Deconstructing Jeans: Fit, Cuts, & terms to know

Deconstructing Jeans: Fit, Cuts, & terms to know

Do you struggle to find a pair of jeans that fits properly? I know the feeling. Hand sanded, Acid wash, tapered cut, regular fit or slim or trim or tailored… – what does it all mean? When I started this business over a decade ago, much of it was knew to me too- a foreign language it was my new job to become fluent in! The world of jeans seems to be filled with so much jargon that you’d be forgiven for taking a specialised dictionary along with you when you shop for jeans. If only there was such a dictionary… " data-orig-src="" alt="2 blokes wearing some trendy jeans" width="1024" height="683" /> Well, now there is! I’ve demystified all of those confusing words that you find associated with jeans right here. Bookmark this page so that you can make use of it next time you’re shopping for jeans online; and here’s a pro tip: once you find a pair of jeans that really fits well, buy at least two pairs. Trust me!


The ‘fit’ of jeans basically refers to how tight or loose they are, and it can be broken down into three categories:

Slim fit

As you would expect, these jeans are the tightest fit. The seat has a small amount of fabric, so it will really hug your butt. The thighs are also narrow. Slim fit jeans are generally best on men with a slim, trim build. You may also find these referred to as trim fit, tailored fit, or sometimes skinny. A word of caution on “skinny” descriptors: the last few years have seen the hipsters among us go for jeans that SUPER DUPER slim (for the guys who somehow don’t need to eat…or breathe) – unless you are just such a super slim guy, avoid jeans that are marked “super skinny” or “ultra slim” or similar.

Regular fit

These jeans are more forgiving, with more room in the seat and the crotch. As the name suggests, it’s the fit that most men go for.

Relaxed fit

The most forgiving and loosest fit of all, relaxed fit jeans have the most fabric in the seat, widest thighs, and a longer rise than most jeans. They’re popular with big men, as well as guys who have a really atheletic or muscular build: ie. a well-developed butt and large thighs due to working out, and who otherwise find it difficult to fit into regular jeans.


The word ‘cut‘ can pretty much be replaced with the word ‘style‘ when referring to jeans, and it is used to describe the way the legs of the jeans look.


The best way to describe the shape of these jean legs is by the style’s other name – ‘taper’. The shape tapers from the thighs down to the hem of each leg, creating a figure hugging silhouette. You may have also heard them called cigarettes, drain pipes or pencil legs. See my note of caution above


Also sometimes confusingly referred to as ‘regular’ (come on, jeans people, you used that word already in the fit category!), the straight cut refers to a classic jean shape – just straight up and down. Think James Dean.


This style of jean was created to sit over boots, as the name suggests. The top part of the leg is straight or sometimes slightly tapered towards the knee, and from the knee the jeans flare out slightly to accommodate boots. Depending on how much wider the jeans become at the bottom, they may actually be flares or bell bottoms, the iconic trouser shape from the 1970s which is always threatening to make a comeback…(Just say No!!! )

Wide leg

Similar to the straight leg jean in their style, wide leg jeans have – you guessed it – a wider leg. There is usually very little tapering or flaring, if any, involved in the design. " data-orig-src="" alt="close up of some high quality denim jeans" width="800" height="537" />

Useful terms:

Alongside the cut and fit, there are a few other terms you should look out for in the search for your favorite new pair of jeans.


The break is the fold that you see near the bottom of a well-fitted pair of dress trousers. With jeans, many men prefer to have several breaks for a more informal look. How deep the break in your jeans is depends on how long the pants leg is. As Nicholas Taverna at Primer Magazine says: “With jeans, it is preferred to go for a full break, which allows a person to turn up the cuffs of the pants if they please. Some people find it desirable to get even longer pants that develop multiple breaks, or folds, known as ‘stacks’.”


The ‘wash’ of a jean refers to how faded the color is, and the effect can either be applied all over the jean, or only in specific areas such as the knees or thighs. There are plenty of different types of wash to choose from.

  • Classic wash: These jeans tend to have feature little in the way of fading, and are the most versatile.
  • Stonewash: Soft in texture and light in color.
  • Acid wash: Similar to stonewashed jeans, but usually even lighter in color – almost white. There are often flecks of a darker color in the material. Quite popular in the 80s- as with bell bottoms, they probably need to stay away.
  • Dirty: If you’re going for a grungy look, these are the jeans for you. They’ve been washed with chemicals that create a dirty effect (think adding black and brown towns washed through and applied over the blue denim color), hence the name.
  • Distressed: Not technically a wash, but this effect is often used on stonewash or acid wash jeans. The jeans will feature holes and tears to add to the worn in look. Want to try this yourself? Men’s fashion blogger Jair Woo offers some great tips on how to distress jeans at home in this YouTube video.


The rise refers to the measurement from the center of the crotch up to the button at the waistband. Low rise jeans sit low on the hips, while high rise jeans sit higher up on the waist, and – unsurprisingly – mid-rise jeans sit somewhere in the middle The rise can also be adapted to make the jeans better suit men who are shorter or taller than the average, like we do here at Because. keep in mind that the rise, as measured on your person, is the measurement from crotch to your natural waist. So “low rise”- for example, is relative. A pair of regular, low rise jeans from your average store are meant to sit just below the waist of a guy with a regular rise. If you are shorter than average, those pants will sit higher on your frame (closer to your actual waist) – so you may have to buy down a size to get the right fit. For a taller guy, regular rise jeans might sit quite low (more than the manufacturer intended or that you will like, causing you to go up a size or two when buying “regular” , low rise jeans. Or again, just buy low rise jeans in your correct, actual waist size, that are specifically proportioned for your taller or shorter frame, for the best fit of all. Easy Peazy, right?


I hope that now you’re armed with this information, you’ll be better able to choose the right sort of jeans to really suit you and make you feel great. Once you’ve got your head around all of this jargon and lingo, though, it’s always worth finding a retailer that offers a tailored fit if you’re taller or shorter than the ‘average’, like here at Our jeans, just like our other garments, have been designed from start to finish with taller and shorter men in mind, and have been fully adapted right down to the smallest detail. Take a look at our popular ‘Jack’ jeans, for shorter men and taller men. 


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