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Every guy needs a good pair of jeans in their wardrobe. Jeans are a great fashion addition because they are so tough and versatile. You can wear them for more casual outings or pair them with a blazer and button-up when you need to be more formal.
If you are a short guy like me though, you know how tough it can be to find jeans that fit well (it’s hard to find any pants, to be honest). Either the inseam is too long, the jeans are too tight, or the pants legs just don’t sit right. It can be very frustrating when you are at the store and none of the pants that you pick fit right.
So we put together this comprehensive guide on buying jeans for short guys. Remember, just because you might be vertically challenged doesn’t mean you can dress with style. So let’s get into it.
How Should Jeans Fit?
So first, let’s answer the major question: how should jeans fit anyway?
We are way past the days of the baggy jeans. We tried that stuff in the 90s and we all saw how companies like JNCO turned out (not well).
In our opinion, most guys look good in slim fit or straight leg jeans, regardless of weight or size. Slim fit and straight leg jeans have a nice tapered fit that highlights the profile of the leg and sits right above the ankle. The inseam should sit comfortably against the leg but not dig into your crotch, and you should be able to sit and walk freely without restriction or discomfort.
Jeans should fit your figure but not be too tight. They cannot be too loose around the waist either. If your jeans are too loose around the waist then you will have to tighten your belt, which causes a big bunch of fabric around your waist. Trust us, that does not look good.
Slim vs Straight Fit
Let’s talk about the difference between straight leg and slim fit jeans. By all accounts, the two types of jeans are very similar. In a nutshell, the two names tell you how the pants are situated around the legs and how large the openings near the bottom are. The major difference between the two types is how large the leg openings are. Straight-fit jeans have about a 30% larger leg hole on average.
However, you need to keep in mind that these terms are relative and not used exactly the same by every clothing company. For example, some of the best clothing brands for short men combine aspects of both slim and straight-fit jeans. So no matter what the label says, you may have to resort to some personal experimentation to figure out what’s what.
The two main spots that affect the width of your pants are the seat, which is the part that goes over your butt and down your thighs, and the leg, which is self-explanatory.
In general, slim fit and straight fit jeans share roughly the same seat so you will get the same coverage and cling on your backside. With straight-leg jeans, the leg opening is about the same size as the opening at the knee while with slim-fit jeans, it is much smaller and fits tighter around the ankle.
Here are some other denominations of jeans and their fits:
- Regular fit: These are the ‘traditional’ jean fit and leave about 2-3 inches between your waist and the band. They are not too tight but not too loose and have a good amount of room and comfort.
- Relaxed Fit: Relaxed fit has a loose fit with a large waistband and large pants legs. These are also sometimes called loose-fit jeans.
- Taper fit: These kinds of jeans get narrower as you go from the knee to the ankle. Most of the time, slim-fit jeans have a tapered fit on the leg. These are a good choice of pants if you want a slim-esque git but have athletic thighs.
- Bootcut fit: This classic style of jeans have a slightly flared leg opening that is wider than the knee opening. The larger leg opening makes them good to wear with boots, and larger shoes, hence the name.
Keep in mind that these are just general designations and many jeans combine aspects of several fits. For example, you can have loose fit boot cut jeans or skinny fit tapered leg jeans. We know that all of this terminology might sound confusing but once you get used to what the different styles look like then you will see how it works.
Important Jeans Measurements
When it comes to your jeans, the two major measurements you need to keep track of are the waist size and the leg length/inseam. These are the two numbers that you see when you look at the tag on a pair of jeans in the department store. It has the Width and Length measurements.
For short guys, the problem isn’t the width but the length. Most jeans brands rarely make jeans below a 30in length, and even then they might be too small in other ways. Be honest, when was the last time you saw a big brand of jeans have a size with less than 28 inch length? Keep in mind that this length measurement does not measure the actual length of the entire pants. Instead, it measures the length of the inseam on the inside of your leg up to the inside of your thigh. So if you are trying to figure out what length pants you need, make sure you are measuring the inseam and not the outside of your leg to your hips.
There is also the concept of the break, The jeans break refers to the part that sits right above your ankle and makes some bunching. Depending on the jean’s style, there might be multiple bunching or none at all. The amount of bunching ultimately comes down to your personal preferences but we would recommend that if you are shorter, you should not for no bunching or maybe a half bunch, The thing is that excessive bunching the legs will actually make you look shorter than you already are. In contrast, a straight line through the leg will make you look taller, similar to how vertical stripes make people look slimmer.
The waist is one of the more important parts of your jeans that will determine how comfortable they are to wear on a day to day basis. When choosing a pair of jeans, you want to make sure that they can stay up without using a belt. Ideally, there should be no more than a quarter inch of give when you are sitting relaxed. Any more space in the waist and the fabric can start bunching around the middle.
You can tell if your waist is the right size with the sit test. If you sit down with your jeans and they dig into your waist and stomach, then they are probably too tight. Also, when sizing new jeans, keep in mind that they tend to stretch slightly over time so a very snug fit might loosen and become more comfortable as you wear them in.
While we are at it, we should talk about what your waist is. Despite what a lot of people think, your waist is not located right at your hips. Your waist is slightly above your hips, where the bones end and the flesh of your stomach begins. So when you are measuring your waist to figure out the right jeans size, make sure that you are measuring right below the navel, where your pants should sit.
Your hips are another important part that you need to size correctly. Your jeans need to fit over the widest part of your lower body after all, The problem is that the hips and waist of jeans might differ in that the waist fits but the hips are too small. If the hips of your pants are too small, then you run the risk of actually ripping them every time you bend over.
The problem is if the hips of the pants are too big, then the rest of the seat will just look saggy. Guys are normally not too concerned with how their butts look in pants, but you don’t want your hind to disappear entirely in folds of fabric.
The problem is that most pairs of jeans do not give an explicit hips measurement on the tags or labels so all you have to go on is the waist measurement. So you will have to subject your pants to the sit test. You should be able to tell pretty quickly if the hips are too small if you are restricted from sitting down or bending over. You want your pants to sit fairly snug when standing up while not being absolutely skin tight around your hips.
Jeans also have the ‘rise’ which is a measure of how high up your hips and waist that they sit. The rise is basically the measure between the inseam of the crotch and the edge of the waistband when measured vertically.
There are three different types of rise for jeans: low, mid, and high. Low rise jeans sit just above the hips and sit well below the navel. This style of jeans was popular back in the 90s and early 2000s but has fallen out of pace. Mid-rise and high-rise jeans seem to be more popular nowadays with men. Higher rise jeans can also be useful because they sit higher on the waist and can flatten the stomach.
For short guys, we recommend going with a mid rise. The added height will make you look taller and give your legs a more proportional look to your body. A high rise might make your legs look too long proportional to your body and a low rise will just make you look shorter. Ultimately, what you decide is purely up to you.
The key for short guys is to get pants with legs that are slim and make your legs look longer. That is why we highly recommend going with a straight or slim fit. These two types of jeans have leg openings that are the same size as the knee or smaller than the knee, which cuts down on bulky fabric.
We will say that you should stay away from jeans that have a larger leg opening than the leg. This kind of bootcut leg will make you look shorter with all the extra fabric.
There is also the option of cuffing the end of your legs. This is a viable option, even for shorter men. Just make sure that your cuffs are not too short and they are proportional to the length of your legs.
Real Denim: Worth it or Not?
Despite what many people think, not all jeans are made out of actual denim. There are a lot of brands that make their jeans out of cotton or other similar synthetic materials.
So let’s talk about what exactly denim is. Denim is technically a cotton by-product and is defined by its specific weave and textural characteristics. Denim is made by interweaving threads in a distinct pattern that creates the characteristic criss-cross of denim textiles. Denim is then washed with a special sandblasting process to give it its distinctive soft feel and touch. This is also how jeans get their color ranging from light stonewash to very dark blues and navys.
Denim was first used as a material in work pants thanks to its very durable nature. However, as time went on, people came to appreciate denim for its aesthetic as well as practical qualities. It is dense, tough, and a fairly good insulator for being a by-product of cotton.
There are also jeans made from cotton. As we explained earlier, denim is a type of cotton with a special finish and weave that is washed a specific way. Some brands will make their jeans from cotton with a different weave and use dye to get the color. These pants look and feel like denim but lack the durability and texture of the real deal.
In our opinion, denim is the superior material for jeans or cotton for two major reasons. First, denim is just much more durable. Denim jeans can last for years and will stand up to all kinds of wear and tear. The sign of good quality denim is how well they can hold their shape when not wearing them. Second, denim gets better the more you wear it. As you wear denim, you break it in and it slightly changes to fit your body. Real denim will change shape over time. Cotton is comfortable and breathable, but it is not as durable or as insulated.
The main downside of denim is that it can be cumbersome to wash. Denim is pretty absorbent so it gets heavy and damp when you get it wet. Denim will also shrink if you dry it in the machine on a hot cycle. As such, we recommend washing your jeans first then hanging them up to air dry. That way they will not shrink and they will maintain their overall shape.
Otherwise, we recommend that every guy have at least one pair of genuine denim jeans in their wardrobe. It’s just such a classic material that is hard to pass up.
Common Mistakes Guys Make With Jeans
1. Jeans Are Too Long
Perhaps the single most common mistake guys make with jeans is that they get them too long. This is especially a problem with short guys because large brand jeans brands often neglect to make styles for their shorter patrons. So a lot of short guys end up having to buy pants that are too long for them. The result is that the pants have a lot of bunch and the wearer looks shorter.
If cuffing them isn’t working, then you can always go and get them hemmed. Hemming removes the lower part of the leg so it is shorter and doesn’t do as much. This method can be difficult if you don’t have a tailor handy though. It also costs about $10-$20 to get a pair of pants hemmed as well.
2. The Rise Is Too Low
This is another common issue with short guys but often they buy jeans and the rise is much too low. When the rise of the pants is low it can make you look shorter than you actually are. Getting pants that have a higher rise will straighten your leg and make you look taller. Mid-rise jeans are best for short guys as they hit that sweet spot.
3. Other Details Are Off
Even if you do manage to find that pair of jeans with the magic 28-inch inseam, everything else on them can be off. For example, the waist might be the right size but the pockets are too low on your butt. Or it could be that the seat of the pants is too low as they were scaled to someone that is larger than you.
So one thing to keep in mind when you are buying jeans is to make sure that everything is placed correctly and fts well when you put them on.
4. Jeans are too Baggy
Another very common issue is that the jeans you buy are way too baggy. As you probably know, baggy jeans can make you look shorter than you are and can also make you look stockier. If you are trying to look more mature and slim up your look then you need to stay away from baggy pants. Short guys in baggy pants look kind of like kids playing dress up as there is just too much fabric.
Where Can I Buy Jeans for Short Guys?
We also put together this list of some of the best places to shop for jeans when you are vertically challenged.
Under 510 makes jeans specifically for shorter guys and offers a huge range of styles and sizes for shorter guys. The shortest inseam pants they have are 25 inches and they boast relatively affordable prices at just around $60. They also have a bunch of different colors to choose from as well.
Bantam Clothing is another popular brand among shorter guys and offers jeans with inseams as short as 26 inches. This Bantam Clothing is based out of the UK and Europe so we recommend them if you live across the pond and want to avoid any charges for buying from American brands.
Ash & Erie
Ash & Erie is another popular brand focused on fashion for shorter men. They offer jeans with inseams starting at 25 inches and make a wide range of styles. Ash & Erie also makes very high-quality clothing and is fairly expensive. The average pair of denim jeans costs about $158 at full price.
Peter Manning NYC
Peter Manning NYC makes clothing specifically for shorter men and makes jeans as one of its flagship products. You can get a pair of jeans with an inseam as low as 26 inches and offer skinny fit, slim fit, and classic fit jeans.
Uniqlo is a bit different in that they do not offer jeans with inseams as low as 32 inches. However, they offer free on the spot tailoring at any of their local stores. So if you live near an Uniqlo store, we would highly recommend checking out theirs jeans.
Finding a good pair of jeans as a short guy can be difficult. Thankfully it's not impossible though. As long as you know the lingo and how to examine jeans, you should be able to find a pair that fits your body. At the end of the day, what works for you is up to your preferences.