How Men's Dress Pants Should Fit

October 16, 2012
Women seem to think men have it easy when it comes to finding pants that fit.  After all, we don’t have to contend with all the curves women do, so on that point, I have to agree; we normally do have an easier time of buying pants.  Still, our slimmer hips and buttocks aren’t a guarantee that every pair of pants is going to fit our manly bodies perfectly.

I wish we could base our choices on size alone, but we all know more than waist and length measurements dictate a proper fit.  Style, fabric, and cut play major roles in determining how pants fit, as does the type pant.  Jeans and casual pants typically fit differently than dress slacks, and because they’re casual, their fit doesn’t have to be as precise as dress pants should be.  That being said, let’s take a look at how dress slacks should fit and how to make sure they do.

  • Shopping for dress slacks is much easier if you know your proper pant size.  You can save time and trouble by knowing which pants to grab off the shelf from the get go.  However, if you’re unsure of your “perfect” size, check the inside tag of your best fitting pants before hitting the mall.  If you can only find a tag in a pair of jeans, that will work, too, as long as the length and waist are the correct sizes.  Of course, if all else fails and you aren’t in the mood to try random pants on, have the salesman grab his measuring tape.  I realize most guys know their pant size, but it can be challenging, especially for guys who are in between or changing sizes.


  • Whether you know your size or not, always aim to buy pants that fit.  Pants that fit and require no alterations save money.  Not only will it save money, but it will avoid any alteration mishaps, which do occasionally happen.


  • Bring the shoes and belt you’ll wear with the pants along for the ride.  It’s always best to wear these shoes, or a similar pair with the same sole and heel thickness, so you can choose the correct pant length, or have the store hem them if needed.


  • Waist: The waistband of most dress slacks sits at the natural waistline, which is located above the bellybutton, and in between the bottom rib and top of the hipbone.  The waist should fit comfortably, with enough room to sit, bend, and breathe with ease.  Just because they’re dress slacks, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be comfortable.  The pants should not pull or gather around the hips or pockets, for if they do, it screams the pants are too tight.  Some dress slacks have adjustable waistbands, which are a great option, particularly if your weight fluctuates or you sit at a desk all day.


  • Rise: This is the distance between the waistband and the inseam at the bottom of the crotch.  Typically, today’s dress pants use the standard 12 inch rise, bringing the waistband to the natural waistline.  The rise fits properly when you can comfortably sit without annihilating the family jewels, or giving yourself a wedgy.  Seriously, you’ll know if the rise doesn’t fit properly because your groin will pinch, and the pants won’t feel or look as though they fit.  Go for a form-fitting rise that is comfortable and complimentary to the old caboose.


  • If too much fabric in the crotch is the problem, the rise is too high.  Opt for slacks with a slightly lower rise, which can be found in certain brands.  However, it’s best to avoid a rise that’s too low, especially in the professional arena.


  • Drape: This refers to how the pant hangs on your leg.  It should fall freely to the ankle, without interruption.  The pants should not be too tight, have horizontal lines across the thighs (which indicates tightness), or have protruding pockets.


  • Length: There are several length and break styles, but for those who know me, you know I prefer the “single break”, which is today’s most commonly used length.  This length requires the pant hem to hit the front of the shoe, which causes a single break or crease in the fabric.  The hem on the backside of the pant should meet the top of the heel.  This explains why it’s beneficial to wear the correct shoes when purchasing or hemming dress pants.


  • Fabric: Dress slacks come in countless fabrics, so be sure to wear pants that feel as good as they look.  Many fabrics have the ability to stretch, which makes a difference in comfort.  These accommodating dress pants can be found in many men’s shops, as well as online.


As you can see, there’s not much to fitting dress pants; yet these few basic rules make all the difference in how they fit and ultimately affect your appearance.  Although dress pants don’t vary much in style, choose only pants that look great on you.  Fabric and color are two important features to consider, so enhance your physique by wearing dress slacks that maximize your build from every angle.

by Aaron Marino

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