By Liza Corsillo.
Rule number one of looking great in clothes is finding the right fit for your body. But if you're not model skinny or sample size, the fashion industry can sometimes seemed stacked against you—especially when it comes to jeans. Turns out, women aren't the only ones frustrated by ill-fitting denim. So how do stylish guys with dad bods or a body builder physique find great-fitting jeans? The answer used to be buy your jeans a size or two up and then go see a tailor. But these days more denim brands are making jeans specifically cut to fit a wide range of body types, including Crossfit-level quads and glutes. That means you can say goodbye to waist gap and save money at the tailor. We spoke to three brands at the forefront of the "athletic fit" revolution about great fit, swole bods, and the changing denim landscape.
The Cut: Levi's 541 Jeans
Because more muscular bodies have more curves (that's what leg day is for after all), jeans made to fit those bodies have to curve too. That's why Levi's reengineered the standard shape, from waistband to leg taper, in their 541 model. To perfect their athletic fit, Levi's sample tested 541s on a broad spectrum of men, from the guy who gets swole for a living to the man with a dadbod and a naturally bigger bottom half. The goal: to make a stylish pair of jeans that doesn't slide down in the back or look too baggy in the ankle.
"You can’t just get an existing jean and plug in a one inch bigger thigh and that’s it," said Jonathan Cheung, Head of Design at Levi's. "We had to look at the ergonomics—we’ve dropped the waistband a little lower at the front and kept the back higher. This means it sits comfortably below your belly and covers your butt crack too! Then there’s the aesthetics. We pay a lot of attention to proportions—the angles and sizes of the pockets, everything. Lastly, we tested it both during and after the prototyping phase on athletes, construction workers of all types, and many regular guys. They all became part of the design process."
The only down side, you still have to try them on to find your true size. Cheung suggests trying "one size smaller and one size bigger than you think you are." He also suggests trying "odd-numbers, like 31”, 33”, 35”. It makes a difference." Who knows maybe you've been a 33 wearing a 34 all along.
The Cut: Bonobos Athletic Fit Jeans
Bonobos was built on the idea of better fitting pants for everyone—including guys who aren't waif male model skinny. But that doesn't mean they found the magic formula on their first try. As with any industry, fashion evolves when customers voice their opinions often enough and loud enough. Bonobos created their athletic fit in response to customer demand for jeans with a tapered leg but a little more room in the butt and thighs.
Dwight Fenton, Chief Creative Officer of Bonobos said, "Guys were writing in constantly, calling out that they loved the look of the slim fit but it was too tight in the seat and thighs or they had to buy two sizes up to get the legs to look the way they wanted. Working out and staying in shape is much more of a priority for men now."
The Cut: Barbell Apparel Athletic Fit Denim
For anyone who had to wear husky-fit clothing as a kid, the "athletic" moniker can seem like just another euphemism for chubby. And sure, if you've bulked up from too many nights of wings and not-so-light beers, athletic fit denim could totally be your jam. But the founders behind Barbell Apparel take their athletic fit pretty damn seriously. Mostly because they're athletes themselves with a lifetime of frustration surrounding the way their pants fit.
"We all grew up lifting weights, playing sports, and staying active," said the company's co-founder Hunter Molzen. "Over the years we ended up with bigger than normal legs, and could never find pants that fit. Even if we could squeeze a pair of jeans on, they were impossible to move in. Many of our customers haven’t been able to comfortably wear a nice pair of pants in years, so when they get them on it’s like a paradigm shift. Our client base comes from all walks of life including weightlifters, rock climbers, cross fitters, and track cyclists. We definitely see a big subset of customers from first-responders and the military."
This story originally appeared on GQ.
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