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Athletic Fit Vs Slim Fit Pants and Jeans: What’s the Difference?

One easy way to look your best is to buy clothing cut to suit your body shape. Pants and jeans come in many different cuts these days, making it much easier to find a style that fits your body just right. For instance, when comparing athletic fit vs slim fit, you will quickly find that one style may suit you much better than the other!

Athletic fit pants and jeans provide extra room in the hips and thighs for people with stocky or muscular legs. Slim-fit pants and jeans have less room in the hips and thighs and offer a narrower leg down to the ankle. Both athletic fit and slim fit have tapered legs that offer a modern silhouette.

In this article, you will learn the key characteristics of both athletic fit and slim-fit pants and jeans. You will find out which style looks better on your body type. Finally, you will discover how athletic fit and slim fit measure up against other popular styles of pants.

Athletic Fit Vs Slim Fit Pants

Athletic Fit Vs Slim Fit: Key Points

Before taking a deeper dive into the differences between athletic fit vs slim fit pants, take a moment to grasp the key points of these styles in the chart below.

Athletic FitSlim Fit
CutGenerous room above the knee, then tapered below the kneeClose fit from waist to knee, and tapered below the knee to the ankle
Leg OpeningVaries by brand, but usually narrow, 15” for a 32” waistVaries by brand, but always a narrow opening, 14.75” for a 32” waist
RiseMost brands offer low rise and high rise athletic fitUsually a higher rise
SeatLooser, providing more room for a muscular bodyFairly tight, though not as tight as a skinny fit
MaterialMostly denim or stretch denim, though also found in chinos or dress pant fabricsPopular in denim, khaki, and dress pant fabrics

What Are Athletic Fit Pants?

Athletic Fit JeansAthletic fit pants and jeans provide extra room above the knee while maintaining the popular tapered leg of modern fashion below the knee. This means that anyone with a totally slim and flat body can look stylish and feel comfortable in an athletic cut!

Though the specifics can vary from one brand to another, this fit usually has the same waist shape and rise as a slim or straight cut in that brand. The big difference lies in the space between the waist and the knees, which includes more fabric in an athletic fit. From the knee to the ankle, an athletic cut usually looks very similar to a slim or tapered fit in that brand and may even have the same narrow leg opening.

The term “athletic” makes sense because this style works best for anyone who has muscular or rounded thighs. If you have ever tried to squeeze into skinny jeans and found yourself frustrated because the waist fits but the seat and thighs do not, you may want to consider the athletic fit style!

A fairly recent innovation, the athletic cut first appeared in several popular jeans brands, such as American Eagle and Levi’s. You can now find many different style variations on the general athletic cut theme. For instance, some brands of jeans sell bootcut athletic fit, low-rise athletic fit, and so on.

The generous proportions of the athletic fit do well in denim because this fabric already has a natural give to it. However, you can also find an athletic cut in other styles of trousers.

What Are Slim Fit Pants?

Slim Fit JeansSlim-fit pants and jeans have a tight, form-fitting waist and thigh area and tapered legs below the knee that end in a narrow leg opening. You can think of a slim fit style as falling somewhere in between a regular cut and a skinny fit. Of course, you will find some variation from brand to brand, but usually, a slim-fit cut does not feel quite as glued to your body as a skinny jeans style, but they are more form-fitting than a regular cut!

Some big-name brands do sell slim-fit jeans, but you see this style a lot in trousers and chinos. In the past several decades, slim-fit pants have become a staple of the modern wardrobe for both men and women. This style presents the sharp, narrow silhouette popular in the workplace and modern fashion today.

Though you will notice some differences between slim-fit chinos, jeans, and trousers from brand to brand, you can always expect to find a close-fitting upper leg and a tapered lower leg. This sets slim-fit pants apart from other styles like skinny jeans, which have a straight leg below the knee. Slim-fit plants typically have quite a small leg opening of 9 to 20 inches, depending on the size of the pants.

As the name suggests, slim-fit pants often feel most comfortable on anyone with a flat, slim body type. If you have larger legs or lots of curves, you may feel squeezed inside the unforgiving shape of the slim-fit cut. On the other hand, if you have a slender frame, you will feel comfortable and look stylish in this style!

What is the Difference Between Athletic Fit and Slim Fit Pants and Jeans?

Difference Between Athletic Fit and Slim Fit

The biggest difference between athletic fit and slim-fit pants and jeans is that athletic fit pants include more space in the thighs for anyone with a bulkier body type. For this reason, athletic fit is not the same as slim fit.

That said, slim fit and athletic fit styles often share some similarities. For instance, the waist and leg opening may measure the same in both styles. But you can always expect some key differences, such as the overall cut and shape of each style!


The biggest difference between athletic fit and slim-fit pants and jeans lies in the cut. This is because slim-fit jeans do not include much extra fabric in the thigh area. The whole idea of a slim-fit style is that it highlights the narrow shape of a slender person’s body, creating more or less a straight line.

Athletic fit pants, in contrast, incorporate a generous amount of extra fabric in this area to create a pant leg that will closely fit a larger or more muscled leg. Athletic fit pants should still closely fit the shape of your legs; they just fit a different body type! You will often see athletic jeans cut referred to as “relaxed” because of the extra room in the upper leg.


Both athletic fit and slim-fit pants and jeans usually have a fairly tight waist, though the style can vary depending on the brand. For slim-fit pants, this makes sense. After all, you do not want pants to bag out at the waist and then fit tightly through the legs!

You may find it surprising that athletic-fit pants and jeans usually also have quite a tight waist. This is because athletic pants tend to fit people who have a trim waist but may have more curves or muscles in the seat and thighs.


Rise describes how many inches fall between the seam of the crotch and the top of a waistband on a pair of pants.

Most slim-fit and athletic-fit jeans have a fairly standard rise of about 10”, meaning that the top of the waistband rests at your actual waist. That said, the rise is one factor that can look quite different from one brand to another. Plus, some brands have adapted the popularity of slim-fit and athletic styles and modified them into variations such as a low-rise athletic fit or a high-waisted slim fit.

You can usually find information about the rise of a particular pair of pants by reading the product description before you buy the pants. This measurement usually appears in inches, though keep in mind that different sizes of pants may have a higher or lower measurement in the rise.


Oddly enough, both slim fit and athletic fit jeans and pants should fit you in pretty much the same way. Both styles should outline the shape of your legs pretty closely. The difference lies in the fact that the athletic style has more room to encompass bigger legs!

The idea of both fits is that they present a tailored appearance by offering tapered legs from the knee to the ankle. So whether you have a slender body or very muscled legs, you can still look like you bought pants tailored just for you!


Athletic fit pants and jeans almost always include at least a small amount of elastic fibers in the fabric of the cloth. This is especially true for athletic-fit jeans, which you will usually find made out of stretch denim. For example, Levi’s popular athletic fit jeans use stretch denim.

Slim-fit pants and jeans often include some elastic but may not always do so. For instance, slim-fit slacks may not include any elastic at all.

In general, though, any style intended to have such a tight, tailored fit will include some Spandex, Lycra, or elastane in the fabric’s weave.

Leg Opening

Both athletic fit and slim fit pants have tapered legs, meaning that the pant leg narrows from the knee to the ankle. This creates a fairly small leg opening in both types of pants or jeans.

Of course, the actual measurement of the leg opening varies depending on the size of pants you buy and the brand you like. In general, athletic-fit jeans will have a leg opening of about 15” for pants with a 32” waist.

Slim-fit pants are all about the taper and tend to have some of the smallest leg openings of any pant style. For a 32” waist, you usually see a leg opening of just 14.75”.


You can find slim-fit pants made of many popular pant materials, including denim, khaki, cotton, or polyester. In recent years the narrow silhouette of a slim-fit became very popular, meaning that many business casual, formal, and informal styles adopted the slender shape of the slim-fit pant. This means that you can find variations of most pants sold by popular brands in a slim-fit cut.

You see athletic fit most often in jeans, but some brands do sell dress pants or slacks with an athletic fit as well. IN this case, you can find athletic pants made from various fabrics, usually including a small amount of elastic in the cotton or polyester as well.

Best For

Slim-fit pants will feel most comfortable for anyone with a slim, flat build, while athletic fit pants and jeans will suit anyone with muscled or curved legs.

Both styles will create the impression of tailored jeans or slacks that outline the shape of your legs and nip in close to your ankle. This provides a modern, stylish kind of pants that will pair well with a tailored blazer or with a vintage t-shirt!

What are Athletic Slim Fit Pants?

TBMPOY Men's Tapered Joggers Athletic Running Workout Pants Sweatpants Slim Fit Gym Zipper Pockets Army Green MMost of the time, the term “athletic slim fit” just means an athletic cut that provides extra room in the seat and thighs. Some brands, like Express Jeans, use this terminology instead of just saying “athletic fit.”

Of course, the exact cut of an athletic slim fit or athletic fit pair of jeans can vary from one brand to another. In some cases, athletic slim-fit pants may look more like what you would expect from a slim-fit style and just have a fraction more space in the thighs.

What are Athletic Taper Jeans?

Lee Men's Legendary Athletic Taper Jean Cruise 34W x 32LOnce again, “athletic taper jeans” is just another name for the basic athletic fit style of pants. It lets you know that the athletic fit does have fairly close-fitting pant legs down the calf and ankle.

Why is this so important? Well, before the invention of athletic fit, you pretty much had to buy bulky, straight-legged regular fit jeans if you had a more muscled posterior or thighs. If you were lucky, you could afford to hire a tailor to make those baggy regular-cut jeans fit you. If not, you just had to wear looser pants to accommodate the shape of your body!

Athletic taper jeans give you the option of wearing pants that fit the upper portion of your legs and taper in the lower leg to give you a more modern appearance.

What Does Athletic Fit Sizing Mean?

The tricky thing about buying a unique cut in pants, such as an athletic fit or slim fit, is that you have to understand the sizing and measurements of these styles.

Think about it this way: in a size 6 pair of pants, the measurement of a low rise or high rise waist will look quite different. Likewise, the leg opening on a pair of bell-bottoms will be much bigger than the leg opening on a pair of skinny jeans!

For this reason, you can’t always just buy the size you normally wear. Instead, check out a sizing chart if the brand provides one. If not, look for specific measurements in the product description. You will want to check the waist measurement, thigh measurement, and rise of the pants to make sure these all match up with the size of your body.

One of the best ways to learn your own measurements is to go to a professional tailor. Another is to measure those areas on a pair of your favorite pants that fits you perfectly!

How Do Athletic and Slim Fit Compare to Other Kinds of Pants?

Sometimes the best way to understand a certain style is to get a clear picture of what that style does not look like, which you can do by comparing athletic and slim fit pants to other popular cuts!

Athletic Vs Regular Fit Pants

The main difference between athletic and regular fit pants is that athletic fit pants taper through the calf, leading down to a narrow leg opening. Regular-fit pants typically have a pant leg that falls in a straight line from the knee to the ankle, and therefore has a wider leg opening. This style also often has a looser, baggier quality to it.

Both styles tend to suit people with more muscles or curves, who might feel constrained in slim-fit or skinny styles. But athletic fit pants will outline the shape of your legs, while regular fit may hang off your lower body more loosely.

Athletic Vs Slim Fit Chinos

The difference between athletic and slim fit chinos is that athletic fit chinos offer more room in the seat and hips than the slim fit style of chinos. Many popular brands, such as the Banana Republic, sell Chinos in various cuts, including athletic fit and slim fit.

Bana Repbulic’s athletic and slim-fit chinos both have a tight waist that sits right at your actual waist, tapered lower legs, and narrow leg opening. The only real difference lies in the thigh area of the two styles.

Athletic Vs Straight Fit Pants

The biggest difference between athletic and straight-fit pants is that the straight-fit style has legs that do not taper from the hip to the thigh to the ankle, though the pants legs do have a fairly narrow diameter.

Athletic fit pants provide more room for anyone with larger upper legs than straight fit pants because of this.

Slim Vs Straight Jeans for Women

The main difference between slim and straight cut jeans for women is that slim jeans have tapered legs and a tight fit, and straight jeans have a slightly looser fit and untapered legs.

That said, this distinction can change from one brand to another. Plus, some brands only offer skinny and straight, skinny and slim, and so on–not every brand offers both slim and straight-cut jeans for women.

Your best chance for finding a style of jeans that suits your body is to take accurate measurements of your waist, the circumference of your thighs, and the length of your legs. Then check out a sizing chart for the slim or straight jeans that you want to buy, and see if your measurements match the measurements of new pants!

What are Athletic and Slim Fit Pants for Women?

For women, athletic and slim-fit jeans offer the same characteristics as athletic and slim-fit pants for men. Women’s athletic pants still have extra room in the seat, hips, and thighs, perfect for anyone with muscled legs or a curvier shape. Slim-fit pants for women have more narrow hips and thighs.

Both types of pants offer women options for a tailored, closely-fitting pants or jeans style. Athletic fit suits people with roomier thighs, while slim-fit styles suit people with a more slender build.

Should You Choose Athletic Fit or Slim Fit Pants or Jeans?

Most people choose between athletic fit and slim fit pants or jeans based on body type. Athletic fit pants are designed specifically to provide a comfortable fit for anyone with muscled or curved thighs. Slim-fit pants, in contrast, have a very close fit that clings to people with slender legs.

Another thing to remember is that while athletic fit pants almost always use stretch fabric, slim fit pants may not have any elastic in the weave of the cloth. So if you like feeling more ease of movement in your pants, you may prefer an athletic fit.

Ultimately, of course, you should choose whatever style of pants makes you feel comfortable!


Both athletic fit and slim fit pants originated in the modern fashion trend for tapered pants that outline the shape of the lower body. However, athletic pants include more room in the seat, hip, and thighs, allowing them to tightly fit people with larger upper legs. Slim-fit pants have narrower thighs, making them better suited to people with more slender legs.

Many popular brands, including Levi’s, Banana Republic, and Express, offer multiple jeans and pants cuts, including athletic and slim fit. To find a pair of athletic or slim-fit pants that fits you perfectly, you should always check out a brand’s sizing chart to get precise measurements.