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 shorter guys need to know before buying another pair of jeans.
Why jeans? Because they’re the ultimate casual pant, but they work in smart casual and even business casual settings as well.
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 happen to be a short man.
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On the other hand, if you buy too far into the skinny jean style, you’ll look like your pants are painted on. Not a good look, either!
How Jeans Should Fit (on Shorter Men)
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.
Should Short Guys Wear 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 slim-fit jeans on the left and “skinny” jeans on the right (both from a brand with relatively conservative cuts).
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.
Jeans Waist Fit
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.
Jeans Hips Fit
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.
Jeans Rise fit
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.
Jeans Leg Fit
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 knee 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.
Jeans 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.
Jeans Break Explained
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 Short Guys Cuff Their 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”. 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.
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 jeans with a shorter inseam length
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.
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.
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.
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
From specialty brands like Ash & Erie and Under 510 who cater to short men to major retailers like Levis who are finally offering shorter inseams on much of their denim collection, you finally have options.
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 denim fit without heading to a tailor.
For a complete list of brands that that sell shorter inseam jeans, check out this article.
FAQs About Jeans for Shorter Men
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about jeans for short guys:
What Kind of Jeans Should a Short Man Wear?
Most short men look best in slim tapered or straight fit jeans with a slight break (or no break).
What Is the Shortest Length Men’s Jeans Come In?
The shortest length men’s jeans are 25″ from speciality brands like Ash & Erie and Under 510. You can find 28″ inseam jeans from many brands, including Levi’s and J.Crew.
How Can I Wear Jeans With Short Legs?
If you have shorter legs, you need to make sure your jeans are the right length. If they’re too long, they’ll stack up around your ankles and make you look shorter. You can either buy shorter length jeans or get your jeans hemmed.
Should Short People Wear High-waisted Jeans?
Yes, shorter people look great in higher-rise jeans. Mid-rise jeans also look good. Just avoid low-rise denim, which will make your legs look shorter.
Do Wide Jeans Look Good on Short Legs?
Wide jeans don’t look good on short legs, if your goal is to make your legs look longer. If you don’t care about enhancing your physique, feel free to wear wide leg jeans.
What Type of Jeans Make You Look Taller?
Fitted jeans that just sit right on top of your shoes (this is called “slight break”) make you look taller. Black jeans and dark wash denim also make you look taller and leaner, compared to light wash denim.
Do Skinny Jeans Look Good on Short Guys?
Skinny jeans look good on short, thin guys. If you’re short and stocky, you should avoid skinny jeans.
Should Short Guys Cuff Their Jeans?
Yes, short guys can cuff their jeans if they like the way it looks. If you’re worries about cuffed jeans making you look shorter, just make sure the cuffs are thin/short (not too wide or tall).
Your Perfect Pair of Jeans DOES Exist
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 denim 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!
These articles are always completely useless. It shows a stocky guy (Jason Alexander?) and says “Here’s the look we’re trying to avoid!” Well, what look SHOULD a stocky guy go for? The article doesn’t say, because all the “good” looks it gives as examples are extremely tiny skinny guys (who have no trouble shopping for jeans). So just who the hell is this for?
I struggle to find “mid-rise” jeans. Which brands offer that but also the right assortment of length options?
Ehtisham Qureshi says
So I’m 5 foot four and stockyily built where can i buy trousers, specifically, that I don’t need to taper and then look flared at the bottom. Can’t find anything.
Charles M McAfee says
I am 5’5″ weight 225lb. Like small break in cuff, midrise waist, Most of my weight is above my belt . Watermelon shape belly
Hi my name is joe I’m 45 6-1 tall 204 pounds I have a flat to medium butt I want jeans that make my butt look better I like the boot look opening but not baggy at the bottom what kind of jeans should I buy
My husband is 5’2″ and a 31×26. But his calves are thick, and slim/skinny jeans are too tight in his calves. This causes a strange break of fabric at the knee just above the calf and creates excess fabric there and in the lower thigh. Whenever he gets up from sitting, he has to pull the leg back down at each calf.
Any suggestions for true straight leg jeans for shorter guys with big calves? Thanks!
42 waisted 24 length
Thanks for the very informative article! I will definitely buy some of these pieces and will keep these tips in mind.
Stay cool and healthy!