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How to buy a pair of jeans that actually fit you

Because you keep getting it wrong and can't be trusted to do it yourself

How to buy a pair of jeans that actually fit you
07 September 2017

Used to be that if you were wearing jeans that were anything other than Levi’s you’d get funny looks, like they were about to fall down your ankles or like someone had cut the groin and arse off them without you knowing, leaving you to cut about town in a pair of denim chaps.

Those days are long since gone, thankfully, and now there are plenty of options open to men of all shapes, sizes, and - most importantly - budgets in a range of styles and cuts. No longer are your options limited to a pair of Kevin Smith wideboys, some Simon Cowell heel-botherers, or bollock-destroyingly-tight jeggings that are an indecent exposure case waiting to happen.

But you as you know: with great choice, comes great responsibility… and for real, there’s nothing worse than a shite pair of jeans. Here are a few handy things to keep in mind next time you feel like your denim game needs a re-up.

orSlow 107 Ivy Fit Jeans (via Oi Polloi)

Go straight

I know it’s tempting to fuck with the fit: to go “Ooh, carrot!” or “Ooh, tapered slim!” or “Ooh, cigarillo supreme!” but really, straight cut or slim-straight cut are where it’s at. It’s suitable for the, uh, huskier gentleman and as long as you’ve got the length right, won’t leave you looking like it’s 1998 and you’ve left the house to buy the new The Offspring tape. The wider leg works well with pretty much anything from boots to Vans, and allows you to walk without doing that kind of evil waddle Russell Brand used to do in his sprayed-leg Ponderland days. Look out for designer brands like orSlow (above), Our Legacy, and APC as well as high-street brands doing, ahem, “versions” of the same – Cos and Uniqlo being our favourites. 

Check the inseam

Okay, let’s get real: if you’ve got short legs, just fucking say it. Just admit it and get over it. Vomit and move on. I am a short-legged dude and the moment I accepted that the inseam I was most comfortable with was between 32-inch and 28-inch, it was a revelation. No longer did I sweat over the amount of rolls I needed, leaving the final roll thicker than a my forearm. I measured my own inseam - groin to ankle - and then I knew: 30-inch was my sweet spot. A few inches either side is okay - you can roll or rock a crop - but knowing is way better than not knowing or worse, living with jeans that bunch around your ankle like you’re a dad in All Bar One.

One of my favourites: Royal Dry Cleaners off Exmouth Market. (via Google Maps)

Get a tailor

And when we say ‘get a tailor’ we don’t mean ‘find one of them butler dudes who measures your nuts with a tape and says ‘EX-cellent choice, sir!’ when you say ‘Uh… the blue one’’. No, we mean, ask in-store for recommendations for tailoring – many will have an in-store service or a preferred partner (Uniqlo even do it in-house for free, and their jeans are ace) – or get brave and ask a dry cleaner you trust. A quick Google search of your dry cleaner will give you a decent record of reviews of people who were brave before you were. God bless these intrepid style travelers. People have been tailoring jeans for the best part of a century: they’ve got this. You can trust them. Pay extra attention to the amount of material you want removed below the ball of the ankle: get this right and the rest will follow, allowing the material around the knee to flow much more neatly.

Don’t fall for selvedge

While it’s nice to have a nice pair of thick, selvedge denim jeans – and nice pairs are really nice – they are – like extra guacamole in a burrito place - often not worth the extra money. What ‘selvedge’ actually means is just a bit more complete stitching around the edging of the denim: ‘selvedge’ is literally a corruption of ‘self edge’, a process in the manufacturing that stops everything unraveling. It’s nice but not usually necessary: if you’ve got the budget, lucky you, go get some but remember that it’s a big commitment: they’re often heavy and constricting, stiff and prone to bleeding. And while they’ll grow into a great pair with time, you’ll likely be sick of the sight of them before you’ve even begun to wear them in. Instead, check for what feels like a nice denim with your finger. If it feels good, it usually is good.

An example of some low-quality weft and lockstitch. Look at it. Shameful. (via iStock)

Check under the cuff

Grab the leg - like the feel of that denim? Mmm-hmm. Okay, continue - and roll back the cuff, exposing the stitching on the inside. Consider it like the tongue of the jean: like how doctors can tell all sorts of shit from how your tongue’s looking, the inside of the ankle cuff often tells you what you need to know about the pair. Check for quality of stitching (favour banded chain stitch over the loop-ier lockstitch but quality is the most important bit), neatness of the inseam, and colour-matching: nice quality denim (the blue gear, anyway) will usually have a blue/grey colour to the weft when you flip it up, whereas less nice quality jeans will have a poorer quality weft and/or identical colour to the outside. (There’ll always be exceptions to the rule, but if in doubt, listen to me.)

Buy what feels right

I… I literally cannot stress this enough. Try them on in the shop. Where possible, try them with something that you’d usually wear jeans with (say, a t-shirt or some trainers or whatever). Do stuff like try and put your hands in your pockets when you put them on. Try putting your phone in your pocket and then removing them. If there’s a chair, sit on that. Maybe pop into a squat or touch your toes. Where does the arse of the jean go? Is it in line with your actual arse? Where does the seam of the groin stop? Is it a natural fit or is it cutting your genitals in half? Get this shit out of the way when you’re in the changing room, and avoid an uncomfortable pair of jeans you’ll blow the crotch out of later. Take a size up or down with you if you need to, just for comparison.

Use the Buddy System

And if you’re lucky enough to have one, take a mate. This is the Buddy System. It’s a two-point verification process: while, as previously stated, ‘if it feels right, it usually is’, the word ‘usually’ is key: there will be times when it looks utter, utter trash and you’ve been so blinded by the lights of the claustrophobic cubicle and the sweat dripping down your back and into the crack of your arse that your judgement has been impaired. This is when you need a friend whose opinion you respect. You will show them your new outfit – pre-purchase – and say ‘Ey?’ and tilt your head like a dog. ‘What do you reckon, then?’ And BELIEVE THEM IF THEY SAY ‘EH… I DUNNO…’ OR THEY JUST QUIETLY NOD THAT THESE ARE NOT RIGHT FOR YOU OR YOUR WEIRD LEGS. Why would they lie to you? They wouldn’t wanna hang out with someone with bad jeans: nobody does.

There are plenty of jeans in the sea, my friend. Go try on another pair.