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The Skinny on How Slim Your Jeans Should Be

  • Najib Benouar

Here at Kempt HQ, we often receive letters from readers. (Most of it fan mail.) But every so often we get a question from an inquiring mind that we feel the need to address—and put our Ann Landers hat on to come up with the best advice we can give. (It’s a bucket hat if you were wondering).

This week, we received an email from a reader whose wife seemed to be encouraging him to wear “skinny jeans.” Which begs the question: can an adult man ever get away with wearing hip-huggers?

Wherein we extol some wisdom on fit, growing older and never using the word “skinny” again...

Like all things regarding personal style, it’s got to feel right. You want to be comfortable in your own skin—and that translates to your jeans not clinging too ferociously—but it also means you don’t want to walk out the door wearing something that makes you feel self-consciously young or old. (Ahem, Mr. President.)

We prefer “slim” as a demarcation of how things should fit. That said, a lot of brands market their slimmer offerings by calling them “skinny,” and that shouldn’t deter you (for example, this pair of Levi’s has been known to complement a slender frame without being clingy). What matters is how they fit once you’ve put them on. Your style icon should be: not Russell Brand.

Let the photo above be a cautionary tale. If you’re feeling any restricted blood circulation, move on quickly. If not, take them for a quick test-drive with your shoes on. The trick here is that all jeans fit differently in different places. The length of rise (from the waist to the crotch) can make a large difference in how much room you’ve got in the seat—this pair from Tellason is more generous. There might be a tapered leg (we prefer a slight taper ourselves, but an incredibly well-defined calf might feel suffocated—in that case, stick with a straight leg like this one from Imogene + Willie). And make sure that you’re minding the shoe integration. The right length is important.

What we’re saying here is that as long as they fit correctly, you can wear any pair of jeans you damn well please, no matter what the kids are calling them these days.

You’ve got our permission to tell your wife she was “right.”