Julie Rath: Jean-eology — How to Find Flattering Jeans

Having good jeans is not hereditary or otherwise beyond your control. But it does take know-how and patience. The wrong jeans can send the wrong message entirely. So this is one you want to get right. Read on for the definitive Rath & Co. guide to shopping for denim.

The Most Flattering Style

Men's Personal Shopper Straight Leg Jeans

Just about everyone looks good in a pair of inky blue, straight-leg jeans. This is the first basic pair that I recommend everyone should have. It’s timeless.

The Best Style for Your Build

What does the perfect pair of jeans look like? Well, that depends on your physical proportions.

  • If you’re of average build, good styles for you include RRL Straight Leg7 Standard Classic Straight LegJ Brand Kane or Citizens of Humanity Sid.
  • If you’re slim, try 7 Jeans Slimmy. Don’t let the name freak you out – these aren’t skinny jeans. The Slimmy’s are cut straight, without a lot of excess room in the leg and with a slight taper toward the ankle. I’ve had many conservative clients love the fit of these. Billy Reid’s Slim Jean is another good choice.
  • If your thighs are built, try Joe’s Straight Leg Classic or AG The Protégé.
  • If your waist size is larger than your inseam and/or you need more room overall, check out 7 Jeans’ Austyn cut. Sometimes loose cuts (of anything, really) can make you look larger than you actually are, but these give you room to breathe while still looking flattering.
  • If your rise is low (this is the distance between your waist and the bottom of your crotch), Hudson’s Byron cut is an excellent option.

Note: Aside from cuts, there’s a huge variety of pocket styles among different types of denim. This is an important factor because you want to make sure that the rear pockets are not too long for your seat. For example, I’ve found that with clients 5’ 8” and under, the pockets on the 7 Standard Classic jeans are too long and end up making the client look misproportioned.

Washes and Colors

Men's Personal Shopper Worn Jeans

Once you’ve got the dressier dark blue rinse, you’ll want to get a more casual rinse that’s a little lighter in color (see above). These are for weekend afternoons and low-key trips to your favorite watering hole.

Men's Personal Shopper Denim RinsesAnother easy way to add versatility to your denim wardrobe is to introduce colors aside from blue. I’m a big fan of grey, white, off-white (the latter two especially good for warm weather; see above) and other interesting shades like red. If this appeals to you, check out Rag & Bone for an array of unique washes which change each season. Last Fall, I styled a client in a pair of burgundy AG’s and orange suede Louis Vuitton driving loafers. It was a very cool look! Note that if you go with white (a bold, confident choice), make sure you keep them spotless.

Savvy Shopping Tips

  • Unless you’re buying selvedge denim (a thicker, stiffer type of Japanese denim), most jeans will slacken up to one size as you wear them. So it’s good if they’re a little snug when you buy them.
  • Sizing varies from brand to brand. If you’re 34 in one brand, you may be 33 in another.
  • Always check out your rear view in a three-way mirror when trying on jeans. What looks like a party in the front may be droopy drawers in the back. And make sure to wear a belt when trying on – this will help indicate what fits and what doesn’t. Your jeans are too big if your belt hikes your belt loops up toward your seat, or if you have crimping anywhere along the waist.
  • Set aside a chunk of time and try on as many pairs as you can. A few times a client and I had thought we’d found The Right Pair, only to try on one more style and find one that’s even better. It pays to spend a little time doing this.


  • Once you’ve found jeans that turn heads, you may need to have them tailored. If they need hemming, make sure you bring with you to the tailor whatever shoes you’ll be wearing most frequently with them.
  • Ask your tailor to reattach the original bottom hem after shortening them (they don’t always offer this without your asking).
  • If you’re having slim or straight-leg jeans hemmed, pay attention to where the tailor is going to cut them. Sometimes shortening jeans can compromise the desired slimness in the leg, so in order to maintain the integrity of the cut, you should have them tapered slightly toward the ankle as well.

Side note: if you like the look of cuffed jeans (see “Washes and Colors” above), you can skip the hemming and roll 1.5″ cuffs.

To Be Avoided at All Costs


Men's Personal Shopper Denim Don'ts

Not to be dramatic, but please don’t be caught dead in any of the following jean-related offenses: heavily contrasting stitching, (No), obnoxiously-patterned pockets (Double No), very pronounced whiskering or distressing (feels artificial and is not slimming), boot cuts (save it for the cowboys), or black jeans (this worked for the “November Rain” video but little else).

Take Care

Wash your jeans inside out to maintain the color.


In general, you get what you pay for with jeans – up to a certain point. A $50 pair of jeans from Uniqlo is a good option if you’re watching your budget, but know that they won’t last as long as a pair of Citizens, for example, that cost $175. Do the math: in some instances, it makes more sense to invest in quality up front rather than have to replace inexpensive jeans every year. All of that said, I have a client who had been talked into buying several pairs of $1K plus Louis Vuitton denim by an overzealous salesperson before he started shopping with me. Perhaps you cannot put a price on that which makes your butt look good, but really, it’s not necessary to spend more than $250-$275 to get a solid pair of jeans. Once I started shopping for that client, I found him a whole slew of denim that cost less than ¼ of what he had spent previously – and he liked them better than the super-pricey ones.

The Canadian Tuxedo…?


Men's Personal Shopper Canadian Tuxedo

Ever wonder if you’re cool enough to rock the jean-on-jean look? Well, you are! You just need to know how to do it. The key to wearing jeans on bottom with jeans on top is to make sure each item is a distinctly different wash from the other. A fail-safe way to do this is to combine a light rinse denim top with a dark, selvedge jean. A light rinse denim top also looks clean and crispy with white jeans.

I know all of this may sound complicated, but trust me, putting a little effort into your jean shopping will go a long way. If you’d like tailored help with achieving denim excellence, contact me.



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