How to measure jeans

a woman measuring her waist with a tape measure
Jeans are a casual staple in the wardrobes of men and women alike. However, choosing the perfect pair can be tricky. Denim clothing can be extremely unflattering when it doesn't fit your body properly, which is why taking accurate measurements before purchasing the ideal pair is incredibly important.  

To help you select a great-fitting pair of denims everytime, especially when ordering online, we’ve put together this handy guide explaining how to measure for jeans. 

How to read jean sizes

While different brands will all label their jeans slightly differently, having a basic understanding of how to read jean sizes will help you to understand how to measure up for the perfectly fitting pair.   

When it comes to men’s jeans, size tags tend to follow the same format made up of two numbers - for example 34-30. The first number relates to the waist size, and refers to the measurement of the wearer’s waist in inches. The second number specifies the length of the jeans in inches. This measurement is taken from the inseam crotch to the ankle hem.   

Although some brands adopt the same sizing system for women’s jeans, especially traditional denim brands, other clothing retailers in the UK use standard women’s sizes. As a rule, a UK size 6 equates to a 24-inch waist, an 8 is a 26-waist, and so on. Leg length for women’s jeans will either be listed in inches, the same way men’s jeans are labelled, or will simply be tagged as ‘short/petite’, ‘standard’ or ‘tall’.

How to measure jean size

If you already have a pair of perfect-fitting jeans that you love, you may want to take measurements to use as a guide for when you next purchase a new pair. For this reason, knowing how to correctly measure jeans is a useful skill to learn. There are three key measurements you need to take when sizing up jeans, and these can be done in a number of simple steps:   

1. Waistband 

The most important measurement to take when sizing up jeans is the waistband. To do this, lay the jeans flat on a flush surface and then, using a flexible tape measure, carefully measure the length of the band, from one side pocket to the other. Simply double this number to find the waist measurement. It’s important to remember that different cuts of jeans will have different waist measurements, depending on the rise. So, only use measurements to purchase a new pair of jeans when you are shopping for like-for-like cuts.   

2. Rise 

This measurement is more significant when measuring women’s jeans due to the greater variation in rise height from cut to cut. To measure this part of your jeans, measure the distance between the crotch seam and the top of the waistband. As a rule of thumb, high-rise jeans are anything over 10 inches, mid-rise are up to 9.5 inches and low-rise are anything 8 inches or less.   

3. Inseam 

The easiest measurement to take, to determine the length of a pair of jeans, use your tape measure to measure from the crotch seam to the ankle hem. 

How to measure your waist for jeans

In order to find the perfectly-fitting pair of jeans, you need to have a good idea of your current waist measurement. By and large, the waistband of your jeans should fit on the narrowest point of your torso. However, it’s important to remember that you may have to take slightly different measurements depending on the cut of jeans you are measuring for. With this in mind, for low and mid-rise jeans, you should measure your waist in line with (or slightly below) your belly button. On the other hand, if you are measuring for a pair of high-rise jeans, the measurement should be taken roughly an inch (2.5 cm) above the navel.   

To find jeans that fit comfortably, try to take loose and relaxed measurements. It’s important not to suck your waist in when you are measuring and to avoid pulling the tape too tight, as this will give a false measurement.  

How to measure leg length for jeans

As touched upon above, when it comes to measuring leg length for jeans, your inseam is what you need to measure. Although you may be able to carry out the following steps yourself, asking a friend or family member to help is a good idea. To measure your inseam:   

1.  Stand up straight with your legs slightly parted.

2.  Place the top of a tape measure on the inside of one of your thighs, touching the crotch inseam. 

3.  Pull the tape tight and run it down the inside of your entire leg until you reach the bottom of your ankle, roughly where you would like the hem of your jeans to sit. 

4.  Note down this length. This measurement is your leg length size.  

Should I size up when buying jeans?

  The short answer is no - it is a common misconception that you should select a size up when purchasing jeans to ensure comfort. On the contrary, there are those who believe buying a smaller size is a good idea, especially when buying skinny jeans. This is because denim and cotton/denim blends can stretch over time. However, we would always advise buying the size that best corresponds to your individual measurements.

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