Everything You Need to Know to Look and Feel Amazing in Jeans
This is an in-depth guide to wearing jeans as a shorter man. It's full of helpful photos and examples, and it's broken up into sections for your convenience.
Feel free to jump around using the table of contents links below. If you have any questions about jeans after reading this guide, don't hesitate to reach out to us. Enjoy!
Table of Contents
- How Jeans Should Fit
- Common Fit Problems and Mistakes
- How Peter Manning Jeans Are Different
Whether you’re 5’2” or 6’4”, jeans are one of the most important wardrobe staples a man will ever own. Every guy should have at least one (or three) pairs of high quality, go-to jeans in his wardrobe.
They’re perfect for casual and smart casual outfits, and these days they can be dressed up for business casual settings too.
Jeans can also make a man look like an unkempt teenager or a dad who has given up on his appearance altogether! We kid, but there’s a bit of truth to this, and it’s especially true for not-so-tall men.
If you’re a shorter guy, and your jeans are way too big, it’s going to make you look like a kid playing dress up.
Of course, that doesn’t mean your jeans should look like they’re painted onto your body. Jeans should fit relatively close to your body without being tight or restrictive. Comfort is paramount, and believe it or not, sometimes slimmer fit jeans are more comfy.
For example, if the waist is too big, you have to tighten your belt, which creates thick folds of fabric around your stomach. Not a good look, and it feels very uncomfortable, especially when you’re sitting down.
This guide covers everything you need to know about wearing jeans - with an emphasis on comfort and style.
How Jeans Should Fit
We think that most guys look great in slim straight or slim tapered (what we call “skinny”) jeans.
This depends on personal preference and body type. If you’re a thinner guy, or if you prefer a closer fit, opt for skinny stretch jeans.
Our model Victor loves wearing a slimmer, more tapered pant. If you’re a bigger gent or want a more traditional silhouette, go with slim straight.
Whatever you do, stay away from baggy jeans. They don’t really flatter any body type, especially on smaller or shorter men.
Let's talk about how your jeans should fit, starting from the top and working our way down.
Your jeans should be snug enough around the waist that you don’t really need a belt to hold them up. Of course, it’s okay if you need a belt to get that extra ¼ to ½ inch cinch, but you shouldn’t have to tighten your belt so much that it creates folds of fabric around the waistband.
Model is 5'8" and 155 lbs with a 36" chest, wearing 29x29 jeans and size 3 shirt
On the other hand, the waist shouldn’t be so tight that the top of the waistband digs into your belly when you sit down. You definitely shouldn’t need to unbutton your pants after dinner (although we won’t judge you if you choose to).
Your jeans should be fitted around your hips, which is basically the widest part of your lower body (where your butt and hips protrude the most).
They shouldn’t be loose. If there’s a bunch of excess material around your hips, it can make your hips look wider and your butt look, for lack of a better word, saggier.
Erick shows the right fit on the waist in our Travel Jeans.
Instead, they should be fitted. If you like slimmer fit jeans, you might feel a slight compression around your hips and butt.
The hips should not be so tight that walking or sitting is difficult. In other words, when you take a step, climb a flight of stairs or squat down, you shouldn’t feel any uncomfortable pulling. You should be able to bend over, squat down or bust out your go-to dance move without risking any tears or blowouts.
The rise is usually divided into two different measurements: front and back. The front rise is the distance from the top of the waistband down to the crotch seam. The back rise is the same, just starting from the rear waistband.
Low rise pants have a shorter rise (around 8 inches), and high rise pants have a longer rise (about 10-12 inches).
Rise determines where a pair of pants sit on your body (i.e., where the waistband ends). Low rise pants are meant to sit farther down on your hip bones. Higher rise pants are meant to be worn up above your natural waist, closer to your navel.
Like many things in the world of fashion, pants rise is subject to trend. In the 1940s, men wore loose fitting, high waisted Zoot suits. By the 1960s, low riding "hip huggers" were all the rage. The 80s saw pants rise, well, rising once again. Then, the late 90s ushered in an era of unprecedented ultra low rise jeans.
Over the past few years, higher waisted jeans have definitely made a comeback, but trends change more quickly now than ever before.
The thing is, regardless of what’s trendy, a “normal” rise pretty much always looks good. While super low or high rise favors certain body types, a standard (or medium) rise looks good on everyone. It sort of balances out your build, which is especially important for shorter gents.
Just like the hips and rise, how your jeans fit through the leg is subject to trend and personal preference. We think that most guys look great in jeans without a lot of excess fabric through the leg. In other words, slim straight or “skinny” fit jeans.
This doesn’t mean your jeans should look like they’re painted on, and we’re definitely not advocating for so called jeggings. We’re just saying that the legs of your jeans should kind of match the shape of your actual legs.
This means there should be a subtle, gradual taper from the top of the thigh, down past the knee, to the ankle and leg opening.
It makes sense if you think about it: your thighs are bigger than your calves, which are bigger than your ankles. If your jeans follow this shape, it creates a natural silhouette that’s pleasing to the eye.
Unlike loose fit jeans, which are baggy through the leg and don’t have any taper, fitted jeans tend to make guys look taller and leaner.
The Leg Opening
For jeans, the leg opening is the size (diameter or circumference) of the bottom of the pant leg (i.e., the ankle).
Sometimes, this is measured as circumference, but more often it’s measured as the distance across the bottom of the pant leg when laid flat.
A smaller leg opening means there’s more taper from the knee down. For example, straight fit jeans might have the same width at the knee and the ankle.
Tapered jeans have a noticeably more narrow ankle than knee.
We think that all jeans should have some taper through the leg. Small, thin men look especially great in jeans with reduced leg openings.
Whatever you do, avoid wide leg openings (e.g., bootcut jeans), unless you're a cowboy!
Pants “break” describes what happens to extra fabric around your ankle and shin when your pants are sitting on top of your shoe.
Longer pants will have more break, or more folding and stacking below your knee, above your foot. Shorter pants will have less break, or even no break at all.
Let’s look at the different degrees of break:
Stacking > Full Break > Half/Partial Break > Slight Break > No Break > Cropped
Of course, you'll hear a lot of different terms used to describes different degrees of pants break, but it's really more of a spectrum.
Like everything, break is subject to trend and preference, but we strongly believe that most men (especially those of modest height) would be smart to avoid full break.
Since not-so-tall men have trouble finding pants that are short enough to wear without getting hemmed, they often settle for full break by default. This extra folding and stacking (excess break) makes their legs look shorter, which makes them look shorter.
It’s like sending a signal to everyone who sees you that says, “Pants are always too long for me.” Think about a teenager wearing his older brother’s hand me downs, or a little kid who got into his dad’s closet. Their pants would be too long, right? We want shorter men to avoid this look altogether!
Partial break is the sweet spot, especially for casual pants like jeans and chinos.
If you’re younger or want to look more “on trend” you should opt for no break. This is a cool look that has the added benefit of making your legs look longer.
If you choose to wear jeans with no break, make sure the leg opening isn’t too big. Skinny jeans will probably be a better choice than straight fit jeans.
To Cuff or Not to Cuff?
Cuffing your jeans, or rolling up the bottom 1-3 times, has gone in and out of fashion over the decades. It’s a decidedly casual look, so we don’t recommend cuffing if you’re wearing jeans in a more formal setting (like with a blazer).
But in casual settings, it’s totally okay to cuff your jeans if you like the look. This is also true for shorter men, contrary to popular belief. Just make sure to keep the cuffs nice and small, in proportion with your height.
The one thing we hate seeing is shorter guys cuffing their jeans because they have to, because their jeans are too long. Maybe they could only find a 30” inseam when they really need a 28”, so they cuff them instead of getting them hemmed.
We advocate cuffing because you want to, not because you have to.
Just like wearing jeans with no break, if you cuff your jeans, make sure they’re nice and tapered with a smaller leg opening.
Common Jeans Fit Problems for Shorter Men
Since the vast majority of major clothing brands ignore men 5'8" and under, shorter gents run into all sorts of fit problems when buying jeans off the rack - which is why they often settle for ill-fitting jeans or end up paying what we call the tailor tax.
Here are some of the most common fit problems men of modest height run into with jeans, along with some recommended solutions:
Fit Problem #1: Jeans are too long
This is, by far, the most common problem that guys under 5'9" encounter with jeans. Since most jeans manufacturers don't make jeans shorter than 30 inches, almost all jeans are too long off the rack.
There are three ways to fix this annoying problem:
- Cuff your jeans (quick and easy)
- Get your jeans hemmed (not as quick or easy)
- Buy shorter length jeans
Cuffing is the "quick and dirty" solution, but not everyone likes the cuffed look. Getting your jeans hemmed is a decent solution, but it's pricey and time consuming.
Buying jeans that are the proper length to begin with is the best solution, and Peter Manning NYC is the best place to find jeans made specifically for men 5'8" and under.
Fit Problem #2: Rise is too low
While low rise jeans are often "in style" for years at a time, this style isn't necessarily the most flattering fit for everyone - especially shorter men.
Often times, men end up buying low rise jeans and then pulling them up to sit on their natural waist. This leads to tightness in the crotch, and the jeans inevitably fall down to the hips throughout the day.
For most guys, a "normal" rise is the best option. This helps elongate your legs and balance out your figure. It's also much more comfortable, in our humble opinion.
Fit Problem #3: Jeans are too baggy
Depending on how old you are, you may remember a time when baggy jeans were all the rage. The baggier, the better. Thankfully, those days are over!
In our opinion, baggy jeans don't look good on anyone, and this is especially true for men who are below average height.
When your jeans are too baggy, it creates what we call the "kid playing dress up" effect. It's as if you're wearing your big brother's hand-me-downs. Not a good look!
Baggy jeans are too big all around. There's just too much fabric throughout the garment, which causes folding and stacking in all the wrong places. At best, this hides your handsome figure. At worst, it makes you look shorter and more bulky than you actually are.
Fit Problem #4: Details are wrong
This might be the most subtle and insidious problem that guys encounter when trying to find jeans that fit and flatter their build. Even if you find a pair of jeans that has the proper inseam and a flattering cut, they're still scaled for a larger man.
For example, have you ever put on a pair of jeans that fit pretty well, only to realize that the back pockets were hanging down way too far? Or, if you've ever worn distressed jeans, have you noticed that the fades around the knees are actually below your knees, over your shins? This is because the jeans were made for a bigger, taller frame.
Unfortunately, this can't be fixed at the tailor. It's just something many men have had to live with. And these details are a dead giveaway that the garment wasn't made with you in mind. In a way, when these details are wrong, they broadcast your size - and not in a good way.
What Makes Peter Manning NYC Jeans Different
We didn't just want to make shorter length jeans. We wanted to make the best jeans for short men, period. So, rather than just chopping off a few inches and calling it a day, we went back to the drawing board and started from scratch.
We designed our jeans from the ground up - or should we say the feet up - to look amazing on men of modest height. This means that every aspect of the garment was tweaked - from the inseam length and the rise to the placement and size of the pockets.
Of course, the length is perfect too. We offer jeans down to a 26" inseam and up to a 38" waist. We also offer a variety of different washes and fits in each size.
So what makes PMNYC jeans special? Sure, they fit the shorter man really well. The length is correct, they have the perfect amount of taper below the knee, and they come in a wide variety of sizes for men 5’8” and under.
But the real magic is in the details, such as the size and placement of the pockets. It’s hard to describe the difference these details make, but you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about when you try a pair on for yourself.
Do your jeans fit well and make you feel like a million dollars? If not, you should consider a pair of Peter Manning NYC jeans.