Finding the perfect pair of jeans, if we’re being honest, is a love-hate relationship. After what seems like a never-ending journey, that final moment when everything comes together in a single pair—the wash, the cut, and, of course, the fit—makes the agony all worth it. In our opinion, knowing how to measure your true waist size for jeans is the first step in finding denim that fits you perfectly, which is why we tapped an expert for the best tips.
So how does one even go about finding a pair of jeans that fit like a glove? According to 3x1 founder Scott Morrison, it depends on a number of factors, from the fabric to the rise. “You need to determine what type of denim you’re interested in buying: super-stretch, comfort stretch, or non-stretch,” he tells us. “Denims are not created equal, even within the same type.”
Considering the recent renewed interest in vintage-inspired styles—100% cotton non-stretch denim—Morrison suggests sizing up a half-inch or an inch for the most comfort. When it comes to rise, Morrison likes to refer to the product description. “A high-rise skinny, for example, is designed to fit your natural waist and thus has a longer rise. A low-rise skinny would have a shorter rise.”
With those initial tips, see how this denim expert would measure for the right jeans size below, and then shop some styles we are loving now.
Get Your Tools
According to Morrison, you will need a flexible tape measure, preferably cloth or plastic, and a friend, if you want an extra pair of hands. You’ll want to measure your waist according to the rise you’re looking for.
Measure Your Waist Based on the Rise
Depending on what rise you’re shopping for, you’ll measure that part of your waist. “Let’s say it’s that 3x1 High-Rise Skinny I mentioned earlier; you’d start by measuring your natural waist. Finding your natural waist is easy. Just bend to the side and find the point below your ribs where a natural crease is made,” Morrison shares. “Measure your waist at this crease point, but make sure the tape measure isn’t too tight against your skin.”
Pro Tip: Take a pair of jeans and hold it around your neck. For many many people out there, your neck size is approximately the same size as your waist.
Measure Your Inseam
The inseam is simply the measurement (length) from your crotch and your ankle, says Morrison. “It’s important that you’re doing this with lightweight, tight-fitting undergarments to get the most accurate measurement,” he shares.
The denim expert shares that as a general rule of thumb, 32- to 34-inch inseams are considered “long” and are great for either shoppers with long legs or styles that flare. A 30-inch inseam is considered the current average inseam length, and you might see this denoted as “regular.” Like with mid-rise jeans, a 30-inch inseam fits many and most and is easy to cuff if you want to wear them above the ankle or wear down with heels or flats. A 27-inch inseam is considered a “crop” and can work well for petite girls or showing off a little ankle or some short boots.
Once you’ve found the right jean size, shop our favorite jeans on the market now.