Keep tabs on all fit articles: The Perfect Fit

How about we chat a bit about how causal pants for men should fit? I’m talking about your denim and chinos.

Those things you wear that aren’t part of a suit and aren’t shorts. You get what I’m sayin.

Let’s assume you’re not…

  • a rapper from 1996
  • an uber-trendy indie emo hipster scene kid from the Lower East Side
  • an acid-washed denim connoisseur
  • a proponent of always wearing black on black on black

Okay, let’s go.

General fit and cut

Your pants should fit slim, but not snug or uncomfortable. The outline of your package should not be showing. You want a well fitting pair of pants that hugs your legs and seat (aka, dat booty) while still giving you enough room to move and sit comfortably.

If you can pinch 1/2″ of fabric between your thumb and index finger from the thigh area (with your pants on), you should be good.


Casual pants for men should be able to fasten easily with no struggle. At the same time, you don’t want them so loose that they’re falling off your hips. Your size is what you feel most comfortable in within these boundaries.

Know that your size may not always be your size. It’s dependent upon the brand you’re buying, since much of today’s sizing is vanity. This basically means your 34″ pants may not be 34″ if you take out your tailor’s tape and measure it.

Take a look at this article from Esquire to see what I mean.

Not all sizes of the same brand and model fit the same!

Crazy, right?

I don’t mean to scare you or to overcomplicate things, but this is something you should be aware of. One size 34″ casual pants for men may fit differently, depending on the pair you choose off the rack, even if it happens to be the same model!

Let’s say you’re looking at a pair of Levi’s 501 in a size 34″. If you try three different pairs of Levi’s 501, there’s a chance they may all fit you slightly differently.

To some extent that’s unavoidable. When manufacturers are cutting the denim before constructing them into the final product, it is rolled out on a long table with one layer on top of the other. The fabric cutter then has to slice through all these layers, so when the cutter comes down and applies pressure, the fabric has a tendency to shift, thus the slight inconsistency in some sizes.

This isn’t anything you have to worry about. If you know your general size, you should be fine. The point is, when you’re out shopping for casual pants for men, make sure to try on several different sizes to hone in on your exact size, and then from there, try on a few versions of that size to make sure you have the perfect fitting pair.

Can’t tell the difference? Great! You’re all good then.


The rise is defined as the measurement from the crotch seam to the top of the waistband. This can differ depending on whom you ask, but this seems to be the most common measurement method.

Keep in mind that the measurement of the front rise will often be different from the back rise.

Why should you care? Other than the waist measurement, the rise determines how comfortable your pants feel when they’re on.

I personally like a rise between standard (mid) and low. Here are some general definitions:

  • Low-rise: sits on or below your hips, a few inches below your belly button.
  • Mid-rise: sits at the hips or a bit above, and much closer to your belly button. This front rise measurement is around 8-12″
  • High-rise: anything that sits at your true waist and hits your belly button, if not covering it completely.

These are the general definitions, and just like waist measurements, can vary depending on the brand.

If I were you, I’d look for something in the low- to mid-rise range. You have to try on several styles and see what’s most comfortable. Everyone’s body shape is different, which means each person will need a different style of casual pants for men to accommodate his curves (or lack thereof).

For example (and using the Levi’s denim line to illustrate), if you’re a stick figure or have a small, trim, proportionate stature, you’d probably look great in a pair of 511 skinny denim, which features a slim leg and a lower rise.

If you have a bit more meat in your legs, you’d probably opt for a pair of 513 slim or 514 slim straight, which gives slightly more room in the thigh and seat, and a bit higher rise.

If you’re tall, meaty, and do a bunch of squats in the gym (or if you’re a fuller guy in general), you’d probably want to try a 501 Original or 505, which is the standard straight fit with an even higher rise (though it still sits below your waist, so you’re not all up in Dad Jean status).

See? It all depends. Finding the right pair for you means trying on a bunch of different styles of casual pants for men in the fitting room. Sucks, but you’ve gotta do it.

Pay attention and see what’s most comfortable AND what looks the best. Sure, 501 may be comfortable but if you’re 5’9″ and 125 lbs, you’ll be drowning in them. Plus you’ll be violating the rule of fit; keep it as slim and streamlined as possible, proportionate to your body shape.

By the way, rise doesn’t just apply to denim (even though I used denim as an example). Rise is something you need to pay attention to even when buying chinos, as brands make them with different rise measurements as well.

Length and break

For more traditional situations, you want a 1″ break for your chinos. To see this, take a look at the bend in front where the cuff hits the top part of your shoe. You shouldn’t see a large pooling of fabric down there, just a slight bend. Refer to my article about the appropriate break on EG if you need more info.

With a more traditional break, the back of your cuff should hit anywhere from the middle of the heel counter to the top of the heel.

For more casual situations, the length and break is more open to your preference. You may want them a little shorter with no break to show a peek of your socks and your whole shoe, or maybe you want them slightly longer so you can roll the cuff up.

If you want a normal pant length, simply follow the style mentioned above.

Leg opening

This is one of those things you may not think about. The style of the pants you choose usually determines the size of the leg opening.

Casual pants for men that are “straight fit” typically have one width measurement from the knee down. When you have a tapered fit, the pant leg tapers from the knee down, so the width measurement of your leg opening is smaller than the width at the knee. Bootcut pants are the opposite of that, as they get wider at the leg opening than they are at the knee.

If it were me, I’d choose a slim straight fit, or a fit with a slight taper. Again, this is all based on preference, but I personally like as minimal extra fabric as possible, so these would be my recommendations.

And please, stop wearing bootcut denim. Also, don’t bother justifying them to me, like, ever. I think it looks terribly dated and reminds me of 2004. You don’t need to wear them, even if you actually wear cowboy boots. For the most classic of looks, stick with a straight leg.


You got this. You’re now officially equipped with all the information you need next time you go pants shopping. You’re welcome.


[Umit Benancutting fabric, pants measurement, cuffs: photo, photo, photo]

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29 Responses

    • Barron on

      Congrats on the weight loss! 40 lbs is nothing to ignore. I bet you definitely need a few new pairs of pants. If you’re continuing the weight loss journey, don’t buy too many or else you’ll find yourself shopping for more once you hit another milestone.

  1. JJ Casas on

    Great article! I have a number of 511 jeans and recently got a pair of 508 and am loving it… Hm, maybe I’ll use that 2-day 30% off sale.. haha

  2. Chris Jones on

    Too true about jeans from the same brand and size not fitting. I tried on a pair of Gap 1969 dark wash jeans. Loved them. So before I hit the checkout, I grabbed another pair off the shelf. When I got home, I realized one pair fits me, and the other pair I can’t even get the button done up. Unfortunately, I had already washed both of them by the time I realized it, so I was out of luck as far as a return.

    I now know better, and will try on EVERY pair of pants/jeans before I purchase.

  3. ArmanUV on

    How about suit pants? Do they need to sit at true waist? I have a very slim figure and sometimes I feel wearing high rise pants with a tucked in dress shirt make my legs look too long (and my upper body too short).

  4. KM on

    I’m new to your website. Great advice on style and fit. Do you have advice for a guy who’s 5′ 6″? I wear 34″ waist and 30″ (or less) length and have a really hard time finding pants, especially jeans, that fit right. I can’t find comfortable jeans. I don’t bother wearing them anymore.

    • Barron on

      You don’t bother wearing pants anymore? Or just jeans? Hopefully you wear *something* below the waist.


      Anyway, what issues are you having with the fit exactly? A couple years ago I was a 34×30 and never had a problem finding denim that fit right.

      • Ahmed on

        I’m 34 too, but my waist sits about an inche higher than normal so when I sit I almost always get a wedgy at the balls. Ouch. Had people who made pants remembered that men have a package they need to accommodate up and out they wouldn’t have had to sit on them!

    • Ahmed on

      Tell me about it! 34 here too and have my mother’s hip bones hehe Some (heterosexual) guys I read wear their wife’s jeans and say it fits perfectly. Tried it. Well, they’re snug fit. Nice. But no room for my package!

  5. ray on

    I’m having a problem reaching in the fly when I use the restroom. No room to work!
    would a higher rise give me more lenth to work it?

    • Ahmed on

      You mean the lowest point of the zipper is higher or at the level where your penis leaves your body, at the bottom of the shaft? Or is too low, hence mentioning a higher rise?

  6. Mike on

    Hi Barron,

    I am new to the site, but I need some help! Sorry if this is a long post. I am 6’1″ and sitting at a buck ninety five. My legs and thighs can properly fit into slim straight fits, but my bubble butt is a major hindrance. I got it by not completing physical therapy after I broke my leg in 5th grade. I recently finished training and running my first half marathon, so it is now more “toned” but still a major issue. I was just wondering if there were any recommended brands that are more forgiving in the seat and rise area, or if there is a style of Levi’s that would accomplish the same? I have had success buying Lucky Brand jeans when they arrive at the local Nordstrom Rack, but it would be nice to have some options. I would prefer to not have tailored jeans either…

    In terms of dress pants, I have slumped to buying Dockers Classic Fit a size too big because they cover my bubble but and take away the “pocket wings” that I am constantly battling, but I feel like the guy in the picture at the top of this post. I think I would be better off biting the bullet and buying a few pairs of fully tailored pants. Do you have any preferred dress pant makers? I work as an engineer and our dress code Mon.-Thurs. is “business casual,” i.e, khakis and a polo/sport shirt.

    Any help would be great!


  7. james on

    Question about the rise of pants, chinos in particular since I tend to wear those a lot, is there a recommendation for how much excess fabric should be in the crotch? I mean at what point do you get droopy crotch syndrome and the pants just don’t look fitted properly?

  8. jarrod on

    Thank you for this. I have lost 120 pounds and nothing fits like I use to buy. So I gave it all away and started over. the hardest thing is buying pants. I feel my pants now and that is new, i use to wear baggy. Now I am wearing straight legs, not sure the slim ones I like quite yet, but the break part cleared up a lot. I am now needing to buy jeans. I love chinos, but are jeans really necessary?

  9. Shilo Watts on

    I have a large penis, and find that if I wear low rise, the friction gives me an erection. Especially if I am looking at young boys.

    Any advice on how to improve this?

  10. rising_up on

    Hi Barron. It seems like this article came out a couple of years ago, but I just found it. Maybe you can help. Off the rack pants always have a rise that is too tall for me. They tend to hit at or above my belly button. I have tried on everything I can find. What can I do?

  11. IamWroth on

    I don’t get it. What’s the problem with bootcut jeans? I find that I can’t even put on skinny or slim jeans and the straight leg ones just don’t seem to work for me. They’re too tight around my ankles, which means they don’t fit around the tops of my shoes and they make my feet look huge. I don’t really like the clown shoes look.