How Should Men's Pants Fit? Know The Basics

In the fashion world, “fit, fit, fit,” is what “location, location, location” is to real estate. In other words, if your clothes don’t fit you well, you can forget about any pretense of style you might have had—it’s just not going to look good. Understanding whether your clothes fit you or not is more science than art. To help you get the perfect pair of trousers here's a guide to how men's pants should fit.

Chinos: 3 Signs of a Proper Fit

A well-fitting pair of pants is going to make your life easier. Not only will it pull an outfit together, but the pants will feel comfortable. They won’t be so baggy that they require constant lifting up; but they also shouldn’t be so tight that you can’t sit down. Here are a few of the tell-tale signs that your trousers fit you properly:

  • On the waist: A good rule of thumb here: you shouldn’t need a belt to hold your pants up. Having a belt handy to tie an outfit together is a good idea, but if you absolutely must rely on a belt to do all of the “fitting” work for you, then the waist is too big and you need to size down.
  • On the fabric: Look for a balance between pants that are so tight that they constrict and pants that are so loose that they start to billow. This happens when there’s excess fabric, resulting in the pants having a “wavy” feel.
  • On the ankle: You want the pants to have a single “break,” which is to say you want the pants to only fold once when they hit your shoes while standing. If your trousers look like a folded accordion on top of your shoe, then they’re too long and could use a hem.

That’s it—three signs to look for when you’re trying out pants in the dressing room.

Men's Dress Pants Fit: A Different Story?

Okay, so you understand the basics of non-pleated chinos. What if you’re wearing a pleated trouser—something you might wear with a suit?

There are some similarities here you’ll want to be aware of. For example, the ankle “break” should not be excessive, which is the same for a pair of chinos—or jeans, for that matter. You still want a single break—but nothing too “accordion-like.”

Here’s the big issue with the pleated trouser: you’re looking for a crisp pleat crease. If it’s not crisp—if it starts to wave or curve—that’s usually a sign that the pants are just too darn big, and that you’ll need to size down.

If the pants are so tight, on the other hand, that they begin to “billow” in the perpendicular direction—in other words, they start to strain horizontally—then they might be too tight. In pant fit, as in all things, strive to find the balance.