Disclaimer: This guide is according to what I’ve personally experienced, seen, and read. My style will undoubtedly come through but I hope you take this as merely suggestions and an educational tool to help you or your loved ones find a better fit when it comes to buying and wearing jeans. Whether you’re masculine-of-center or just love wearing “men’s” jeans, I hope this is informational and helpful. P.S. I’ve worked at American Eagle for six years and completely love my denim collection but you definitely do not have to check them out by any means.
It’s finally fall, well, maybe in some parts of the country, which means it’s time to put some pants on! Shopping for jeans is a source of anxiety or contention for many people all over the world. With so many different body types and the restraints of mass-producing products, it is more than common that finding the perfect fit is difficult for a lot of people. Today I’m going to be talking about key components of finding your next favorite pair of jeans. These include cut/fit, size, and fabrication. Sometimes the brand of the jeans can also be important in finding your best fit. At the end, I’ll try to give you some quick tips in how to style your outfit around your jeans and look your best.
The Fit, Sizing, Fabrication, and Brands
It’s pretty common knowledge that the most popular style of denim right now is still the skinny jean. (Heads up, we can use the word style interchangeably with fit or cut.) Brands usually have the same kind of cuts, even while maybe having different names for them. What you’ll really want to pay attention to are keywords like leg opening, taper, fabrication, inseam, and waist size. Some common cut names are Skinny, Super Skinny (or variations of such), Taper(ed), Slim, Straight, Boot Cut, Relaxed, etc.
Men’s denim is usually listed as Waist size X Inseam. For example, 28x30 or 32x32 are sizes that would be denoted on the jeans in store and online. Now, just like other items of clothing, sizing can vary from brand to brand. The thinner your frame, the easier it might be to find great fitting jeans. However, I have had a lot of taller/lankier customers that have just as much trouble finding jeans that fit as shorter or broader, huskier customers. Taller people usually have a little more luck in finding longer inseam options through brands’ online inventory. AEO sells jeans up to a 36-inch inseam and even up to a 44-inch waist. (I’m pretty sure those jeans come up to my chest FYI). Shorter folks like me who need a 28-inch inseam in combination with a larger waist size are kind of out of luck unless you’re willing to order custom made jeans from brands like Levi’s or have a great relationship with their local tailor. Great news is, cuffing and rolling up your jeans are still fashionable. You can also do pinroll cuffs or cut them yourself, if you’re handy like that. If you have the budget, a tailor can be a great friend to have as well, but it does tend to get expensive if you end up buying a lot of different washes. To be honest, I like the bunched up look on myself depending the denim. However, if you are shorter and wear a larger waist size, it can end up bunching too much and make even your slim jeans fit wider and baggier than they are so stay attentive to those details.
Over the past few years, companies have begun incorporating some women’s denim technology into the fabrication of men’s denim. There are new levels of flexibility in keeping jeans from sagging like the traditional denim of past decades. This can help you even size down in some jeans or try a slimmer cut because the fabrication’s stretch will be able to compensate for the usual tightness. Beware, depending on how tight you’re going, you could end up accentuating your hips, butt, thighs, and/or calves. If any of that is of concern, taking pictures in the fitting room will be helpful to make those determinations. If you’re open to it, also consider taking a friend you trust to give you helpful feedback in appropriate and truthful ways. Selvedge denim is still one of the coolest fabrications you could get in your denim. Warning, they’re also some of the most expensive fabrications of denim as well. The reason for this is in how they are made. Selvedge jeans are made from higher quality, denser denim rolls and are denoted by how they are stitched together. You can find if they’re selvedge in its flat color and on the outside edge if you cuff the jeans’ openings. It’s really interesting stuff if you’re down to Googling it. Selvedge denim is known for its stiffness and will normally fit tighter in your regular size so definitely be sure to try them on before purchasing them.
When trying to figure out what brands to buy, start with the popular places such as American Eagle, Hollister, Abercrombie, Zara, Forever 21 Men, H&M, Aeropostale (they filed for bankruptcy and closing a few stores so check out clearance sales), and PacSun (also filed for bankruptcy and now is run by a privately funded company). J.Crew, Gap, and Banana Republic are little more expensive and for a little bit of an older crowd, but still have great jeans. Any of your traditional department stores will also have a great selection of Levi’s if that’s a brand you’re interested in trying out as well. All these brands are going to fit differently so be prepared to have jeans in different sizes if you’re planning on buying jeans from a few of them. Streetwear brands like Supreme, Fear of God, Naked & Famous, etc. that are labeled as true to size could end up being tighter or looser depending on your body type so be careful when ordering online (always look up their return policies and fees).
Trying On and Buying
Wherever you go, ask for a sales associate that knows their denim best. If a store has a section that looks like it’s all denim, the sales associate in that room is most likely the well-versed “expert.” Usually the fitting room associates will also know what they’re talking about as well. Go up to them after having a quick look and be open with them. Let them know, yes, you are aware these are guy jeans (if you’re female-presenting), Yes, you know how you’d like them to fit or look. Tell them how you would like them to fit at the ankle, over your shoes, the fit on your thighs, and your waist. Since the names are always varied, the associates should be able to recommend the right fits according to those specifications. Let them know if you want a specific wash as well: dark, light, medium, black, gray, destroyed, distressed, bleached, flat, whiskered, etc. The more specific you are, the faster things will go in the store and fitting room.
Trying on can be an anxious process, sometimes disappointing, and potentially triggering. When planning a shopping trip, try to plan an outfit that will make things easier on you. If you have a specific style of shoes you wear most often or plan to wear with the jeans you are looking to buy, wear them to the store. Avoid layers, and wear tops that you would most likely pair with them as well. I wear Vans and Nike Frees most often so I wear Vans to most fit sessions. My boots also have a low profile against my ankle so most skinny jeans go over them. Slip-on Vans are the quickest and easiest shoe to wear without completely giving up on looking decent at the store. Wear clean socks and maybe deodorize your shoes if you’re self-conscious. It gets hot in those fitting rooms sometimes so put on some deodorant or cologne too. As you try on, hand-off anything that you just really hate. This helps de-clutter the room and gives you a chance to give feedback to the fitting room employee who in turn can help you find a better fit. If you like it, snap a picture in it so you don’t have to retry anything if you find yourself having to pick a between a few.
When making a decision, get what you felt the absolute most comfortable in. Sit on the floor, cross-legged, knees up, do a squat, do a lunge, sit on the chair if there is one. Can you breathe? Is everything feeling good? You like the look? Great, you’ve luckily found a great pair. I tell my customers all the time that if you’re even the least bit uncomfortable, it won’t be worth it because they’ll probably end up sitting in the corner with the tags still attached. Don’t waste your money. You’ll find the right pair, I swear, it’ll just take a little time and effort. Also, if you’re the type that just can’t always find your perfect pair, and you do find some you love, if the budget allows, get an extra pair. The worst moment is when you find out they don’t sell your favorite pairs of jeans after wearing them to oblivion. Luckily a lot of stores are still having sales on their denim, including AEO’s Buy One, Get One 50% off sale. (P.S. Some brands do sell similar washes and cuts every year, so don't fret, your favorite jeans could reappear on the sales floor in a year's time.)
Styling Your Jeans
Skinny jeans have been the prevailing popular style currently. If you like a little more room in the calves or thigh, go for a slim or slim straight. Anything wider is good for bigger thighs or bigger boots. GQ and various style journalists have been making the case that relaxed jeans are making a comeback. If you’re into that trend, just make sure you’re styling it correctly by rolling/cuffing/cropping them and pairing them with an athletic shoe or you’ll end up looking lost. Distressed denim is huge and so is the acid wash and zipper jean look (Thanks Hyper Denim, Fear of God, and Justin Bieber). Rip & repair is trendy too and that is where they’ll make a hole in the jean/fray it and then patch it underneath.
Pair any of these with long tees and distressed tees if you’d like. My basic advice is to pair light denim with darker colored tops and light tees with darker jeans. Layers are always a good way to stay warm and stay on trend. Try not to combine patterns that clash though. I like to stick to one pattern, and one solid, which keeps things looking nice without getting too busy. When in doubt, keep it simple with loose tees or if you’re trying to look more “built,” add an undershirt to help add padding/definition and/or cuff your sleeve to accentuate your biceps.
As far as shoes go, you can pair skinnier leg opening jeans with anything from Vans Sk8 Hi’s and Old Skool’s to Janoskis, Adidas Boosts, Yeezys, Chelsea boots, and more! If you go for that relaxed fit cuffed/cropped, try pairing them with Adidas Superstars or Stan Smiths. No show socks are great or wear cool pattern socks and show them off if that’s your thing.
Wow So Much Information
The same jeans won’t look the same on different people. Make them your own. Own your style. Own your body. Embrace your wardrobe. Repurpose old jeans to your benefit. DIY tutorials are everywhere, including YouTube. Make your own ripped-at-the-knee jeans. Take a razor to make your own frayed patches. Cut your own pair of crops (ask your sewing parent or friend to teach you how to use a sewing machine)! If a trend just doesn’t suit you, don’t feel like you have to follow the crowd. P.S. If you’re an extra skinny dude and still want a true skinny fit, don’t be afraid to check out a women’s skinny or jegging. Depending on your build, those styles could end up being the perfect tight fit all over. Clothes are only labeled for gender, that doesn’t mean you can’t make them work for you.
Denim shopping can be rough so I hope you found this helpful for this fall season and more to come. If you have any styling questions, feel free to contact me on social media at @yoomsters, email me at YoomiStylesYou@gmail.com, or come visit me at American Eagle in SoHo, NYC.
Best of luck!