed fit’ actually mean?
Finding which cut looks the best is a journey. You’re looking for balance. If the fit is too small, it’s like you’re wearing denim tights. Too much room and you’re swimming in a sea of fabric. Neither is flattering. Find the balance.
The five main jeans fits are:
Skinny jeans fit tighter around the thighs and butt. They’re skinny from the waist down with a tapered leg. If you’ve got thin legs—the kind that no amount of squat-deadlift supersets will bulk—skinny jeans might just be your thing.
Beware, though. The tighter they are, the thinner you look. There’s nothing wrong with the long and lanky look. In fact, many women prefer it. But any extra weight on your upper body is pronounced. An ill-fitting shirt or extra ten pounds will make you look top-heavy.
If you aren’t sure whether your legs are skinny or just average, bump up to a slim fit.
Slim fit jeans are our number one recommendation for most guys.
They strike a nice balance between straight-leg, which can appear too loose on some guys, and skinny jeans.
Not too tight, not too loose. Slim fit is straight through the hip with narrow thighs and a taper to the leg opening.
If you’ve never tried on a pair of slim fit jeans, drive out to the mall, now. You’ll be surprised at how much baggage a simple taper sheds.
Also known as straight-leg. Regular fit jeans work well for athletic guys or anyone with larger thighs and butt. You can find straight-leg jeans that taper toward the bottom, which keeps your profile slimmer while still giving you some room up top to breathe.
Relaxed fit is larger in the hips, thighs, and seat. If you prefer your jeans with plenty of space, relaxed fit will work. Skinny and slim guys should steer away from relaxed fit as it looks too bulky.
If you’ve got an athletic body with hips as wide as your shoulders, you’ll rock relaxed fit jeans in any casual setting. That being said, if you’re looking for jeans that can also fly in a formal setting, go for the straight-cut jeans.
Wide everywhere. These are a fashion statement. Just like your crazy uncle discussing his plans to storm Area 51, not all statements should be listened to.
Unless you want the “I went into a coma in 1993 and just woke up. Where can I buy a flying car?” look, no loose jeans.
This is especially true for bigger guys. Loose jeans add too much bulk to your lower half. The effect is only magnified for average and smaller guys.
Taper refers to the cut below the knee down to the leg opening. There are three main types of taper to look at—narrow, regular, and boot-cut.
The narrow taper cuts down the amount of fabric and adds an overall slimming effect. You’ll find this style of taper on many pairs of slim fit jeans.
The narrow taper works well with loafers, Chelsea boots, sneakers, and just about any shoe that has a small profile.
Regular taper, or no taper, is the standard for straight fit and relaxed fit jeans. It works well for athletic guys or anyone with larger calves.
The standard taper works well with sneakers and boots.
Boot-cut taper has the most flair. The opening opens below the knee to accommodate any sort of high-ankle boots.
It’s better to stay away from boot-cut unless you know you’ll be wearing your jeans with bulkier shoes. The boot-cut is perfect for larger work boots, motorcycle boots, and even a pair of cowboy boots.
Distressed jeans. It’s a polarizing topic.
Some women love jeans on a guy that are beat to shreds.
So what does a man do?
Before we go any further, we want to make something clear. We don’t think you should ever wear jeans that look like you’ve narrowly survived a shark attack.
But there is a level of distress that looks good.
The best way to find a great pair of distressed jeans is to do the wear-and-tear yourself.
That’s right. Wear ‘em until they rip and shred on their own. It’s rugged, yet shows you care about what you buy.
The rise refers to the distance from the top button to the bottom of the crotch. High-rise come just under the belly button, medium-rise sit at the waist, and low rise sit on the hips.
Medium-rise is perfect for most guys. High-rise and low-rise jeans can look great, but both styles play visual tricks so you should know what you’re getting into before buying.
High-rise jeans flatten your stomach and lengthen your legs, which work well for both larger or older dudes.
Low-rise jeans shorten your legs and lengthen your torso, which isn’t ideal for the average guy. It can work for shorter guys, but it’s a dangerous game. Some low-rise jeans work, others make short guys look shorter. Brands that specialize in clothes for shorter men will nail the rise just right.
Low-rise also works for the total studs out there with washboard abs looking to show off that awesome chisel. If you look like an underwear model, give a low-rise pair of jeans a shot.
Most jeans go through a ‘washing’ process that softens and styles the fabric. You’ve probably heard of stone-washed jeans or acid-washed jeans. Mostly, wash is just for style. But there are practical reasons behind the washing process, too.
You can find jeans that haven’t gone through a washing process. They’ll be marketed as “raw denim.” The deep indigo, stiff fabric, and strong lines work well for dressing a pair of jeans up. Paired with a blazer and a button up, raw denim is a great choice for most business-casual meetings.
Stone-washed jeans are the most common type of jean. You’ll find some light fading in the thighs and around the seat. Some brands take it to the extreme and will stone-wash until the jeans are nearly ruined.
The acid-wash trend has been dying a slow and painful death since the ‘80s. Even the Levi’s blog promoting acid-wash jeans has a hard time getting excited about them. (“Ready to try it out again?”) Now that’ll inspire confidence, right? No.
Here are our guiding principles for jeans wash, specifically related to color:
- Dark wash denim is more suitable for more formal occasions, while light is more casual.
- Light wash denim is more suitable for summer and spring, while mid-wash works better for fall fashion, and black and and dark wash for winter.
Lastly, you need to consider the weight of the denim in your jeans. Denim weight refers to how thick and heavy the fabric is which determines how your jeans fall.
Denim comes in anything from 4oz to 30oz weight. For practical purposes, we recommend staying between 8oz and 20oz.
For a light, summer jean 10oz is great. Be careful not to wear them too often, though. 10oz jeans distress easily. 12oz-14oz weight is a great balance of durability, style, and value.
Anything beyond 20oz weight is for the self-proclaimed denim-heads. Niche denim? You better believe it.
If you’re interested in learning more about denim weights, check out this great guide over at Heddels.
How To Choose Your Size And Get The Right Fit
Skinny Body Type
Skinny like a board? You’ve got options.
Try the aptly named skinny fit jeans. Go too tight though, and it’ll only make you appear thinner.
If that’s the case, bump up to slim fit jeans. They’ll stay sleek while a bit of visual weight to your bottom half.
Athletic Body Type
The athletic body type is characterized by its square shape. You have wide shoulders and wide hips.
Slim fit and straight-leg jeans work best for the athletic body type. Choose which cut works for you based on your style and the size of your thighs. Slim fit is the best choice for most athletic guys, but if you have exceptionally large thighs, you may want to try straight-legged.
Muscular Body Type
You’re like a Dorito. Broad shoulders and narrow hips. Some muscular guys want to show off all that hard work in the gym by wearing skinny jeans. Don’t be tempted.
You’re better off with straight-legged jeans. You can give slim fit a try, and you might even find a suitable pair of relaxed fit jeans.
Leave some room for the imagination. If you’re muscular, people know. You don’t need to wear a pair of tights all day to show it.
Wide Hips Body Type
If your hips are wider than your shoulders, stay away from slim and skinny jeans. You’ll have better luck with straight-cut and relaxed jeans.
If you want a bit of taper, make sure that the taper only starts after the knee. Too much taper and you’ll begin to look top-heavy. Anything too tight in the hips will give you a feminine silhouette.
With straight and relaxed fits, the visual line running down the seam will balance your mid-section with your upper and lower body.
Plus-Sized Body Type
Plus-sized guys do well with a higher rise. When wearing a high-rise jean, you’ll be able to fit a larger stomach because you wear it just under your belly button. Wearing a medium-rise jean will accentuate your stomach if you tuck in your shirt.
Relaxed fit and straight-cut jeans both work for the plus-sized guy. The straight line provided by the seam helps balance body proportions and keeps a plus-sized guy looking dapper.
The 33 Best Jeans for Men in 2020
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3 Best Slim Fit Jeans for Men
Slim fit jeans are our favorite. Trimming down on the fabric in the thigh and calf area creates a leaner, taller profile—something we could all go for.
Slim fit will cling to larger thighs, but that’s not a bad thing. You’ll still have all the room you need in the crotch and through the calf.
1. Mott & Bow Oliver Slim
Mott & Bow’s Oliver is made with 13oz denim, which is more substantial than what you’ll find with most jeans.
The sturdy fabric paired with the slim profile makes for a clean look that seems more expensive than it is.
We like an every-freakin-day slim-fit jean and the Oliver really breaks in and moulds to your body over time.
With Mott and Bow’s home try-on program, you can order two pairs of the same style in different sizes. Keep whichever fits best and send the other back at no charge.
Mott & Bow are our go-to for slim fit jeans in the sub $150 category. The Oliver is made with 13oz denim which is on the heavy side of what you'll commonly find.
2. BlankNYC 014 Slim
BlankNYC’s 014 is made with 100% denim and sit on the skinnier side of slim.
They’re a great balance if you’re not sure if you’re skinny-fit or slim-fit.
Either way, with true denim, they’ll expand a little to match your body.
3. Nudie Jeans Lean Dean Dry 16 Dips
Nudie Jeans from Sweden are made with organic and ethically sourced denim.
The Lean Dean is made with 11.5oz denim, so you get the crisp look of raw denim without all the weight.
3 Best Straight Fit Jeans for Men
The standard cut—no frills. Straight fit jeans have no taper, so you won’t get any slimming effect.
That being said, a straight fit is perfect for guys with bulkier legs and bigger backsides.
1. Rag + Bone Fit 3
Cut from 10 oz comfort denim, Rag + Bone’s Fit 3 the lightweight fabric falls more relaxed than most denim.
A great option for summer and spring.
2. Mott & Bow Norfolk Straight
Mott and Bow make great quality jeans for fair prices.
Their Norfolk’s are made with raw denim, so you can break these in until they fit perfectly.
(Use code ADULTMAN10 for 10% off)
3. Levis 501
The classic. The original.
This is the style that took the world by storm in the ‘50s and ‘60s. The 501 worked then and it works now.
3 Best Skinny Jeans for Men
Skinny jeans are difficult to pull off. They really only work for guys who are—you guessed it—skinny.
If you’re average weight, or even slightly under-average weight, we recommend skipping skinny jeans and going to slim.
If you’re still here, well, we envy your metabolism. These skinny jeans are made by some of the most trusted brands in the business.
1. DSTLD Skinny Jet Black
The DSTLD Skinny is made with a bit of elastane to help add some stretch.
A good idea if you’re going to go with skinny jeans. If not, your sacrifice comfort and durability.
2. Rag + Bone Fit 1
Rag + Bone calls it ‘extra-slim’ fit, but we know what they really mean.
Skinny jeans. These are low-rise so you get a more relaxed vibe. That being said, they won’t pair well with a tucked-in shirt.
3. Paige Croft – Caves
Paige’s Croft jeans are surprisingly only 25% denim.
Made with softer and more elastic fabrics, the Croft can stretch and move a lot without tearing. If you want to blend the boundaries between tights and jeans, these are the pants for you.
3 Best Relaxed Fit Jeans for Men
Relaxed fit is a great option for guys on the larger side.
These brands have more style than your run-of-the-mill jeans, but they carry extra room in the back, crotch, and thigh.
1. Dearborn Denim Relaxed
Dearborn is known for quality, and their reviews back them up.
These relaxed-fit jeans are made with heavy denim so you get more structure to your pants. Dearborn hits the nail on the head when it comes to comfort and style.
2. Mott & Bow Straight Broome
The Mott & Bow Broome isn’t technically a relaxed-fit jean, but the material stretches and fits looser than other denim.
The Broome is a good in-between if you’re a larger guy but you want to keep a slimmer profile for your jeans.
(Use code ADULTMAN10 for 10% off)
3. Liverpool Jeans Regent Relaxed
Liverpool Jeans use lightweight denim paired with a material called T400.
No, it’s not a Star Wars character—it helps gives these jeans what Lp Jeans call “memory stretch.” It’s a way of getting that lived-in look within a week or two.
3 Best Jeans for Older Men
When looking for jeans as an older guy, you may want to try a higher rise.
High-rise jeans come up above the waist. This can flatten the stomach and give more length to your legs, giving you a slimmer, streamlined look.
1. Norse Regular Denim
Norse Projects Indigo jeans have are structured and elongate the legs.
Paired with a blazer, these are a great option for date night.
2. Paul Fredrick 5-Pocket Flat Front Jean
These jeans are made with the office in mind, but they work equally well in a casual setting.
Paul Fredrick tends toward a higher rise with all of their pants, so most of what they offer will suit older guys.
3. Land’s End Straight-Fit Comfort First
Reviews for these jeans are positive, but what stuck out the most to us was Land’s End’s offer to hem the jeans for you.
You can also monogram them—a thoughtful touch if you’re buying these jeans as a gift.
3 Best Jeans for Tall Men
Tall guys who don’t buy the right pair of jeans are destined for chilly ankles.
It can be hard finding jeans in stock that have 36, 38, and even 40” inseams. A lot of tall men we speak to say they just get the longest inseam length they can find relative to their waist fit and suffer in short-pants hell.
Luckily, a few brands have stepped up and pitched in some extra fabric.
When your logo is a giraffe, it really does say it all. American Tall doesn’t make pants with an inseam shorter than 36”.
The brand make clothes exclusively for tall guys in the 6’3” and above range. Their Carman tapered-fit is no exception.
2. ASOS Design Tall Slim Jeans
Available with 36 and 38” inseams, these jeans are great for casual wear.
The slim fit just shows off how tall you are. Embrace it.
3. Wiedemann Tall Original Tapered Jeans
Europe based Wiedemann features the lower-rise and extra stitching characteristic of Euro-style jeans.
These visually shorten the length of your legs which can be a good thing if you have skinny legs and want to add more weight to them.
3 Best Jeans for Short Men
Shorter gentlemen have had to learn plenty of tricks to get around long inseams that never fit their body type. A few brands have stepped up and solved the need to hem and cuff every pair of pants once-and-for-all.
Besides a fitting inseam, the most important thing for shorter guys to watch for is the waist rise. Low-rise jeans take off a lot of extra fabric in the seat and crotch and can fit better for men of modest height.
That being said, with certain brands, a low-rise can make short guys seem shorter and stockier.
1. Peter Manning Jeans Slim Fit
Probably the most well-known and reputable place to find clothes that fit shorter guys.
With 4.5 stars on over 500 reviews on these jeans alone, Peter Manning is our go-to recommendation for guys who are 5’8″ and under looking to find apparel that actually fits.
We love their unique sizing chart which is specifically designed for shorter dudes, and you will too.
2. For The Fit Jack Denim
For the Fit specializes in hard to find sizes.
Many reviewers claim these are some of the best fitting jeans they’ve bought as short guys.
3. Ash & Erie Essential Jean
Ash and Erie go shorter than any other brand out there with 25” inseams.
Even 5’2” guys are saying these are the best jeans they’ve ever bought.
3 Best Jeans for Overweight Men
Too many overweight guys try and squeeze into their ill-fitting jeans, but the truth is there are plenty of options out there for the huskier gent.
For everyday jeans, bigger guys should opt for a relaxed-fit. For nights on the town, a straight-cut jean will slim down your profile.
Larger guys should look for high-rise jeans. The extra length in the fly gives more room in the crotch and seat and also flattens the stomach.
1. Lands’ End Big and Tall
Made with Lands’ End’s very own Comfort First fabric, these have a bit of stretch to them.
With a taper under the knee, larger guys get a more streamlined look.
A classic working jean and a great option for an everyday pant.
30+ reviews have a lot of positive things to say about the comfort, fit, and durability of these 13oz workhorses.
3. Levis 502 Taper (Big and Tall)
Built with a high-rise for extra room, the 502’s taper below the knee.
You’re essentially getting the same look as a slim-fit jean, but with all the room you need to be comfortable.
3 Best Jeans for Men With Big Thighs
Been hitting the squat-rack? Some brands are coining a new style called athletic-fit. Jeans in this category have more room in the seat and some extra space in the thigh area.
If you’re a guy with buff thighs, avoid the urge to wear skinny jeans. You may think it shows off muscle, but it more likely makes you look crammed into tiny pants.
1. Mott & Bow Jay Straight
Jay’s are made with a special fabric from Italy that’s incredibly soft to the touch.
These straight-fit jeans have a bit of stretch material in them, so you don’t have to worry about ripping or tearing.
They’re righteously comfortable jeans from the get-go.
(Use code ADULTMAN10 for 10% off)
2. Carhartt Rugged Flex Relaxed Fit
Carhartt made their name in workwear. Now they’re making a name for themselves in streetwear.
These American classic medium-weight jeans hold up well both at work and play.
3. Joe’s Jeans Folsom Athletic Fit
Joe’s Jeans is one of those brands coining the phrase “athletic fit.”
You’ll get more space in the thighs, but a slimming taper below the knee to keep the visual weight down.
3 Best Jeans for Men With a Flat Butt
If you’ve got a flat (or nonexistent) butt, you can use some visual trickery to add a little more to your derriere.
You’ll have the best luck looking for jeans with widely spaced and smaller back pockets. Both of these features make that booty look fuller.
1. DL1961 Nick Slim Chamber
DL1961’s Nick Slim Chamber is lean through the thigh, so it’ll do a good job adding weight to your behind.
Because it’s straight through the leg, you’ll still have the room you need in the crotch and thigh.
2. Bonobos The Blue Jean
Built with wider-set pockets, The Blue Jean by Bonobos give the appearance that you have a larger butt than you actually do.
3. Revtown Taper
Smaller pockets are what land the Revtown Taper on this list. While they’re still big enough to hold a wallet, you’ll get the benefit of illusion.
3 Best Cheap Jeans for Men: Our Top Picks Under $100
Denim shopping on a budget? These might be inexpensive, but they aren’t cheap.
1. Dearborn Denim Slim Fit
The look of top-quality indigo selvedge denim, but a fraction of the price.
Dearborn’s slim fit has gathered over 200 reviews averaging 4.8/ 5 stars. Not bad.
2. Mott & Bow Mosco
The Mosco’s just barely come in under $100, but we felt like we had to share them.
They’re Mott & Bow’s best selling jean, and they’re a great low-cost entry into the world of premium denim.
(Use code ADULTMAN10 for 10% off)
3. Levi 511
Levis has about 100-squillion different cuts of jeans. It can be confusing.
511 is their standard slim-cut with a tapered leg. They’re classic. They’re stylish. They’re affordable.
What’s The Difference Between Jeans and Pants?
Are jeans pants? Are pants jeans? Is there such a thing as denim pants that aren’t jeans?
Yes. Not always. And yes, they exist—just ask your grandpa if you can borrow his.
The difference between jeans and pants is in the construction. Jeans are made from denim fabric and have a double-sewn seam running down the leg. They also have metal rivets reinforcing the hip pockets and sometimes the back pockets.
“Pants” is the overarching term for any sort of trouser, jeans included. A square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t always a square. Jeans are pants, but pants aren’t always jeans. Geometry.
Chinos, dress pants, khakis, and Zubaz are all pants, but you certainly wouldn’t mistake them for jeans.
How To Wash And Care For Your Jeans
This might surprise you, but you don’t need to wash your jeans after every time you wear them. Now, gents, don’t take this as an excuse to skip laundry day.
Washing often will damage your jeans and they’ll wear out faster. One of the beautiful things about denim is that it contours to your body over time. The better you care for your jeans, the better they’ll fit you.
You can go months without washing your jeans. Hard-core denim-heads will sometimes go an entire year, wearing the same pair every day without washing.
You may not be that extreme, and we don’t blame you. That stink can be powerful.
We personally wash every five to seven wears. Jeans also pick up bar-smells, so we’ll wash after a night on the town.
When you’re ready to clean those bad-boys, follow a few rules to preserve your jeans and get more out of your investment.
Skip the washing machine—it’s too violent for jeans. They just want to be worn, not tossed around.
Fill your bathtub (or a large sink) with warm water and a little detergent. Let your jeans absorb the sudsy water and agitate with your hand. No need to scrub like crazy here—just basic agitation will do. Your jeans can soak for 15-20 minutes.
You’ll notice the water turn yellow. That’s all that dirt and grime you’ve been collecting. Remove your jeans and drain the dirty water.
Fill your tub with cold water and let your jeans sit in the rinse for another 15-20 minutes.
After the rinse, hang your jeans to dry. Avoid the dryer—you’ll risk undoing all that work you’ve put in.
Once they’re dry, you’re ready to wear them again for another two weeks (or two years).
Our Final Word on Jeans
If you haven’t found your dream-jeans yet, don’t give up hope.
Great jeans are such a universal staple, you can find a pair that fits your body type practically anywhere. You just need to know what to look for.
Follow our advice, and we’re pretty sure you’ll find your match somewhere on this list. After you’ve found them, take care of those blue-beauties. Every bit of effort comes back in the form of a pair of jeans looking like it was custom made just for you.
So now you’re armed with knowledge. Go forth and find your soul-jeans.
The perfect pair is out there, like a mythical sword, just waiting to be worn by you.