What Is Inseam And Why Does It Matter?

Pants are an everyday garment for most people, but finding the right fit can still be tricky because of how inseam lengths can vary. Inseam length plays a big role in how well a pair of pants fit, so it’s important to know your inseam measurements before shopping for pants.

In general, people who are taller need a long inseam, but that’s not always the case depending on whether the person in question simply has a long torso. If you aren’t sure, it’s always better to buy a pair that’s too long because you can hem them or wear them a bit differently to get the perfect fit later. Always prioritize your waistband measurement and the fit at your thigh since those are far harder to alter later. 

Inseams also tend to change based on style and how they’re supposed to be worn at the waist. High-waisted and low-waisted jeans are likely to have different inseams because of where they sit on the body.

What Is Inseam Measurement?

Inseam Measurement

There are a few different ways to measure your inseam, but the most common is to use a tape measure. To do this, simply stand with your feet together and use the tape measure to measure from your crotch to your ankle bone. Once you have your measurement, you can compare that to the length between the crotch seam and hem of the new pants.

Keep in mind that inseams can vary depending on the style of pants, so be sure to try on a few different pairs before making a final decision. Skinny jeans that are super tight, for example, will fit far differently than straight leg jeans or boyfriend jeans because they aren’t as snug and have a wider leg opening. 

When you use a measuring tape to check the inseam on a pair of jeans that’s already the perfect length, place the jeans on a flat surface for the best measurement.

What Is Inseam Length?

Inseam length will often be listed on pants, regardless of whether you’re buying Capri jeans, straight leg jeans, or flare jeans. For men’s pants, the inseam will usually be on the tag. In the case of women’s pants, sizing is more likely to be a number measurement that corresponds to waist size.

Flare Jeans

The average inseam for men is around 32 inches in length. For women, it’s 27 inches. There’s no standard measurement for a particular style, but there’s usually a general range for each category. Capri jeans can be on the long side or the short side, and they end somewhere between the knee and the ankle. Denim inseams may also run long on purpose to match a certain look. Bermuda shorts, for example, tend to have a long inseam since they’re meant to sit lower on the leg and be somewhere between shorts and Capri jeans.

In general, women’s jeans may have a longer or shorter inseam based on the style of shoes that person intends to wear with their new pair of jeans or pants. Therefore, when buying pants, you should know the perfect pair of shoes to match. Since taller shoes can change your height, the inseams of your pants will have to be adjusted to ensure the seams aren’t too far above the floor or ankle. 

The Importance Of Inseams

Inseam can be an important part of finding the right denim jeans or trousers. The inseam number is a fixed measurement that describes the length of the pants. Without it, finding a good pair of pants that fits would be challenging, especially for people who have short legs or particularly long legs.

Inseam length can also make it easier to shop online because you have a standard inseam measurement in mind to help you find pants. This will give you a good starting point to narrow down the length measurement, but don’t assume that you’ll need the same inseam length for every kind of jeans. 

Sometimes, you may need different inseam lengths based on the style. For example, imagine that you want to buy skinny jeans, a pair of boyfriend jeans, and a pair of bootcut jeans all from the same brand. Even though all three are for you, consider where the hem is supposed to fall. Skinny jeans and boyfriend jeans typically end at the ankle, but bootcut jeans that end that high would look silly by comparison. 

When To Risk Buying The Wrong Size

The style of the pant leg also influences how much risk you can take. With skinny jeans, a little bunching at the bottom around your ankle is still fashionable. With a wide leg like flare jeans or boyfriend jeans, the hem could drag on the floor if you measure wrong. Some distressed pants have frayed bottoms already, but it’s up to you whether you want to take the risk of doing it yourself.

Wide Leg Jeans

If you need to have your denim inseams changed, making alterations can be expensive, especially if you need changes to more than one pair of jeans. Not all denim is high-quality denim that can withstand significant adjustments to the inseam length, hem, or crotch area. Tailoring can readjust how the pants lay on your body, but there’s only so much that can be done with some fabrics.

Unfortunately, not all brands are consistent, and women’s sizes in particular are notorious for having little standardization. A size four in one brand might be a size two or a size six in another. This makes it tough to compare fits between brands, but the estimated inseams may be included in an accompanying size chart. 

With this in mind, you should really only risk buying the wrong size if you know you can return the pants or get them altered cheaply. For people with sewing skills, this can be done at home on a regular sewing machine. You can also modify the inseam on pants with hemming tape and an iron, but this is less permanent and can give your pants an odd appearance around the hem.

If you can’t return pants or they’re extremely expensive, you may want to go with custom sizing or visit a store where you can try on pants in person. This will give you some added peace of mind. 

Custom Inseam Sizing And Measuring

For special occasions or an expensive pair of pants, you might send in your measurements for a custom job or go in person for a fitting. In these situations, the inseam will be designed to your specifications and personal measurements. Custom garments are very rarely eligible for returns, so make sure that you love what you’ve picked out before you buy.

Straight Leg Jeans

Once you have your measurements, you may want to add another quarter or a half inch to your waist and inseam just in case the pants shrink a bit or the measurements aren’t quite as precise as you thought. This will also allow you to feel comfortable in the pants if you gain or lose a bit of weight before you need to wear the pants. For example, if you’re buying pants for a wedding or special occasion in the future, you won’t be able to predict for sure how they will fit on the morning of the event.

Final Thoughts

When you’re ready to buy a pair of jeans, think about all the factors involved, not just your inseam measurement. This might include the shape of your body, how you’re used to wearing jeans, and whether you need a longer or shorter inseam based on the shoes you want to wear with your outfit. The difference between flats and heels can mean the difference between a perfect fit and your hem dragging on the floor.

Luckily, it’s fast and easy to measure your inseam at home with a tape measure. If you aren’t absolutely sure about the measurement, you can also measure your inseam on a pair of pants you already like and see how they typically fall when you wear them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

What Is Inseam On Shorts?

Since shorts obviously don’t extend all the way to the ankle, the inseam will depend on the length of the shorts. A typical inseam for shorts is between 2 to 4 inches for women and 5 to 8 inches for men. This can vary with fashion trends, and some years may favor one length over another. The nice thing about shorts is that the bottom hem isn’t as important. If you buy a new pair of shorts and realize that the existing hem is too long, you can simply roll up the bottom if it still fits comfortably on your thigh. Unlike pants, there’s no risk that the cuff will end up dragging on the floor or tripping you.

What Is Inseam On Pants That Aren’t Jeans?

The inseam on pants that aren’t jeans will follow the same basic principle as denim inseams. Simply measure from the crotch to where you want the pants to fall. Adjust as needed for your height, the shoes you want to wear, and the width of the leg. Always pay attention to the fabric and whether you can expect it to shrink. The last thing you need is to find the perfect pants only to realize that the measurement has changed after the first wash. For dress pants, you might hear the term pants break when researching inseams. A pants break is the point where your pants and your shoes meet. It's generally considered to be the ideal length that falls nicely on most people. If you're not sure where your dress pants should break, a good rule is to shoot for roughly the middle of your shoe. However, it’s ultimately your choice and a matter of personal preference. There’s no one-size-fits-all rule to the exact right length since so much will depend upon your body type. Experiment with different lengths until you find the one that matches the fabric and that particular pair of pants.

How Much Does It Cost To Change Inseams?

There is no single answer to this question since the cost depends on the difficulty and whether you go to a professional tailor or a dry cleaner. Many dry cleaning companies offer basic alterations for much cheaper than tailors or seamstresses. The type of fabric and the length of the inseam can also play a role since more complicated work will take longer. You should also anticipate paying more if you need help measuring the right length or matching your pants to a pair of flats, heels, etc. Making an inseam longer can also take additional work since it requires analyzing the existing seams and hem to see if there’s enough extra fabric to lengthen the inseam. For basic hemming, you can expect to pay around $15 or $20 to have the average pair of pants sewn by a professional. When in doubt, ask for an estimate ahead of time.

Can You Wear The Same Pants With Different Shoes?

In some cases, it’s perfectly fine to mix and match shoes if they don’t drastically impact your inseam measurement. Wearing two sets of sneakers with the same jeans, for example, would probably be fine. However, it isn’t recommended to wear the same pants with heels and flats unless the pants are meant to stop at the ankle. Skinny jeans and boyfriend jeans can both look great with heels and flats since they stay cut off or bunched up at ankle height. Jeans or pants that extend beyond that point wouldn’t be appropriate for both types of shoes. Heels require a longer inseam to offset the height difference, so wearing flats with the same pair of denim would only cause the hem to drag on the floor and pose a tripping risk. Similarly, wearing heels with pants tailored for flats would make your pants appear mismatched and too short.

Maya Garcia
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