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 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.)

“How do I know what to buy, then?”

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.

You’ll have to try on a few pairs in different sizes and across different brands to land on a brand, model, and size that fits you perfectly.

My recommendation: Start with Levi’s. They have tons of fits. 501CT is my favorite. Based on your body type and how that model fits, determine if you need to go skinnier (513, 511, 510) or wider (505, regular 501).

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.

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27 Responses

  1. Jfkjean on

    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.

      • Beefsalami on

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

        • Barron on

          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.

  2. Tommy V. on

    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).

    • Barron on


      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.

        • Barron on

          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.

  3. Bryan on

    Hey, Barron, I noticed your site from Joe’s mention on 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.


    • Barron on

      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 ( 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 ( Their pants are worth checking out, for sure.

      Good luck, and let me know what you find!

    • Barron on

      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.

  4. jay on

    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

    • Barron on

      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:

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

  5. erdie on

    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.

  6. David Scott on

    I Think the fit I like the most for slim jeans is H&M. Their jeans aren’t tight on me. I’m a short guy, so in order for my jeans not to have extra length and get baggy at the bottom, I have to get them hemmed.

  7. Peter on

    It really depends. There are certainly men who can pull off skinny jeans well (even the ones in the upper picture). I own simillar ones (even by Cheap Monday) and they fit me well since I am quite skinny myself. Also, I recommend to wear skinny jeans with sneakers such as Air Max’es since it gives them jeans a better overall look. I can’t really pull off jeans in combination with sneakers if they are not really tight at the bottom, since it makes me look like a 40 years old.

  8. rajushank84 on

    You mentioned Levis 511 skinny fit, but Levis 511 is not skinny fit. 511 is slim fit. 510 is skinny fit. Its nitpicking, but I thought I should point it out since thats what the whole article is about. Can you please correct it so that it will help anyone who goes shopping for slim/skinny based on the model numbers.

    • Genesis on

      I have a pair of 5 year old 511’s from levi’s that says “Skinny Jeans” bought out of the actual store. Who knows if they interchange the names but sometimes I see both slim fit skinny jeans in the same tag. I never wore anything else besides 511’s from levi’s. its just weird to me that it changes with time.