Information on measurements and fit:
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Fitting pants and jeans | Fitting a jacket or coat |
Fitting a suit | Finding a tailor
Fitting Men's Pants and Jeans
Sizing in pants
Measurements on men's pants are usually listed with the waist measurement first, followed by the inseam measurement. So a 32x30 jean would have a 32-inch waist and a 30-inch inseam.
General tips on sizing and fit
When it comes to buying jeans or pants off the rack, short men generally face two big challenges.
First, there are few companies that routinely stock short inseams (less than 30"). Some companies do make short inseam pants, but you often must shop online to actually find a pair-- they are rarely found on the rack.
Fortunately, most pants can be hemmed an inch or two without too much sacrifice in appearance (depending somewhat on the cut of the leg opening, this may effect the taper), so buying a slightly longer inseam can be okay if you are willing to have the pants altered by a tailor or a skilled friend.
Pants abould be hemmed to the proper length so that they break only slightly. The term "break" refers to where your pants fall on your shoes, creating a horizontal crease in the fabric across the front of your pant leg. If the break comes too high or is not defined enough, your pants will look too short when you stand or walk. If the break is too low, there will be a lot of excess fabric around your ankles, and your pants will look oversized-- this can especially be a problem for shorter men. A slight/short break is the best choice for short men. If you also happen to have smaller feet, a slight break will keep your pants from "drowning" your shoes. Jeans can break slightly lower than dress pants-- but one should still avoid lots of excess material around the ankles.
The second big challenge when searching for pants or jeans-- perhaps even worse than the inseam issue-- is that most pants are proportioned to fit larger men overall, even if the inseam on the pants is short off the rack. That is, many companies don't change the overall cut and proportion of their pants or jeans just because they shorten the inseam. This means that many brands of pants will end up looking too baggy/boxy on a short man, especially around the crotch or seat area.
One way around this issue it to look for pants with a "short rise". The "rise" on a pair of pants refers to the distance between the crotch and the waist. Pants that are made especially for short men tend to have a shorter rise that is in proportion to the rest of the measurements.
Some popular, off-the-rack "low rise" jeans styles might be worth a try to see if the shorter rise flatters your body type. What is a very "low rise" on a taller guy might look perfect on a shorter guy (if he can find a short enough inseam or have the pants hemmed). The rise will vary among different brands and styles, so always try on pants to make sure they look good on your particular body shape. If you are buying online, check the returns policy, and ask questions!
Another way around both the inseam and rise issues is to try custom-made pants, either through a local tailor or through one of the numerous online companies that have begun to offer this service (check the Jeans and Pants pages for custom listings). You'll generally get a better fit and look if a garment is created to suit your body shape.
Some other general tips: cuffing pants makes the legs appear shorter-- have your pants hemmed to the proper length insetad. Avoid white or light-colored shoes with dark pants, as this breaks the line of the leg.
In general, baggy jeans should be avoided, as the extra material takes away from a clean vertical line. Very baggy jeans will tend to make you look like you are drowning in them, making you look smaller. This is not to say that you should wear tight jeans, but rather that when observing fashion trends, keep overall proportion in mind, and remember that certain cuts of clothing may suit your better. If you do choose a relaxed or baggier cut, be sure it fits you well and is proportioned for your frame to begin with (i.e., proper rise and inseam length).
In dress pants and khakis, pleats should be avoided, especially deep pleats. Flowing, full-cut dress pants should also be avoided. Pleats can take away from your clean vertical line, and bagginess in pants can make you look like you're drowning in too-big clothing. When possible, it is generally better to stick to flat front pants and avoid lots of extra material.
Don't forget to check short men's specialty shops, as they often stock quality short rise, short inseam dress pants, khakis, casual pants, and jeans that are proportioned for shorter men. And always remember that a good tailor can help alter off-the-rack garments for better fit.
Check here for listings of retailers who sell short sizes in men's jeans and short sizes in men's pants.