23 Comments.

From some of the questions I’ve been asked lately, it seems some of you gents are unsure of what’s considered “slim-fitting” versus “skinny”. When I say choose a slimmer-fitting pair of jeans you may imagine something like this:

Slim v. Skinny Jeans: Way-Too-Skinny Jeans

Don’t get it twisted. I don’t want men walking around in jeans like that, as I believe that degree of snugness should only be worn by the ladies.

In reality, I mean something along the lines of:

Slim v. Skinny Jeans: Slim fit jeans

Slim v. Skinny: It’s all marketing

You have to understand that these terms are generally used for marketing, and most of the time,  both “slim” and “skinny” are used interchangeably.

For example, the Levi’s 511 Skinny Fit or the 484 Slim Fit from J.Crew looks good on most men with a slimmer build and legs. They also tend to fit the same (as far as I could tell, seeing as though I couldn’t pull either of them past my rock-hard calves,) but one is called slim, the other, skinny.

For men such as myself with slightly bigger thighs and calves, the Levi’s 514 Slim Straight model provides that fitted look… whereas if you threw the 514s on a guy with a smaller build, it would look like a pair of baggy jeans.

For the truly muscular who are searching for that tailored appearance but can’t imagine squeezing into these previously-mentioned models (Tommy from TBTYH comes to mind), something like the Levi’s 501 may be your jam.

That make sense?

Ultimately, it’s all about fit.

Don’t be fooled by a brand’s naming conventions on their pants. Another example of inconsistency would be the Dockers D-1 “Slim Fit” khakis. Sure, they’re called slim fit, and if you compare it to their other models, they are relatively more slim. After trying them on myself, however, they’re not nearly as tailored as I prefer, and that’s coming from me, Mr. Buff Quads. You can imagine what they’d be like on a guy with a much slimmer build.

(Disclosure: After checking out the dockers.com site, seems there are various types of D-1 fits, and some appear slimmer than others, though I only tried the pair I linked to above, so I can’t say much regarding the other models.)

What’s a man to do?

Know your body type, familiarize yourself with the different cuts of pants by trying a variety on, and find a pair that suits you best. You don’t want anything too tight or restrictive, but you do want a pair that appears tailored and lacks the extra unnecessary material that gives off a baggy appearance.

What are your sticking points when it comes to buying jeans or pants? Do you have trouble honing in on your best fit? Let me know.


PUBLISHED September 19, 2010


Barron is the Founding Editor of Effortless Gent and the Cladright Association. He's from San Francisco but currently living in New York. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr.



  • Jfkjean

    When your jeans are holding on for dear life as they are in photo number one, man or woman, skinny or not, they should be moving on to another fit/size but good post nonetheless.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Haha, I do agree, though if faced with the choice, I prefer to see the snugness of image one on a lady, versus a dude. :)

      • Beefsalami

        Hey Barron, what are the jeans that you posted as the example of the good jeans? It is beautiful.

        • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

          I can’t remember for sure, but I believe these are the Levi’s 511 selvedge… maybe the 514. Sorry, should’ve linked to them directly when I wrote this article.

  • http://twitter.com/TBTYH Tommy V.

    Hey man, thanks for the mention.

    One thing I’d like to add as well for anyone with more massive thighs/rear: pay attention to the rise measurement too. If you have a bigger butt, you’ll need a bigger rise. Often times these slim/skinny fit pants and jeans have single-digit inch rises (which personally does not work well at all for me).

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Tommy,

      Definitely glad you mentioned rise. Bit of an oversight, though I should’ve pointed that out.

      Listen up, kids: If you do have bigger thighs / butt and are trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans with a rise too low, you’re gonna feel like you’re sagging, but you’ll also have no more pant to pull up. Quite the predicament. Find a pair with a higher rise! Your butt will thank you.

      Thanks for the pointing that out man.

      • http://www.carolineitc.com/ Caroline in the CIty

        Hi Barron, could you recommend a few good slim-fitting jeans with a higher rise that’s good for ’rounder’ butts and larger crotches? (Sorry if that was too much TMI)

        • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

          I’d start with something like a Levi’s 505 or 508, at least to get an idea of the fit. And again I’m just suggesting Levi’s because they’re so widely available. The 505 is more of a straight leg, while a 508 tapers. I believe those two have higher rises than what I originally suggest in this article.

  • Bryan

    Hey, Barron, I noticed your site from Joe’s mention on dappered.com and decided to stop by. So far I like what I see.

    I recently tried the Dockers D-1, and agree with your assessment: not slim at all (from what I am used to)! While I have a little bit of quad muscle, as I started biking regularly this summer, I am overall mostly “slim”, with a little bit of the broad shoulder thing happening. To that end I have been looking for some slimmer chinos/khakis, and for a while have been a big fan of the J.Crew Urban Slim fit. Only problem is they are kind of lacking in color options, and their in-store featured “broken in” line is a bit too casual for work at times.

    Since you appear to have the same fit taste as I do, judging by your review of the D-1’s, do you recommend any alternatives to the Urban Slim Fit? I’m talking chinos/khakis, more than jeans. I am well aware of the Levi 511/514 on the jean side.

    Thanks!

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Hey Bryan,

      Thanks for stopping by! Glad to hear I’m not the only one a little confused by the fit of those D-1 khakis. I was disappointed mostly because they have some great colors in stock, but if the fit isn’t right, it’s just not worth buying, obviously.

      I like the urban slim fit as well, and it is hard finding other comparable fits with more color choices. I know Rugby has these chinos (http://bit.ly/cDpsEK) that look like a great fit, but I haven’t tried them myself, so I can’t say for sure. Also, Bonobos has a great selection of chinos. I love their straight legs and the fit is pretty great. I have a pair of these (http://bit.ly/dldTsv). Their pants are worth checking out, for sure.

      Good luck, and let me know what you find!

  • Zuriel

    good point! A lesson that some folks havent learned yet.

  • Zuriel

    good point! A lesson that some folks havent learned yet.

  • Zuriel

    good point! A lesson that some folks havent learned yet.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Thanks Zuriel!

  • Jonathan Cyr

    I have huge quads, should I just stick with straight fit?

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Hey Jonathan,

      Depends. How comfortable are straight legs when you put em on?

      I know Levis 505 and 501 have more room in the thigh area without having to resort to an all-over loose fit. Give those a try and see if they’re any better than your typical (slimmer) straight leg.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kobebb2011 paul kobe

    Only problem is they are kind of lacking in color options.
    http://www.menjeansonline.com/

  • justin

    What is that pair of selvedge jeans in the picture? Awesome article, thanks

  • vitaly

    http://us.levi.com/product/index.jsp?productId=16653886&clickid=cart personally i think these are the best for that not too skinny not too loose look

  • Sam
  • jay

    i know this is an older article but I just came across your site and really appreciate this resource. can you recommend some jeans that will provide a higher rise for the upper region and yet retain a slim fit going south? thanks

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Any particular price point? Slim fit is relative, because something slim to me may not be as slim to a guy who’s 30lb lighter than me. Anyway, I’ve tried the Levi’s LVC 1954 recently, and that had a higher rise with a slim leg. You could also try the Levi’s 508. All their fit descriptions are here: http://us.levi.com/shop/index.jsp?categoryId=12402008

      There are so many different brands and fits, it’s hard to recommend any specific one because everyone’s body is different.

  • erdie

    Jay I am the same as you in resurrecting an old article. I have been searching for better fitting jeans for a while now.

    I have tried on many different slim fit jeans and chinos. Most of them are really tight and should be classed as skinny. I tried on some a couple of weeks ago they were so tight on my calves it looked like the muscles had exploded.

    The best fitting that I have found so far are the slim fit jeans and khakis (chinos to normal people) from Gap.