Let’s keep this brief: You’re looking for the best tapered jeans you can find. You want them to be dark denim, to fit well, and to be affordable, ideally. And if that works out, you want them in every wash of denim possible. Right?
I hear ya. If you have a smart casual style, one that often calls for jeans, an OCBD, brogues, and a sportcoat, then having a sharp pair of tapered jeans are your best bet.
In case you’re on here wondering, “Why tapered jeans specificially?”:
Instead of having the same shape all the way down the leg, tapered jeans get narrower from the knee down to the ankle, resulting in a cleaner look, smaller leg opening, and less fabric bunching at the bottom.
Tapered jeans are like regular straight leg jeans, but they get gradually narrower from the knee to the ankle. This style has a clean and more modern look.
My Recommendations for Tapered Jeans
Recommendation #1: Bonobos
One brand I always recommend is Bonobos.
They have 5 different fits and a multitude of sizes to choose from. And the sizing is standard across all Bonobos’ bottoms, so you only have to figure out your favorite fit and size once.
Here’s the one problem with Bonobos, however: The pants have a lower rise.
I feel like I need to keep hiking my pants up or my b-hole will be exposed. I tried several versions (slim, athletic, etc.) and I always had the same urge to pull up my pants.
It could just be my particular body proportions or build, so I suggest trying at least the Athletic fit for yourself.
Recommendation #2: Levi’s 531 Athletic Slim Taper
Another brand I always recommend is Levi’s. They’re ubiquitous, affordable, and have a ton of different models that fit every body type.
For years, my favorite jeans for athletic guys was the Levi’s 541 Athletic Taper. Still a great pair, by the way.
But recently, Levi’s added a new model, the Levi’s 531 Athletic Slim Taper. I LOVE this pair.
Still made with a comfortable rise (no hiking up your pants), with an athletic fit in the hips, butt, and quads, but slimmer from the knee down just a touch.
Also they seem to improve the sizing in the waist. I buy my actual size now (32×30), whereas with the 541, I had to size down two whole sizes, to a 30×30. In reality I’m like a 31×30, but 32×30 fits fine and is easier to find.
The Levi's 541 Athletic Jeans fit a larger, more athletic build. Crafted with extra room in the seat and thighs and sits at the waist for a more comfortable feel. The tapered leg gives you a modern, sleek silhouette.
Two other options for standard tapered jeans are the Levi’s 502 and Levi’s 512. I’ve tried these on, and to me, they’re pretty slim. Uncomfortably so.
If you truly have an athletic build, best to stick to the 531 or 541 above.
The Levi's 512 are modeled after the 502 Regular Taper, but with a slimmer silhouette. Overall, there's extra room through the seat and thigh compared to a regular slim or skinny fit, but with a leg that narrows to the ankle
I have two gripes about Levi’s, however.
For one, their sizing and fit is inconsistent. So if you have three pairs of Levi’s 541 in a 32×30—the exact same size and model—there’s a good chance they’ll fit differently.
Second, they seem to change model numbers often. So don’t be surprised if Levi’s discontinues your favorite model the second you discover it.
(It’s also possible they have a similar fit, they just changed the naming convention)
But honestly, I’d stick with the newer models, like the 531.
Levi’s has solidified their offering of tapered models. however:
All of these models have stretch denim fabric options. Typically it’s a 98/2 cotton/elastane blend, which is ridiculously comfortable. I always recommend at least 98/2 blend nowadays.
For the denim purists, there are rigid, non-stretch versions as well.
What Are The Best Tapered Jeans For Your Body Type?
- Have a bit more to spend? Go with Bonobos jeans
- Normally wear Levi’s 513 or 514? Try the Levi’s 502 regular taper
- Typically wear Levi’s 510 or 511? Try the Levi’s 512 slim taper
- Usually wear Levi’s 501 or 505? Are you a bigger or more athletic guy? Go for the Levi’s 541 athletic taper or the 531 Taper, if you can find it
That’s it! Happy jeans shopping.
This post was originally published on March 2014, then republished and updated many times.