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How Tight Should Men’s Pants Be?

April 29, 2020

Modern trends towards athleisure wear and slim-cut pants have made slimmer-fitting pants the norm. But that doesn’t mean that tight is right. Men’s pants come in many different styles, and each of these styles has its own particular cut. The right fit and degree of tightness for a pair of wool dress pants aren’t going to be the same as for a pair of cotton and spandex athleisure chinos. 

To wear your clothes properly you need to understand something about the style of pants you’ll be wearing and how they should fit on your body. If you push yourself into a pair of skinny pants that don’t fit your body, you won’t be doing yourself any favors and you certainly won’t be creating the positive impression you want to with the people you hope to influence. 

The Elements of a Proper Fit

Getting the right fit for your pants means that you need to pay attention to these five points. No matter the style of pants, all five of these will come into play at some point when you’re looking for the proper fit.  

Waistband

Most guys notice fit here more than anywhere else, especially if they’ve been spending too much time behind a desk and not enough time at the gym. Be sure you can tuck your shirt in easily and avoid having the waistband be so loose that you need a belt or drawstring to keep your pants up. 

Front and Seat

This crucial area, between the waistband and the upper thighs, is one of the keys to a well-fitting pair of pants. The rear shouldn’t be baggy and you shouldn’t have extra fabric bunching up in the front when you sit down. 

Rise

Rise refers to where pants sit on your hip. Low rise pants ride on the hip bones while high rise styles rest on the waist. Regardless of where the rise on your pants is, you’ll want to get the fit right here. If the fit at the rise is too loose, you’ll have extra fabric in the front and seat. If the fit here is too tight, you’ll have trouble moving freely. The trick is to find a pair with a flat front and flexibility. Even when going with slim-cut pants, leave enough room here — otherwise, you’ll be constricted and uncomfortable. 

Cut

Loosely speaking, the cut is how the legs of your pants hang on your body. If the cut is too loose, you’ll look short and stumpy. If the cut is too tight, the legs will bulge out at your thighs and calves. Aim for a straight line down your legs that’s form-fitting but not clingy. 

Inseam

You can’t talk inseam without talking about the break — the fold above the hem of your pants. For casual pants, steer away from a break, since you want a clean, slim-fitting line. For formal dress pants, a small to moderate break is more common. 

Let’s Talk Styles

The truth is, how tight your pants should be depends on the kind of pants you’ll be wearing. The fit of a pair of fine wool dress pants you wear to the business meeting is going to be different than it is for the pair of classic fit jeans you pull on for a trip to the local pub. Pay attention to a few key points with each type of pants and you’ll have the right fit with every style you wear. 

Khakis and Chinos

Khakis and chinos are versatile pants, ready to mix and match with a variety of shoes, shirts, and outerwear. It’s no surprise that they occupy a place of prominence in the wardrobes of many men. Unfortunately, a lot of these guys don’t have the fit quite right. Look around carefully and you’ll notice plenty of examples of droopy khaki pants and clinging chinos. Pay attention to these keys to get the right fit.

  • Waist and seat. These pants shouldn’t ride high on the waist. Aim for the waistband settling in right around the middle of the hip bone without requiring a belt to hold them up. The seat should conform to your butt without feeling tight or being saggy.
  • Cut. The fabric of these pants should fit closely around the thighs without feeling like it’s grabbing at the knees when you walk or squat. Generally, chinos and khakis should have a bit more room in the thighs than well-fitting jeans. 
  • Break. Chino pants and khakis should have no break or only a very slight one. They differ from the more pronounced break you’ll find with dress pants in that regard. 

Jeans

Jeans are more complicated than you think! There are a variety of cuts and styles of jeans available and it’s easy to get lost in different styles and descriptions. But there are a few things to keep in mind that will help you find the most flattering pair of jeans for your body. 

  • Waistband. The waistband of your jeans should be lower than with khakis or chinos. Aim to have the waistband ride low on the hips, resting just at the top of your butt, about three or four inches below the navel.  
  • Cut. The ideal is a slim fit all the way down the leg which means you may need to look for a tapered fit if you have larger thighs. Be sure you don’t have extra room in the seat. 
  • Break. It’s OK to wear your jeans a little longer than you would with chinos or khakis. A longer inseam lets you turn up the cuff and a bit of a break looks good when worn over boots. 

Athleisure

Athleisure pants have added a whole new wrinkle into selecting and fitting men’s pants. Athleisure bottoms run the gamut from relaxed sweatpants to track pants to athletic cut chinos, like the Willy California 404 4-pocket pants.  What kind of fit guidance should you look for with such a wide variety of pants? 

  • When in doubt, go slimmer. The synthetic and spandex blends used in quality athleisure move with your body so you don’t need a lot of slack in your clothing to stay comfortable. 
  • Know your activity level. To one guy, athleisure means pants ready for a brisk morning run in jogger pants followed by coffee and brunch. To another, athleisure means falling asleep on the couch during the football game. If you’re the active type, choose pants with performance features like a gusseted crotch for full range of movement. 

Dress Pants

Dress pants or suit pants can vary a great deal in fit depending upon the cut of the suit. As a general rule, dress pants have a more relaxed fit than men’s casual or athleisure pants. In addition, there are many details to consider with dress pants like pleats, cuffs and more. Getting the right fit can be a bit overwhelming. 

  • Consider working with a pro. You’ll benefit from working with the staff at a good men’s clothing store when you’re shopping for dress pants. Their staff and tailors will know how to find the right fit and style for you plus make the necessary alterations. 

The Right Fit Makes the Pants Right

So you thought that pants were all the same? If your goal is to look good in whatever you wear, now you know differently. Getting the right fit for the right pants means paying attention to the details of how you’ll wear each pair and understanding a little bit about the construction and tailoring of each style. When you do that, you’ll be on the way to getting the right look — well-fitted, and ready to roll!

Check out Willy California for athleisurewear that’s innovative, active and lets you do your own thing.