Denim 101
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Denim 101

Everything you need to know to find the best pair of jeans for you.


Denim comes in so many styles, colors, washes, and sizes these days, you practically need a degree in jeaneology just to keep up! Before you shop, consult our guide to help you make an educated purchase.

Denim Glossary

Rise: The length between the waistband and the inseam. High-rise sits 1/2 inch above your navel, minimizes curves, and holds in your tummy. Mid-rise sits at your navel or 1 inch below and enhances curves in your hip. Low-rise sits 2 inches below your navel and flattens a larger bottom.

Inseam: Measurement of the inside of your leg, from the middle of the crotch to the bottom of your jeans.

Band: Waistband of the jeans. Also, the measurement of your waist.

Bootcut: Widely known as the favorite (and most flattering) cut for most women, bootcut jeans give your legs a longer, slimmer appearance, due to the slightly wider cut below the knee. Generally fit close to the body.

Flared: Modern version of the bell-bottom; generally fitted through the hip, knee, and thigh area, then cut wide below the knee.

Classic Five-Pocket: Skims the hip and thigh; slightly tapered with a roomy cut in the seat to allow easy movement.

Loose: Most comfortable cut; extremely roomy in the hip, seat, and thigh area.

Straight: Cut the same width from hip-to-hem, best for toning down curves in the hip area. Generally not fitted, but body skimming.

Tapered: The ankle is cut very slim, which creates the illusion of smooth curves in the hip area.

Relaxed: Fit with the most room in the seat area, typically with lower-rise waist.

Wash: The general color and texture of your jeans. Dyes, enzymes and stones are used to achieve desired look.

Whiskers: Bleached marks and crease lines across the hip and knee -- looks similar to cat whiskers.

Distressed: Jeans have a worn-in appearance; holes and fraying most common.

Tint: Jeans are dipped into diluted dye of various colors; gold and brown are popular denim tints.

Sand-Blasted: Denim is washed with sand to fade material into a lighter shade.

Corded: Cross between denim and corduroy pants.

Frayed: Edges are loose strings of denim fabric, generally around the waist and ankle.

Size Charts

Generally, American jeans will fit according to these standards:

Size Abbreviation Full Name
00/2 XS Extra Small
4/6 S Small
8/10 M Medium
12/14 L Large
16/18 XL Extra Large
20/22 XXL Extra Extra Large

Some brands use the waist measurement as the size:

Size Waist
Measurement (in inches)
00 24
2 25
4 26
6 27
8 28
10 29
12 30
14 31
16 32
18 33

Finally, here's how to convert international jeans sizes:

US European UK Italy France
0 30 32 34 32
2 32 4 36 4
4 34 6 38 6
6 36 8 40 38
8 38 10 42 40
10 40 12 44 42
12 42 14 46 44

Originally published on, July 2006.