Finding great fitting jeans can be tough—but it doesn’t have to be.


The many styles, differences in measurement meanings, and having just two figures (waist and length) to use to select the pants, can make it hard to know what size is right for you. And to complicate things further, when you do find a pair of jeans that fits, it’s hard to know whether what fits today will still fit (or shrink or stretch) tomorrow.

In this guide, we’ll cover the elements of fit.




Finding the jeans that fit you is a combination of how the pants feel, how they look to you, and how they look to others. When a pair of pants feels and looks good—to you and others—you’ve found your perfect fit.

Because everyone weighs these three factors differently, a perfect fit may vary from person to person.


There is no mistaking the feel of a great pair of denim pants. Whether tight and skinny or well-worn and relaxed, a great pair of denim pants feels like it was hand sewn with you in mind. This is the magic of denim—it stretches and conforms to your body, much like a leather shoe to your foot.

Look … In the Mirror

How you think your pants look on you is important. It’s natural to focus in on a few key areas: is the waist too loose or tight, do the thighs puff out, is there too much fabric around the front, and are they too baggy (or tight!) along the butt. When you look in the mirror, you can begin to see whether these factors are issues or not.

But remember: when you look in the mirror, you are seeing a flat reflection at only one angle. Just like some people look one way in a photo but strikingly different in a video, so too can you be fooled by looking at yourself from a single perspective.

Look, to Others

Get someone you trust to take a look and let you know what they think. A second opinion gives you that perspective that you just can’t get by looking in the mirror. Especially when buying denim pants that you’ll be wearing for a long time, it’s great to know that others think they look perfect on you.


Finding the right fit hinges on whether they’re supposed to fit the second you try them on, or some day in the future after you’ve worn them in. The answer is a little about personal preference, and a lot about what will happen to your pants. And when it comes to what’s going to happen to your pants as they’re worn and broken in, single most important factor is whether the pants are washed or raw. Check out our Fabric Guide for the details on washed denim vs. raw denim.

Washed Denim

Washed denim should feel good right from the start. Most denim will stretch a bit over time, so some like to start a little snug in the waist, but a washed pair of pants shouldn’t feel uncomfortably tight. Now, what’s a bit tight to one person may be just right for someone else, so we don’t get too caught up in these differences. Just keep in mind that every pair of pants will likely get a bit looser in the future. If you are ok with that, then great.

Regardless of snug or just right, a pair of washed denim should look great on you when you first try them on. Take a look at our Wear & Care Guide to learn about how denim stretches and gets worn in over time, and how to bring it back to its original state. Keep in mind that whatever happens over time is not going to fix something that doesn’t look or feel right on day one.

Raw Denim

Raw denim behaves differently. It will stretch. The good thing is that raw denim stretches at your body’s pressure points, so as it stretches it begins to fit you better and better. But it doesn’t happen overnight. We estimate that it takes at least two to three weeks of daily wear, sometimes more, to get to a point where the raw denim has stretched and molded to your body, which means the hours leading up to that point can be a little less than comfortable.

So, raw denim is tight—sometimes very tight—when first purchased. It should look good through the hips and thighs without any unwanted sagging or pillowing, but expect it to be tight through the waist. Then, over time, it will stretch out and begin to fit.

We know this may sound a bit complicated, which is why we have our Buying Raw Denim Guide.


Just as washed denim jeans won’t likely stretch very much, they’re also unlikely to shrink. Raw denim, on the other hand, may shrink—a little bit if the raw denim is sanforized, a lot if the raw denim is unsanforized (though at Rivet & Cuff, we currently only carry sanforized raw denim).

How is this possible that raw denim is shrinking and stretching at the same time? The answer has a bit to do with the characteristics of denim, and how a pair of jeans are constructed and how you treat the jeans over time. Put simply, shrinking comes from washing. When wet, the cotton fibers contract, and the hotter the water, the more the contraction.

The weave of cotton denim pants enables stretching from the tension applied during normal wear to occur from horizontally. The shrinking occurs both horizontally (i.e. across the waist, hips, and thighs) as well as vertically (i.e. the length), although the weave makes the vertical shrinking more severe. Most washed denim pants will stretch a bit during normal wear, and shrink when washed (again see our wear and care guide for more details on washing).


The length is of course an important factor. At Rivet & Cuff, we are big believers in cuffing and rolling. A cuffed jean leg is appropriate for all but the most formal occasions, while a rolled jean is generally a little more casual. But, there is a limit to how much fabric can be cuffed or rolled, and some people just don’t like to do it.

Your local tailor can often hem your jeans quickly and relatively inexpensively. Remember: your jeans will be a little shorter after a wash or two, so make sure to take that into account if you plan to hem your jeans prior to washing them.