Jeans: Measuring the Right Waist Size

Jean waist measurements vary considerably by brand.  There is no standard.  This is because designers have different visions for how their jeans should look and fit.

In other words, jeans are not true to size.  All the denim brands we’ve evaluated are between 1” and 3” over the labeled size.  For example: a jean with a 34 size label could measure anywhere from 35” to 37”.  To make sense of this, you’d need to understand the designer’s intentions.  Levi’s has a longer rise, it needs to sit higher on the waist to prevent sagging in the crotch, and for this Levi’s may target 1 1/4” over the label.  In contrast, Diesel has a shorter rise, it needs to sit lower on the waist to keep the crotch from riding up, and Diesel may target 2 1/2” over.

At Todd Shelton, our target is 1 ¾” over our labeled size (for jeans only), we have a ¼” tolerance meaning that our waist can measure between 1 ½” to 2” over; this applies to our trim and generous fit.  If you’re considering ordering a Todd Shelton jean, we’re going to show you how to determine your waist size based on the jeans you already own.

Grab your jean with the best fitting waist.  Lay it flat on a counter, smooth out the wrinkles in the waist.  With a ruler (or tape measure), measure across the middle of the waistband.  Double the measurement and that will be your target spec.  Keep in mind we add 1 ¾” to a labeled size, if your target is 34 ½” – you should order Todd Shelton 33”.



Compared to dress trousers, jean waist measurements are more generous for two main reasons.  First, jeans today are designed to be worn lower on the waist; the more generous the waist, the lower the jean will rest on the hips.  Second, jeans are more casual than trousers, designing for comfort is more acceptable and a more generous waist is more comfortable (and forgiving).

There’s the theory that clothing brands will put smaller size labels in larger clothing to make the customer feel smaller than their actual size, with the goal of improving self image.  We’ve heard from our girl friends that Banana Republic does this; they may be an actual size 6 but wear Banana Republic size 2.  They like the idea of being a size 2, so they shop at Banana Republic.

If this type of resizing is being done, we believe it’s being done for women’s brands.  We haven’t seen this with men’s brands.  As mentioned above, there is a reason for increasing the waist measurements for men’s jeans; it has more to do with style than psychology.