The one piece of clothing you probably wear every day is your favorite pair of jeans. If it was up to me it would be the only pant in my closet. You can wear them out in the yard, you can wear them to work, and you can dress them up with a blazer. And they last. If you take care of your jeans they can bring you many years of use. They’re one of the only clothing items that actually get better as they age. So if they’re going to be with you for such a long time you want to make sure they look great.
In our Men’s Jean Wardrobe Essentials Guide we’re going to show you what jean details to look for, what kind of washes are available, what kind of cuts to look for, how to get the best fit for your body type, our favorite jeans to buy, and outfit ideas for lt blue, medium, and dark wash/selvedge jeans. Whew, that’s a lot so let’s get started.
1. Jean Details
The Zipper Closure
I know levis made 501 button fly jeans popular, but my advice is to stay away from button flys. They’re a pain in the ass. Zippered jeans lay better and are much more efficient. When you’re trying to get in and out of the john quickly there’s not a better friend than a zippered fly.
If you want to look really cheesy get a pair of jeans with a ton of intricate stitching on the pocket. As far as Muted Style is concerned my advice is to go for a clean thread pattern on the pocket. You also want to make sure the pockets are sized appropriately for the pant and your body type. Not too big or too long.
Most pants are going to have two types of stitching. Either a contrasting yellow or gold stitch that you see on most Levis or a blue tonal thread for an invisible stitching look. The former is most popular but either one works.
The Cuffs & Hem
I like jeans with a small cuff or no cuff with a quarter break. A small cuff is pretty much required when wearing selvedge jeans. One thing I absolutely hate though is the over the top hipster look with huge cuffs.
2. What kind of wash or rinse?
I’ve started coming around on light wash jeans. This type of jean is very light in color and has been through a longer washing process than a classic washed jean. These jeans go great with grey, beige, white and navy colors and look great with V-Neck Sweaters and Oxford Dress Shirts. Check out our outfit idea for lt blue jeans at the bottom of this article.
Most of the jeans in my closet are a classic wash. These are the jeans I wear most weekends when I’m going for a more casual look. This jean his gone through a longer cold wash process to remove more indigo color creating a mid slightly worn blue color. This also provides a softer jean when compared to raw denim. These jeans go great with pretty much anything.
If you don’t want to take years to break in your jeans and want the worn-in look then you’ll need to get a vintage wash. Besides the wash process, this kind of treatment usually requires some type of scraping or grinding to help with the aging process. This type of jean can cost more due to the labor involved in distressing the jeans. This type of wash will go great with your favorite pair of Red Wing work boots.
Dark Rinse jeans are one step below raw denim. The idea behind this type of wash is to soften the denim while removing the least amount of dye. This gives you the look of Raw denim while making it much more wearable. These type of jeans go great with a navy or grey blazer and give you a really clean look.
Raw or Dry
For all you hipster bros these are the jeans you’re looking for. They’re unwashed and are often rigid and rough to the touch. This type of jean will take forever to break so you’ll have to wash them by themselves during the break-in period so they don’t bleed onto other clothes. They go great with a good pair of work boots, jean jackets, and denim and plaid shirts.
Just say no. This type of wash was popular back in the day. I hated it then and I hate it now. Don’t wear it. If you’re still interested, the look is achieved by washing the jeans with pumice stones that have been soaked in bleach.
3. The Different Jean Fits/Cuts
Also known as the cut, the fit of a jean goes by different names based on the company you buy them from. But most brands have some version of the ones I’ve listed below. Estimated leg opening size is based on a 32/32 pant size. Smaller jeans with have smaller openings and vice-versa for larger waist pants.
Skinny Fit: ~13.25-13.50″ Leg Opening
Otherwise called the Rocker Jean. These jeans are for skinny guys with skinny legs where the jeans won’t look painted on. These jeans do not look great on the vast majority of guys. For the purpose of this article, I’ll cover all of the cuts but the majority of guys should stay with slim or straight leg fits. Levi’s 510’s are a great example of the skinny fit.
Slim Fit: ~”14.50″ Leg Opening
I’m about 5′ 10″ and 180 lbs, with larger above average legs and butt. I’m by no means thin and I still wear slim jeans. Slim Jeans are slim through the thigh with a little more room than skinny jeans, tend to sit lower in the waist, and are tapered through the lower leg. For me, this is the perfect fit. This jean silhouette is also how I like my dress pants. When pinching at the thigh you should be able to pull only about a 1-“1.5” of material. Most regular sized guys will wear this cut. Levi’s 511 jeans are the perfect example of a slim fit jean.
Straight Taper Fit: 14.5-15.5″ Leg Opening
This jean is straight from hip to knee with a slight taper below the knee. It’s roomier in the thigh and is a great jean for athletes and guys with thicker legs and glutes. The levis 508s are a great representation of this type of jean.
Straight/Classic Fit: ~16-17″ Leg Opening
As the name indicates straight or classic fit jeans are basically cut straight down from the hip to the ankle. Again there’s a little more room than slim jeans in the thigh and much looser below the knee than the slim or tapered fits. Straight fit jeans are great for larger guys who would otherwise look unbalanced in a tapered or slim fit jean.
Relaxed/Athletic Fit: 17-18″ Leg Opening
If you’re an athlete and are doing a ton of squats or you’re an extra large guy this is the cut for you. If you’re a normal sized guy stick to the slim and straight fits. Jeans in this category are pretty roomy. Full through the seat, thigh, and leg areas. If you’re wearing this type of jean they need to sit up on your waist or just below. Now for some brands, there is a slight difference between athletic and relaxed cuts. Athletic fits will have a slight taper in the leg while the relaxed fit will have a wider leg.
4. The Rise Explained
One of the biggest things to take into consideration when buying a pair of jeans is rise. Back in the day when I would be jeans the only two things I considered were the waist and inseam measurements. I now know fit/cut is important and so is rise. In this section, I’ll explain what rise is and how rise affects the fit of your jeans.
What is rise?
Why is rise important?
Rise determines where your jeans sit on your waist. The rise can either be a benefit or a detriment. Let’s say for instance you have a longer upper body and short legs. You would not want to wear low rise jeans because they would make your legs look even shorter. Further putting your appearance out of balance. In this situation, a normal rise pant would be the most appropriate. A normal rise would bring the waistline higher bringing the upper torso and the legs into balance.
Types of Rise
First I want to go over a couple of things. For the purposes of this section when I refer to low rise I’m not referring to the length of the front rise. I am specifically talking about where the jeans sit on the waist/hip. When referring to the length of the front rise I will use the terms regular/mid, short, high.
Most modern men’s jeans have a rise of 9-11.25. But the cut of the jean can have a major impact of where it sits at the waist or hip. For example, Levis 511 jeans which are low rise and sit at the hips below the waist, have a 10″ front rise.
The short rise measures between 7″-9″. They can be cut to sit at your natural waist or a low rise that sits on the hips. As you would expect, short rise jeans are great for guys shorter than 5′ 9″. If used for this purpose the jean should be cut to sit at the natural waist.
On the flip side, you have high rise jeans that have a rise that measures higher than ten inches. These pants are great for guys who are over six feet tall and want to stay in balance with a jean that fits at their waist. Short guys should never wear high rise jeans. They need to stay with a short rise jean or have a regular rise jean tailored to fit their proportions.
5. How Should Jeans Fit?
This is going to be some straightforward advice. Just buy the right size. Most guys tend to buy jeans that are too big. I know my initial thought when buying jeans is to be as comfortable as possible. But I know when I go larger the extra fabric makes my legs look fatter and out of shape. Also, these larger jeans tend to fall down without a belt and constantly show plumbers crack. If this is the case for you it’s time to get some better fitting jeans.
When you hit the store you shouldn’t be able to put more than two fingers in your jeans. If you’re like me you may have to size up to fit your butt into the pants. If that’s the case you’ll just need to get those bad boys tailored. Best scenerio when trying on any clothing is to “Pull 3” – your size, a size below, and a size above.
For more information check out our fit guide
5 Of The Best Mens Jeans For Any Budget
For more buying options check out our Best Men’s Jeans Style Guide
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Budget-Friendly Men’s Jeans
3 Outfit Ideas – How To Wear Men’s LT. Blue, Med. Wash, and Dark Wash Jeans
Outfit #1 – LT Blue Men’s Jeans
1. Farnol Everyday Twill Trench ($92)
2. Alex Mills Overday Oxford Shirt White ($160)
3. Farnol Everyday Cashmere Crewneck Sweater ($128)
4. Bonobos The Blue Jean Elkhart Medium Wash ($128)
5. Oliver Cabell Rennes Arctic ($188)
Outfit #2 – Medium Blue Men’s Jeans
Outfit #3 – Dark Wash Men’s Jeans
1. J. Crew Ludlow Slim-fit suit jacket with double vent in Italian worsted wool ($425)
2. J. Crew Ludlow stretch two-ply easy-care cotton dress shirt in solid ($70)
3. JBrand Tyler Taper Fit in Rasalas ($228)
4. J. Crew Mercantile Knit Tie Navy ($22)
5. J. Crew Mercantile Linen Pocket Square ($12)
6. J. Crew Ludlow Balmoral Shoes Black ($288)
7. Bulova Men’s 96B104 Stainless Steel Dress Watch ($82)