Beloved by denim aficionados and sharp-shootin’ cowboys alike, straight-leg jeans are the most classic fit. They've been popular since Levi Strauss tailored his first pair more than 150 years ago, and are still as flattering and fuss-free as ever. But they don't just look good. For anyone who cycles, lifts or kicks, they offer all the thigh space that skinny jeans don't.

“While straight-leg jeans can suit all body shapes, they’re a godsend for guys with muscular thighs or broader frames,” says Thread stylist (and avid cycler) Freddie Kemp. “Not only do they allow more room for the legs, but they can also balance out your body if you’re top heavy.”

You'll also find straight-leg jeans are more versatile than skinnies or boot-cuts, sitting great with everything from trainers to chukka boots. If you go for a plain pair in a dark colour (here, we've picked Nudie's brilliant indigo straight-leg jeans, but we're also big fans of Levi's vintage-feeling 505s) you'll have something that goes with everything in your wardrobe, from sweatshirts to boots. And because they have such a traditional shape, they go great with relaxed blazers, without turning you into Jeremy Clarkson. 

Waist

Straight-leg jeans tend to sit a bit higher – nearer to your waist than your hips – so go for something that's snug enough that they won't drop down. Just because the legs are looser, that doesn't mean anywhere else should be. It's fine to wear a belt with them, but ideally that should be an aesthetic choice, not to protect your decency.

Seat

The extra fabric means anything too baggy looks extremely unflattering from the rear, so a good rule of thumb is to see if you can grab a handful of fabric. If you can, they’re too big. Lift your legs, then try a few squats – if your jeans feel like they're are going to rip, they’re too tight.

Thighs

“Here is where you should start to feel and see the difference from your other styles of jeans,” says Freddie. “There should be a fair amount of room all around the leg.” Stand up and pinch the fabric around your thigh between your thumb and forefinger. You should be able to grab around an inch of fabric.

Calves

Most jeans taper into the calf, either from the thigh or from below the knee. As the name suggests, straight-legs don't. “The calves should have more room than the thighs as the jean is cut straight all the way down,” says Freddie. If there isn't, you've either got the wrong style, or have the calves of a track cyclist.

Length

Length is a matter of taste, but there are some things to be wary of with straight legs. Because the ankle is so much wider than tapered jeans, if they're too long they can slip over your shoes, which is how you get those awful frayed ends at the heel. Avoid at all costs, either with a turn-up, like here, or by getting them tailored.


Words: Theresa Harold
Photography: Jon Cardwell
Styling: Freddie Kemp