This in-depth guide to jeans for short men contains everything you need to know to wear jeans that fit and flatter your build (even if you're a shorter guy).
Regardless of your height, jeans might be the number one most important wardrobe staple any guy can own.
In this article, we’ll break down exactly what you need to know before you buy another pair of jeans.
What else gives you that sort of versatility?
But if they don't fit, you'll look like a sullen teen from the late ‘90s, especially if you're a shorter guy.
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On the other hand, if you buy too far into the skinny jean trend, you'll look like your pants are painted on. Not a good look, either!
Luckily, we're going to help you find that perfect balance. We'll talk about:
- How Jeans Should Fit
- Pants Break
- Cuffing vs. Not Cuffing
- Common Fit Problems
- Where to Buy Shorter Jeans
Let's dive in, shall we?
How Jeans Should Fit
At TMM, we’re strong believers that “slim fit” jeans are the best option for most guys.
Maybe you’ve never considered yourself a “slim” guy. A lot of us shorter gents are stocky, too. The big thighs and broad shoulders don’t seem like they’d do too well in anything “slim fit.”
Well, you’d be surprised.
Slim-fit jeans work for stocky guys, too. Oftentimes, relaxed-fit jeans cover the thighs but leave a ton of extra fabric around the calves. This just makes short guys look shorter (and stocky guys look stockier).
Many slim-fit jeans just taper toward the bottom, removing some of that extra fabric that’s only making you look shorter and stockier.
If you really do have m-a-s-s-i-v-e t-h-i-g-h-s then you'll want to check out athletic fit or tapered fit jeans.
What about skinny jeans?
If you aren’t a stocky gent and have what we call in the biz, “chicken legs,’’ you may want to check out a skinny-fit.
Skinny fits, as long as they’re not actually skin tight, visually lengthen your leg.
So, as a rule, remove as much fabric from the equation as you can without your jeans pulling tight across your skin.
Here, we have an example of Brock with a slim-fit pair of jeans on the left and a skinny-stretch pair of jeans on the right.
The most important thing to remember is to avoid baggy pants. First of all, they don’t work on any guy. But the damage is so much worse for shorter guys.
So keeping ‘em slim is our first rule, but how else can you tell which pair of jeans is going to be the perfect fit?
Let’s go from top to bottom and see what works best for you.
When choosing a pair of pants, you want them to stay up without a belt. Belts are great for an extra quarter or half-inch and there, but any more than that and the fabric will start to fold around the waistband.
If your jeans are too big, this will create odd-looking folds in the front and seat of your pants.
But while you don’t want to go too loose, you definitely don’t want to go too tight either. Ultimately, these jeans should be comfortable.
If your jeans push into your stomach when you sit down, they’re probably too tight. Doing the classic “unbutton the pants after dinner” move is best saved for Thanksgiving when you really go all-out. If you’re unbuttoning after that Chinese chicken salad, well, your pants are too tight.
Getting the right fit in the hips is critical. Your jeans need to fit around the widest part of your lower half.
If you get a pair of jeans that fit in the waist but are too tight on your hips, you risk having a major blowout every time you bend down to pick anything up (some of our tips are for style, others are for preserving your dignity).
Go too loose on the hips and your butt will essentially disappear into the extra fabric. Many guys already don’t have much rear-end to begin with, so the last thing you want to do is accentuate the saggy-butt.
The rise often goes overlooked, but it’s one of the most important measurements when getting a pair of jeans you love.
Until you really spend time learning about the measurement of jeans, the rise is just one of those je-ne-sais-quoi factors.
The front rise is the measurement from the waist to the crotch seam, and the back rise just starts from the rear of the waistband.
There are typically three types of rises: low, mid and high.
Low rise pants usually have around 8 inches of space between the crotch and waist, whereas high rise pants can have up to 12 inches.
We generally recommend going with mid-rise. Low rise just doesn’t work in a smart-casual wardrobe (but if you follow many Instagram accounts, you’ll see tons of super-buff guys wearing skin-tight low rise jeans all the time).
High rise jeans work well for older gents as they sit higher on the waist and can flatten the stomach.
Here at The Modest Man, we’re not really game for chasing trends.
Men in the ‘40s wore high-waisted dress slacks that were loose-fitting, but just 20 years later, Sonny and Cher were stomping around in their low rise jeans.
20 years after that, MC Hammer brought back the high rise look. Then Britney Spears and NSYNC took low rise to new limits.
So, if you can’t tell, in the world of fashion, there aren’t any set rules for what looks great.
We do think that style is timeless, though. So we generally recommend you stick with mid-rise pants.
The leg is the best place to cut out as much excess fabric as you can. We’re fans of slim fit jeans and even skinny jeans on guys with slimmer legs.
Even if you’ve never thought of yourself as a “slim” guy, you’d be surprised at how much taller and slimmer a pair of these jeans will make you look.
Look for a gradual taper from the thigh to the ankle. Keep too much bulk and you’ll end up looking shorter and stockier.
The idea is to have your pants match the shape of your legs. If your ankles are the size of your thighs, you have a medical condition. That’s not the sort of look we’re going for. The taper just matches more closely what your legs actually look like.
The Leg Opening
The leg opening is the diameter of the ankle of the pant leg.
From time to time, you may see that the measurement is of a circumference, though in most cases you’ll see it’s the number of inches of the ankle when your pants are laid flat.
Smaller leg openings mean more taper. If you’re wearing regular or relaxed fit jeans, you may find that the leg opening is the same as the width of the thigh. If that’s the case, you’re in extra fabric territory.
Generally, you want to look for a leg opening that is smaller than the measurement of the thigh. That ensures you’re getting a pair of pants that will slim your profile and lengthen your legs.
And remember, unless you’re a cowboy, stay away from leg openings that get wider. While they’re great for wearing over white platform patent leather boots with fish swimming in the heel, boot-cut jeans rarely look good in a casual outfit.
The “break” of your pants refers to the amount that extra fabric sits atop your shoes. Longer pants have more break, while shorter pants have little to no break.
There’s a whole spectrum on which you can figure out which pant-break you prefer. If you’re like The Modest Man, you have a few different pairs of jeans in varying sizes with varying breaks.
The spectrum looks like this:
Shorter guys should steer away from full break jeans but often don't. This is because most jeans come with a 30+ inch inseam (if not 32 or even 34).
This it problematic because full break tends to make us look even shorter. So you need to cuff your jeans or get them hemmed to a shorter length.
A slight break is a great spot to aim for. No break jeans are currently in fashion, so opting for that length will give you a cool and trendy look that's perfect for shorter guys.
Bottom line: you can't go wrong with slight break or no break, but stay away from full break and stacking.
Should you cuff your jeans?
Cuffing is a casual move, so it's not really appropriate for super formal settings (like a business casual lunch meeting, for example).
But if you like the look, go for it!
A lot of times you’ll hear the advice that cuffing your jeans makes short guys look shorter, but we disagree. Plenty of shorter guys do it all the time and look fantastic.
The key is to make sure the cuff isn't too big. Go with 1-2 inches, not 3-4 inches.
Common Jeans Fit Problems for Short Men
So many nation-wide clothing brands ignore us guys under 5’8”. If they didn’t, Brock never would’ve started this site in the first place.
All too often, shorter guys end up paying extra for alterations.
This is money well spent, but if you want to shop smarter, here’s what to watch out for when shopping as a man of modest height.
Issue #1: Jeans Are Too Long
You’ve probably seen it a thousand times. Most brands don’t make inseams shorter than 30 inches, so almost everything you pick up is too long.
Well here are three great ways to solve that problem:
- Cuff ‘em (fast, simple, easy)
- Hem ‘em (slow, complicated)
- Buy shorter jeans
Not everyone goes for the cuff look. Plus, you don’t want to buy a pair of jeans knowing you have to always have them rolled.
So you could get the hemmed at the tailor. It usually costs between $10 and $20 dollars, depending on where you live.
If you do get your jeans hemmed by a tailor, make sure you ask them to keep the original hem.
Of course, you could just get pants that fit right the first time. Here's a list of places to buy shorter inseam jeans.
Hopefully it'll help you find out which pair of jeans is right for you.
Issue #2: Details Are All Off
If you’ve never bought a pair of pants from a brand that specialized in clothing for shorter gents, you may never have noticed this one.
Even if you find that one magic pair of jeans in the mall with a 28” inseam, everything else is still scaled up to fit someone larger than you.
Have you ever had a pair of pants that fit otherwise but had pockets that were placed way too low on your butt? These problems can’t be fixed with a simple trip to a tailor.
So when you try on jeans in the fitting room or at home, make sure the details (like pocket size and placement) are right for your build.
Issue #3: Jeans Are Too Baggy
Unless your name is Fred Durst, steer clear of baggy jeans.
For us modest men, baggy jeans just make us look like we’re wearing somebody else’s pants, as if we got a hand-me-down from our big brother.
In the best of situations, baggy jeans hide your manly figure. In the worst of situations, baggy jeans make you look like a middle-school kid.
Our advice? Avoid relaxed fit jeans at all cost.
Issue #4: Rise is Too Low
Low rise jeans aren’t flattering for most body types. They look great for young guys under 25 who have six-pack abs and jacked pecs.
Low rise jeans also work great for taller guys with long legs and short torsos because they visually lengthen the torso.
The problem is, these jeans tend to make your legs look stubbier. This isn’t ideal for us shorter gents.
To make up for the shortness, some guys will hike up the waist, which just tightens things around the crotch… that’s even worse than looking like you have short legs.
Normal or mid-rise is the best option for most guys.
For guys over 45, higher rise jeans can also work out well. They often maintain a clean, straight line through the hip and can keep your stomach flattened, ultimately giving you more height.
Where to Buy Jeans for Shorter Guys
You deserve a pair of jeans that was built for your body type. Today, there are more options than ever for shorter guys to find the perfect pair.
See Also: Where to Buy Chinos for Short Men
Keep in mind, it's still hard to find shorter jeans in stores, so we highly recommend shopping online instead of going to the mall.
Also, some stores like Uniqlo is offer free same-day hemming in their stores so you can get the right fit without heading to a tailor.
For a complete list of brands that that sell shorter inseam jeans, check out this article.
Your Perfect Pair is Out There
Now that you understand how jeans for shorter men should fit, you’ll be able to find the perfect pair in no time.
And don’t be afraid to pick up multiple pairs after you’ve found a fit you love. At the least, we think guys should have two great pairs of jeans – one dark wash and one light (or black if that's more your color).
If you want to learn more about keeping your wardrobe lean, check out our minimalist pants collection guide.
Questions about jeans for short guys? Leave a comment below!