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Denimology: What to look for when buying jeans

Several components go into finding a great pair of jeans. Waist size, length, rise, wash, cut, fabrics, pockets and pricing all go into making the right pair of jeans that flatter your body and work with your lifestyle.

Sizes and Lengths

Sailor Pants by Lux from Urban Outfitters

Sailor Pants by Lux from Urban Outfitters

Jeans are sized waist x inseam. If you find a pair of jeans that you like but are too long you can get them hemmed. Be sure to wash them before hemming as they tend to shrink up a quarter of an inch on the initial washing. When you go to get them hemmed wear the shoes that you will most likely wear with the jeans or that best represent the height of shoe you will wear. That way you ensure the length is perfect and it won’t drag or fray on the ground as you walk or be too short and look awkward. You can ask for “European” hemming and they will hem the original hem at the shorter length. This is more expensive so I would only recommend doing it if the original hem has some interesting details. The other downside of a European hem is it will be exposed if you roll up the cuff. If you find a pair that works with flats and heels consider getting two pairs and keeping one long and getting the other hemmed.

Rise: Low, Medium, High

Medium rise sits below the bellybutton and is a good day-to-day rise. It hides muffin tops better than low rise. The claim to fame for low rise is that it elongates the torso. Low rise is a younger look and you want to watch out when you bend down that the jeans do not droop and expose your derriere. High rise is a more dramatic cut. It makes the legs look longer and emphasizes a small waist. However if not executed properly it will make the stomach and hip area appear bigger.

Wash: Dark, Medium, Light, Coloured

Wide Leg Trouser Jeans by Lee

Wide Leg Trouser Jeans by Lee

A darker wash can make a pair of jeans look dressier, making them good jeans to wear to business casual events (if jeans are permitted) or for going out at night. They also can make the leg look slimmer (much like black is slimming). The super dark rinses can stain when they are new. Avoid wearing them with light colours (tops, shoes) until you have washed them a few times and every time you wash them do it inside out and in cold water. This will help keep the dark colour from fading. Medium washes are a good daily colour. Pick a wash that appeals to you and would match the tops and shirts in your wardrobe that you’d like to wear with jeans. Coloured jeans are trendy and as the candy colours move out the whites, blacks and greys are moving in for the fashionistas to experiment with.

Cut: Flare, Super Flare, Boot Cut, Straight Leg, Skinny, Ankle Length, Wide Leg

Different cuts look good on different body styles. You want to pick a pair of jeans that you feel comfortable in and feel confident in. This may mean ignoring the number on the waist band – the right fit is more important than the number on the tag. A flared leg will balance out a fuller waist as it will create volume on the bottom. The most flattering cut for an athletic or fuller leg is a straight leg – if it is not too tight around the thigh – think skimming, not hugging, or a wide leg. A boot cut is fairly flattering for most body types and as the name implies it has a bit more volume at the bottom.


Bootcut Jeans by Rock & Rebublic

Bootcut Jeans by Rock & Rebublic

The cuts determine the fabrics that make up the jeans. Denim is a kind of cotton and as such has little stretch. If the jeans are tight, look for ones with some elasticity, spandex or similar. The looser jeans can be made solely of cotton and still be comfortable. If the jeans have any elasticity you will want to avoid drying them in the dryer because the heat will break down the fabric and cause it to loose it’s ability to stretch. If after you air dry your jeans they are too stiff to feel comfortable you can tumble them in the dryer with no heat and they should loosen up. Denim can be worn more frequently without washing. Also referred to as “breaking them in”. Wash them as often as you feel comfortable or if they get dirty, stained, smell, etc.

Back pockets

You want your jeans to look good coming and going. That is why it is important to shop with a friend  who’s opinion you trust or go to places with mirrors that can let you see your backside. Back pockets can make your tush look smaller, bigger, higher, rounder, flatter all with their size and where they are positioned. Also ensure your tighter jeans cup your tush but do not ride up the crack. The yoke is the fabric between the waist band and the legs. The smaller the yoke the higher up the pockets will sit.

Premium Pricing

Jeans can cost under fifty dollars or in the hundreds and even thousands of dollars. A great pair doesn’t need to blow your budget but if you want designer make sure you are spending the money on a great fit and not a great name. You’ll get a lot more use out of them and hopefully your money’s worth that way. Remember “designer” doesn’t always mean “made better” so shop around and get to know the brands and styles that work for your body!

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One response to “Denimology: What to look for when buying jeans”

  1. […] Given the frequency I’ve been wearing this trench, these jeans, these flats and this belt I’m surprised this is the first time they’re all showing up in an outfit post. A pair of dark wash bootcut jeans are universally flattering and so easy to style. YES Tips: Finding the right pair of jeans. […]