Jeans and trousers

The step-by-step guide to finding jeans that fit

The step-by-step guide to finding jeans that fit

Recent research shows that British men spend £1,700 on jeans in their lifetime, but only wear two pairs regularly. Why? Probably because those are the only two pairs that fit just right. Well, no more. The perfect-fitting pair of jeans shouldn’t be some elusive Holy Grail that you can only find through trial and error.

“Your jeans are like a wardrobe Swiss Army Knife,” says Thread stylist Luke McDonald. “Most guys wear them more than anything else they own.” But only if you love how they fit, and their cut chimes with your lifestyle.

When we talk about denim 'fit', we mean two things: first, that they're the right size; second, that they're the right shape. Skinny jeans fit differently to straight legs. Denim with elastic in is more forgiving than raw selvedge. And a pair of jeans designed to be rolled over boots will run longer than a cropped pair that flash your ankles.

But despite these differences in style, the approach to finding a pair in the right size are remarkably similar. Follow these four steps to find your perfect pair, every time.

Stick to a specialist

Every brand seems to make jeans, but Luke recommends sticking to denim specialists such as Lee, Levi, Edwin, Neuw or Nudie. “It’s like going to a shoe company for a pair of dress shoes. This is what they do. They’ll have more fit options, too.

“If you go for a pair from a fashion company, there’s a fairly good chance that style won’t be done year-in-year-out. At a denim specialist, once you've found a pair of jeans that fit, they'll probably still be available once you've worn a hole in them.”

Measure yourself

Yes, you might think you know your waist size, but when was the last time you actually checked?

For straighter, looser fits (which tend to have a higher waistband) wrap the measuring tape at belly-button height. Don't breathe in – you're only fooling yourself. If you prefer a slim or skinny fit, drop the tape a couple of inches, nearer to your hips but above your buttocks.

Trouser measurements come in inches, so make life easier for yourself by following that. An example: the 30x32 label means a 30-inch waist, with a 32-inch length measured at the inseam (your crotch to the hem).

Think in threes

Even when they're working in inches, not all denim brands cut their jeans to the same size. A 34-inch from one company might be more generous than supposedly the same size from another. Which means that when you're experimenting with a new brand, it's worth picking up a pair either side of the waist measurement you think will fit.

To make that easier on your wallet, that's why we offer free returns and try now, pay later. That way, you don't have to fork out until you've found the perfect fit.

Take them for a spin

Your jeans are finally here, and you’re ready to try them on. Just make sure you’re not doing this after a big meal, as you want it to be an accurate fit. Wear them with the clothes and shoes that you would normally pair with jeans, and then stand in front of a full-length mirror.

Feeling very snug? Size up. Conversely, if the denim has a lot of stretch then that’s going to get baggier so take that into account. Note: if they’re raw denim, they’re also likely to stretch a size or half a size.

“Movement is really important,” says Luke. “Can you move comfortably in them, sit down, walk around, and tuck in your shirt? Also, how does it look with a jacket on? In terms of the leg, think of them as any other trousers. That is, they should kiss the top of the shoes, you never want it to pool on the tongues.” That's where a roll-up comes in handy or, if you prefer a clean look, a tailor.

Areas you should pay special attention to include the waist, the seat (you don’t want bagginess here), and whether there’s enough room in the crotch. Some jeans don’t have much of a distance between the crotch and the waistband so if it feels a bit tight, it’s definitely going to get worse.

“You can get away with a belt if you’re in between sizes as the trousers are casual, but too much of a gap and you’ll get bunching when you use a belt. That ruins the line. Generally speaking, wearing a belt should be an aesthetic choice, not a need.”

Luke’s picks

Levi’s 501 Original Fit is the apex. For heritage, authentic denim, try Edwin ED-55 in selvedge. Or for guys who preferer something modern and slim-fitting, there's Neuw Denim Iggy or Nudie Jeans Thin Finn.”


Words: Theresa Harold
Illustration: Calum Heath