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For many women, there is nothing sexier than a well-dressed man.

A man who is well-dressed often exudes confidence, power and ambition. The definition of well-dressed can vary: A great pair of jeans may pass the test, while others may say nothing says well-dressed like pair of well-fitting pants.

We can see why. Well-fitting pants can be worn alone with a dress shirt and belt, or with a jacket for a more polished look. Fashions may come and go, but this is a classic, timeless and often sexy look that is appropriate for formal, professional and many relaxed occasions.

Knowing the value of owning at least one pair of dress pants is the first step. For many men, formal or dress pants are a wardrobe staple that can’t be avoided. Still, they may not take the time focusing on the details to make dress pants look better on. Pants are pants, right? Well, there are pants that fit, and there are pants that fit you. The kind of pants that make people remember you.

Finding them isn’t difficult. The difference is in the details.

What makes a pair of men’s dress pants fit great? And what details should you look for? These details are simple and easily identifiable, such as fit, cut and style. As long as they fit well and look great, a pair of dress pants will not go out of style and will be appropriate for any occasion.

If you have a man in your life in dire need of a pair of well-cut dress pants or if you’re shopping for yourself, this men’s pant size guide will give you the all the details you need to know when picking out the right pair of slacks. Use this men’s pant style guide to make finding the right pants second nature.         

Men’s Pants Size Guide

First things first: men’s clothes are sized differently than women’s. While clothes for women are often categorized by size (x-small-to x-large, or 0-16, for example) men’s sizes are categorized by measurements.

For most pants, the two main measurements used to determine fit are the waist and inseam. For dress pants, side length, rise and leg opening need to be taken into account. While most men know what their waist and inseam measurements are, these other measurements may have gone unnoticed or forgotten.

Mens Pants Size Guide

If you’re shopping for yourself you have two options: You can have someone else do it for you or go to a professional. That someone else can either be a significant other or a close friend, anyone who you can trust to get the correct measurement for you with minimal discomfort.

If you’re shopping for someone else and don’t have the opportunity to measure, this may be a bit trickier. While not ideal, you can opt to go by the measurements from another piece of clothing. If that is not an option or the person you’re shopping for can’t provide their measurements, err on the side of caution and pick slightly larger sizes that can be tailored.

Another idea is to pick several different sizes and let the recipient pick the best fit. But if the person knows their size, shop that size and make any necessary adjustments later.

Men’s Dress Pants for Your Body Type

When it comes to selecting the appropriate clothing styles for body types, you can't be too careful. Your body type can change over time, and with your physique as well. If a new fitness routine has bulked you up or slimmed you down, it's a good idea to revisit our men's dress pants guide before making a major purchase.

mens dress pants size chart


Rectangular Body Type

Men with a rectangular body shape often look taller and thinner than they are. It's an illusion created when shoulder, waist and hip measurements are similar. Select pants that help you appear wider in the shoulders by sticking with straight or tapered slacks in slim and skinny sizes. This body type also gets the most bang for their buck when having their suits tailored.

Fit Body Type

If you have an average build with light to medium muscle definition, you're likely to look good in anything. Your best bet? Tapered trousers. Just make sure the style of your shirt, jacket and pants match. A roomy dress shirt with skinny slacks will throw off your body's naturally attractive balance.

Muscular Body Type

Those with a brawnier build look best in slim slacks. These show off your trim waist and give the allure of defined legs without being too tight of a fit. When buying a suit off the rack, look for slim and sculpted sizes, with double-breasted jacket options that aren't too overwhelming.

Triangle Body Type

Being a triangle is definitely a challenge, as the latest styles are made for your polar opposites. What's a guy to do, short of sporting shoulder pads? Streamline your silhouette. Choose straight-legged dress pants to minimize the look of a wider midsection and hips, and forgo tapered, slim or skinny bottoms.

Men’s Pant Fit Guide

If you can, opt for a professional fitting whenever possible. Tailors and seamstresses know what to look for and can offer suggestions for your body type. They can also tailor your dress pants perfectly to your body, hemming and adding pleats, for example, so that every pair of dress pants will fit your body exactly as it should.

Mens Pants Fit Guide

It’s recommended to measure every six months to a year. Bodies change all the time, and shopping for the body you have is a key factor in building a great look. If you develop a relationship with a tailor, you will soon be able to notice when clothes don’t fit quite right, and will instead prefer the slight tailoring and details that result in clothes just for you.

Men’s Pants Guide: Measurements

Great fit comes from having the right measurements. Below are the necessary measurements to consider when picking out the right pair of pants and why they are important.

Mens Pants Guide Measurements

  • All About That Waist

The waist is the first measurement needed to pick the right men’s pant style, and the most important. How your pants look whether you’re standing or sitting depends on having the correct waist size. To measure the waist, start by looping the measuring tape around the back and measuring at the belly button, leaving about half an inch of room for comfort, or about the space for a finger to fit through. Although most pants will be worn a little lower than the “true waist”, the belly button or navel is where most tailors take the waist measurement.

  • The Inseam

The inseam is usually the second measurement shown on a size label and the second most important measurement. The inseam is the length inside the leg from the lowest part of the bathing suit area to the bottom of the hemline, a little lower than the ankle. The inseam is the primary reason why a friend or professional is needed to get these measurements, as it is very difficult to measure alone.

Inseam measurement is important for correct length, as nothing ruins a look more than pants that are too long or too short. Unlike waist size, however, the inseam is less likely to change over time. If your height hasn’t changed, then most likely your inseam has not changed.

  • Side Length

The side length is the opposite of the inseam. It runs from the waist down to the hem on the outside of the leg, and can be shorter or longer depending on the person. Having the correct side length is a key tailoring detail that can take a pair of pants from OK to great. Having the correct side length can keep a pair of pants from riding up too high when sitting or dragging on the ground when walking. It’s a detail that, once noticed, is difficult to forget.

  • Pant Rise

Rise is the measurement from the top of the inseam to the waist, or the boxer brief area for some. Front and back rise measurements can often be different, and knowing this measurement can help determine whether pleated or flat-front pants are best.

Rise also tells you whether the pants will fit:

  • Above the waist
  • At the waist
  • Below the waist

Men usually wear their dress pants just below the belly button. If you need more coverage and support, a higher waistband is recommended, while a lower waistband may be appropriate for casual, laid-back settings.

  • Thigh and Knee

For men with more muscular or broader legs, measuring the thigh and knee will help determine the right fit, as well as the right style. But it’s not just about style. Certain looks fit best on certain body types.

Straight or wide leg pants are more appropriate for those with wider thighs. For men with a lankier body type, straight or tapered may look better, as pants that fit too loosely may look ill-fitting or borrowed. Depending on your body type, keep these measurements in mind as well.

Men’s Dress Pants Styles

It’s the details that make the pant, and certain details will look best on different bodies. To pick out your best pant style, consider the following:

  • Pleats
  • Cuffs
  • Pocket Style
  • Leg Width
  • Lining

These details, or lack thereof, can be the key to finding the perfect look for you. Let’s look at these different types of men’s dress pants styles.

Types of Men's Pants

Types of Mens Pants - Pleated or Flat Front

  • To Pleat or Not to Pleat

What’s the difference between pleated and flat front pants? Pants with one or two pleats on each leg can offer more room for movement, offer more space for men with wider hips or thighs, and add balance and proportion for men with broader shoulders. For those with slimmer builds, flat-front waist pants will be more flattering and add a lengthening effect, so consider your body type when deciding between these looks.

While Flat-front waist pants are smooth down the front and look great with longer jackets, pleated pants look great with wide-cut jackets. A pleated pant can also look great with a narrow-cut leg or wide-cut dress jackets. Just make sure that they are not too baggy when you sit or stand.

  • Cuffs

Cuffs are a great detail that can hold pleats in place and can be let down to lengthen the pant. For taller men, a cuffed look is a great finishing touch.

  • Button or Zipper Details

This is more functional difference in men’s dress pants than anything, but certain men can be incredibly passionate about zipper-only pants or pants that button up. If you feel strongly either way, consider this detail when picking out a pair of pants or tailoring them.

  • Pockets

Depending on the pant, you may have four pockets or none. If pockets are important for you, consider this detail when picking out a pair of pants. Also keep in mind pockets add space, so if you’re going for a slimmer look, you might want to forgo the pockets or opt for discrete ones.

  • Lining

Lining is a detail that is often overlooked and underappreciated in men’s dress pants style guides.

There are many reasons to seriously consider whether the pants you want have lining. For example, those who live in colder climates and are often on the go may prefer pants with lining. For warmer climates, you might want to forgo the lining altogether.

For lankier body types, lining also adds a bit of natural weight to the pants for a more flattering look. Lining also protects the inside of the pants from wear and protects the shape. Silk lining also adds a luxurious feel that makes the pants more comfortable and enjoyable to wear. So give lining some serious thought, and you won’t regret it.

  • Fabrics

Fabrics for dress pants range from natural to synthetic. Depending on your needs and your price range, fabric type may factor into the final decision:

  • Do you want something all-weather or seasonal?
  • Something lightweight or hefty?
  • Do you need a suit that travels well, or are you looking to make an investment into something that needs more care?

Consider fabric and your needs.

Men’s Dress Pants Guide: Buyer Bewares

Although men’s clothing sizes have been considered much more accurate and consistent than women’s since they go by measurement, there is still some room for inconsistency. Depending on the retailer or the brand, the same pant labeled as the same size can vary slightly. If you’re shopping for different styles of men’s dress pants keep an eye out for the following variances in men’s pant styles.

Vanity Sizing

Many retailers are guilty of vanity sizing, or labeling larger fits with smaller measurements. This means while you may actually have a 38 inch waist, you may be able to fit a size 36 or even a size 34 in some brands. This is done deliberately.

Retailers know that for shoppers, the is no better feeling than being able to slip comfortably into a pair of dress pants labeled smaller than your actual size.

There’s nothing wrong with wearing vanity sizes if it makes you feel good; just keep in mind these sizes are relative. If you’re making an investment, however, make sure you have the right measurements the first time.

Inconsistent Sizing

Most often with large retailers, the materials for clothes are cut in stacks of layers. It’s like trying to cut a stack of paper with a pair of scissors. The first two pages may cut uniformly, but 5 or 10 pages more may cut slightly differently.

Because of this, there might be variations within the same sizes. This means while you may be holding two pairs of pants that are the same size, they may fit slightly differently. Keep this in mind when shopping different brands and retailers, and when in doubt, err on the side of caution. Go larger, because, as we mentioned in the men’s pant length guide above, they can always be tailored down.

Now Put These Men’s Dress Pants Buying Guide Tips Into Action

Of course, this is all information that requires action to be applied. Your best men’s dress pants fit guide will always be trial and error. Look for men’s pant styles that catch your eye and try them on. In store, pick a few pairs within your size range and try them on. Consider how they’d look with other styles and items in your closet.                              

You will only know if they look good if you see them on. Online, you can purchase different sizes and try them on in the privacy of your own home. VF Outlet offers an arrangement of men’s pant brands for you to choose from, including Lee, Wrangler and Timber Creek. They come in pleated or flat front, so you can find the style you like. If you find something that is almost perfect, bring them to a tailor to bring them closer to perfection.

The more you apply this knowledge and search for the right look, the easier it’ll be to identify. Soon enough, they won’t be just pants, but pants that you took time to find, collect, and tailor to you. Start your journey today.