What are Straight Leg Jeans?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Straight leg jeans are denim pants that are cut so that the diameter of the leg opening is almost exactly the same from the knee down to the ankle. They differ from flare jeans and that begin to widen at the middle of the calf and bell bottoms that begin to widen at the knee. They also differ from skinny jeans, which actually decrease in diameter from the knee to the ankle.

Straight legs jeans are cut so that the diameter of the leg opening is practically the same from the knee to the ankle.
Straight legs jeans are cut so that the diameter of the leg opening is practically the same from the knee to the ankle.

Styles of jeans are usually indicative of eras as they are a major wardrobe staple, especially in the West. The 1960s and 1970s, for example, were a time when almost everyone wore bell bottom jeans. The skinny style of jeans began to become popular in the middle of the 2000s, taking over after flare style jeans were popular for quite a while.

Some styles of straight-leg jeans have longer inseams.
Some styles of straight-leg jeans have longer inseams.

One thing that differs with straight leg jeans is that they have not gone in and out of fashion as much as the other styles. This is probably because they are worn by many people for utilitarian purposes. While urbanites, fashionistas, and hipsters may wear jeans for a specific look, there are plenty of people who wear jeans because they are durable. Such people often have to wear durable clothing to stand up to the sort of work that they do on a regular basis. As such, the style of jeans is not as important as the function.

For this reason, although flared or tapered styles may go in and out of fashion, straight leg jeans are almost always easy to find. Denim companies that specialize in high-end fashion jeans may not sell this style every season. However, more moderately priced denim companies almost always keep at least one straight leg style in their product line. Companies that sell denim to people who are more interested in the function and durability of denim clothing than the style may only sell this type of jeans.

The major differences among straight leg jeans usually have to do with the length of the inseam. There are some styles that are a bit shorter and others that are a bit longer. Boot-cut jeans, for example, are a variety that are designed with an inseam that is a specific length so that the bottom of the jeans fits well about a boot. This is a design feature that most likely began with a utilitarian purpose and, at times, has become fashionable.

Straight leg jeans are almost always easy to find.
Straight leg jeans are almost always easy to find.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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I got used to straight leg jeans and skinny jeans being popular in the US when I was in high school and college, even though it took me awhile to be a convert.

Then I got the chance to go to Europe for a little while. While I was there, I went to a few places in Italy and could hardly believe it. Not only were slightly form-fitting styles for men popular there, such as mens' straight leg jeans, but in the bigger cities like Rome and Florence I even saw many men in skinny jeans.

These were not just well-fitting basics either, which have become more popular in the US lately, but seriously chic styles more equivalent to what women buy. I had always heard that European men were more into fashion, and it really does seem true.


@orangey03- I agree about dark jeans. They look better to me in almost any style. Dark jeans are also more versatile; you can wear them anywhere from work, if your dress code permits, to the mall or the store or out with friends. I try to keep at least one pair of my jeans as nice as possible so that I can wear it to a variety of places, though usually when I find a good pair it gets worn out really quickly, because I'll wear those jeans multiple times a week.


I think that dark straight leg jeans for women look great. However, the lighter denim ones tend to look kind of outdated in that style. The dark ones allow the jeans to fade into the background of the outfit yet complement it at the same time.

If you are going to get some jeans with an embroidered design, beads, or some other embellishment, then you should get flare leg or bell bottom jeans. Straight leg jeans can become overwhelmed easily by ornamentation.

The best way to wear the straight leg style is as an understated element that plays background to the blouse, shoes, and accessories. The jeans make the outfit attractive without screaming for attention.


I have a friend who is somewhat of a dark soul. He wears mostly black, and he loves his black straight leg jeans.

He has a collection of black t-shirts with various designs that he wears with the jeans. He also has several dark button-front shirts that look great with them. I believe that he has about four pairs of black jeans in his closet, and they are all straight leg.

He told me that flare leg and bell bottom jeans are just too fashionable for him. He doesn’t want his wardrobe to stand out or make him look like he’s trying too hard.


I have a pair of white jeans that are straight leg. I love wearing them when I vacation on the beach in New England. Everyone there seems to wear white in their vacation photos, and these jeans look great with loose, flowy blouses.

I do worry about getting stains on them, but I carry a Tide pen in my purse just in case. These straight leg jeans look awesome with a light denim button-up tunic and a white belt. I also love wearing them with my nautical stripe navy blue and white thin sweater. Other than a dress, there is nothing that wouldn’t look great with this style of jeans.


I keep several pairs of straight leg jeans in my wardrobe. To me, they seem to go with everything from long sweaters to blouses gathered at the waist by elastic and flared out beneath it.

Wide leg jeans just seem to have too much material. I feel like I’m wading in denim when I wear them. Flare leg jeans are all right, but they don’t look as good with a big sweater as straight leg jeans do.

I will wear boot cut jeans when I need them. They look just fine and fit snugly over a pair of tight boots.


@Monika - I like bootcut jeans too. However, I find most other varieties of straight leg jeans to be less than stylish.

Normally I wear bootcut jeans or skinny jeans. It took me awhile to get on board with the skinny jean trend, but they are quite versatile. I also don't really wear flare jeans anymore-I think they look kind of dated.


I wouldn't have thought to consider boot cut jeans a type of straight leg jeans before reading this article. For some reason I kind of thought they were flared out a little bit at the ankle.

That being said, bootcut jeans are my favorite. Because I love to wear boots! I also sometimes wear them with flats as well, and I think they look good that way too.


@Latte31 - I personally don’t like jeans. I find them a little uncomfortable to wear and a little too casual to wear to most functions.

I also think that some of these women wear these jeans so tight that it must be dangerous to their health. It is also very uncomfortable. I don’t mind sacrificing a little for the sake of fashion, but I am not going to be that uncomfortable doing it.


@Bhutam - I agree with you and I wanted to say that I actually prefer black jeans because they are so slimming. I also wear boot cut jeans because I like a little more space at the ankle to draw the eye out.

I think that very thin women look best in straight legged jeans because their body is more proportioned so it makes these straight leg denim jeans look like they were made for these women.

Some of these designer jeans can cost $200 or more so you better make sure they look good on you before you buy them.


I think that plus size straight leg jeans are not as flattering as jeans that have a boot cut or look a little like bell bottoms.

I think that boot cut jeans tends to deemphasize the hips and create an illusion of a more straight line which tends to flatter those with larger hips.

Straight leg jeans for plus size women like myself draw attention to the hip area because the legs are so tapered that it is really unflattering to wear.

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