A denim guide for men

Nothing is as manly as a pair of denim. The history and nostalgia behind this men’s staple is why men love them. Denim as a fashion statement has many sides; Durability and hard work from the miners and cowboys, and a “cool” factor contributed by celebrities. And let’s not forget the “bad boy” vibe that the likes of James Dean and various rock stars have added through the years. No wonder men love their denim! I do want to mention that there are more styles than baggy or super skinny denim. I say this because sometimes I wonder if the men living in Indianapolis know this. 😉

Know the Cut

Let’s look at the basics. There are essentially 4 main styles/cuts. What might be confusing is that stores and designers like to invent their own names for all 4 looks, but don’t be foolled – you are dealing with just 4 styles. The four basic cuts are: Skinny, Straight, Boot, and Loose.


  • Normally a low rise denim (“rise” = where it fits on your waist)
  • Tighter fit along the upper leg
  • The fit gets tighter as it reaches the ankle

The skinny fit is a newer fit for men’s denim. The cut is most associated with the younger street culture. However many designers are creating styles that fit with a broader demographic. The skinny fit denim elongates the body so it’s less flattering for the already taller guy. Due to the way the skinny fit sits on the hips and hugs the body, guys with extra muscle or bulk should also stay away. The best recommendation to wear the skinny fit denim is to pair them with a cardigan and t shirt.


  • Normally a mid to low rise denim
  • More of a fitted leg
  • The standard denim

A lot of you might get flashbacks to when you were younger wearing a pair of tight Levis. I remember going to school with my straight leg Levi’s rolled up. Thankfully the grown up version of the straight leg denim is much better. This cut works well for most body types. The good thing about it is its versatility in styling. The straight leg denim can look both dressed up and casual. All men should have a few pair of straight leg denim in their closet this Autumn. If you are a taller guy, this cut will accent your length. If you are a guy with a little more bulk, this style will help in giving you a slimmer appearance. You can wear this style is with just about anything. I like to pair my straight denim with a blazer and button down combination or a sports jersey.


  • A mid to low rise denim
  • more fitted in the upper leg and knee
  • a looser fit in the ankle area

The Boot cut is probably the most popular men’s cut. Most men feel comfortable with this look as again, it looks great with a regular old t-shirt and doesn’t strain the “what am I going to wear today” muscle much at all. What’s important to keep in mind when buying this cut is that if you don’t get just the right size and fit (and you know those will vary slightly from label to label) the boot cut can end up looking sloppy. Taller guys look great in this cut because the cut shortens the body. Guys who are shorter or carrying extra weight should probably steer clear. Since the cut shortens the body, it will give the appearance of a shorter wider body. A lot of guys wear tennis shoes with all of their outfits. The tennis shoe looks weird with a boot cut denim. I recommend a boot or a wider dress shoe. This cut is not my first choice for dressier social events. I think it looks best as a casual look.


  • Regular to mid rise denim
  • A more relaxed or baggy fit down the entire leg

The loose fit denim should only be worn in casual situations. The Loose fit cut often gets interchanged with the baggy denim. I always recommend one of the other cuts before the Loose. If not worn properly the cut looks sloppy and not put together. I have noticed that some designers will use this cut of denim but will roll up the leg. I think it’s best used for sports and recreation. It makes me think of seeing loose fit denim is the 90’s Grunge era. Last year there were hints of Nirvana grunge reappearing in men’s fashion, so I better not speak to soon. To wear this look go for a street look. A fresh pair of high-top shoes, graphic t shirt, hoodie, and hat would be a cool look.

It is all in the details

After deciding on a cut, it’s time to figure out the details. Denim will come in a range of washes. The washes of denim range from a bleached wash to a dark indigo. Not matter what cut or wash you prefer it is important to have light and dark options in your closet. The lighter denim is a great for casual or summer events. I love the darker denim for all social events. You can wear a blazer and dress shirt with dark denim, or throw on your Colts jersey for the next home game.

After the wash, look at the detail work of the denim. The most popular is the effect most often referred to as “whiskering”. It is when a chemical or dye repellent is used to create a worn look. The look can be seen in most cuts, styles, and stores. There are also other ways to detail denim. Some denim have the appearance of being deconstructed. Buyer beware of denim with holes in them. The look can work in special circumstances, but the hole in your denim will always get bigger. It is a word to the wise to limit your purchase of deconstructed denim. The third most popular detail work on men’s denim is detail stitching. This is most commonly seen in True Religion denim. Like most anything, there is a such thing as too much of a good thing. Stick to one or two detail elements. The subtle detail work will keep people looking at you a little longer. This is a good thing if you are trying to standout. Overdo it with the details and you will stick out in a bad way. 🙂

So off you go to buy your Autumn denim. Fit, cut, and detail are the important things to remember. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to try on something different from your usual style. Just because you prefer one style at one store doesn’t mean it will fit the same at the next store. Go on! Go a little crazy! You might be surprised how a style you didn’t think would work for you ends up being your favorite pair of jeans.

Did you find a “perfect pair of denim”? Have a favorite store to shop? Share with the readers and comment on your find.


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One reply on “A denim guide for men”
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