Have you ever bought a pair of pants or jeans that looked perfect in the store, taken them home, and found them either too short or too long? Even if you get pants in your size, the leg length can prove challenging. But you can learn how to measure the inseam on pants, shorts, and jeans to help you buy legwear in the right length!
One of the best ways to measure the inseam on pants, shorts, or jeans is to spread out a pair of old pants and trace the distance from the crotch seam to the hem. The inseam measures the length from the crotch seam, down the inner seam on the pants, to the hem at the leg opening. A tailor or professional can also take this measurement.
In this article, you will find out why the inseam measurement makes such a difference in well-fitting legwear. You will learn six simple methods for measuring the inseam, including tips for measuring shorts and pants for youth. Finally, you will find a helpful chart of inseam measurements.
- What is the Inseam on Pants, Shorts, and Jeans?
- How to Measure the Inseam: 6 Methods
- Inseam vs Length: What is the Difference?
- What is the Inseam for Regular Length?
- Inseam to Height Ratio
- Inseam Size Chart
- How to Measure Inseam for Bike
- Inseam vs Outseam
What is the Inseam on Pants, Shorts, and Jeans?
The inseam on pants, shorts and jeans measures the length of the inner leg seam. This measurement will tell you how long the legwear is.
Most pants have two main seams. One runs down the outer edge of the pants, from the waistband, over the hip, and down to the outside of your ankle. The other seam goes from the crotch to the inside of the ankle.
The inside seam, known more commonly as the inseam, is what you need to pay attention to.
Unfortunately, there is no golden rule about a standard inseam for pants, shorts, and jeans. Every brand offers legwear with differing inseam measurements. Even different styles within a brand will typically feature differing inseam measurements. For instance, baggy straight-leg jeans will often have a longer inseam than super-tight skinny jeans.
While it’s fun to have many pant styles to choose from, you have to know that each style will fit your lower body differently, and some will have longer legs than others.
With so many different inseam measurements, why does this measurement matter?
Knowing your own inseam measurement will allow you to buy legwear that fits your particular body. Everyone comes in different shapes and sizes, but clothing manufacturers have to try to offer “one size fits all” in many cases to most successfully market ready-wear clothing. You can overcome this obstacle by knowing your measurements and shopping for clothes that fit you, not the generic “most likely to sort of fit most people” sizes!
Suppose you want to wear bootcut jeans that break right at your ankle to show off your new fall boots. Or dress pants that hang just long enough to look right with your favorite heels. Knowing your inseam measurement will tell you how a pair of pants will look on you before you even try them on!
In this article, you will learn a few handy tricks for mastering your own inseam measurements.
Finally, as a helpful tip, most clothing manufacturers in the United States use inches to describe an inseam measurement. You should probably use that unit of measurement to make your shopping most successful.
How to Measure the Inseam: 6 Methods
You can learn how to get an accurate inseam measurement using several simple methods. The great advantage of knowing your own measurements is that it helps you buy properly fitted clothes for your body type.
To do this, write down the measurement and then compare it to the sizing chart provided by most brands or companies. You can also find this info in the product descriptions of most online items.
You may find that the brand sells pants with a waist size that fits you perfectly but a too-short inseam! This is helpful to know ahead of time, so you do not accidentally buy “hobbit pants” instead of pants that fit the length of your legs!
1. With a Mirror
It’s a little tricky to measure your own inseam, but you can do it with the help of a mirror! If possible, find a location with a floor-length mirror, which will help you get the most accurate results.
You should also try this method at home, so you can wear either close-fitting leggings or just take this measurement while in your underwear. Baggy clothes or even jeans will bulk out your legs, giving you inaccurate measurements.
- Start by settling into a tall, straight-backed stance in front of your mirror. You don’t want to stand too rigidly, but you need to come to your full height to get correct measurements.
- Use a flexible tape measure, like the kind that comes in sewing kits. You can also get these at the dollar store, so don’t try using a ruler or a stiff metal tape measure!
- This bit may feel awkward, but you need accuracy if you want to get a clear inseam measurement! Place the end of the tape measure where your thigh meets your groin or right where the seams would meet at your crotch if you were wearing jeans.
- Now, slowly unroll the long end of the tape, keeping it flush against your inner leg as you go. It’s tricky to do this while standing up straight, but try your best!
- Keep an eye on the mirror to make sure the tape carefully follows a straight line down your inner leg.
- Stop when you reach your ankle. You have a bit of bone that sort of sticks out of this part of your inner ankle, where the tibia bone ends. Use this knob to help you find the endpoint of your measurement.
- Pinch the tape at this point and keep it tight in your hand until you can write down the number.
- Now you have your inseam measurement!
2. With Someone Else
One of the most accurate and efficient ways to get a perfect inseam measurement is to visit a professional tailor, but you can also get a friend or family member to help you out.
Maybe you never considered going to a tailor because having your clothing altered seems like a luxury reserved for the rich. In most cases, this is really not true! Professional tailors will often hem a pair of pants for as little as $15.
If you struggle to find legwear in the right length for you, you may want to consider buying pants a little too long and taking them to a tailor for a cheap alteration. This will give you pants that fit your waist and upper legs and provide that perfect inseam measurement!
On the other hand, you can also get a friend to help you out for free by following these steps:
- Wear something tight-fitting like biking shorts or leggings or (if you are very comfortable with this person) close-fitting undergarments. This will allow the most accurate inseam measurement, as baggy pants will get in the way.
- Also, make sure you go barefoot for this activity. You do not want your ankles or lower legs at different heights and angles because you had a pair of heels on!
- You need to stand up in a straight but relaxed posture. For best results, rest the back of your shoulders against a wall and focus on good posture.
- Finally, have your friend or family member use a tape measure to trace the distance from your crotch seam down to the floor. The tape measure should touch your leg the whole way down and not just hang from the crotch seam to the floor. That distance is your inseam measurement!
3. For Men
The good thing about buying pants and jeans for men is that they almost always come with an inseam measurement as part of the name or product description. If you go to your closet and pull out a random sampling of pants and jeans, you can easily check the inside of the waistband or the manufacturer’s label to see what inseam measurement fits you!
What does this measurement look like inside your pants? It usually comes as the second in two numbers. The first number indicates the waist measurement, and the second tells you the inseam measurement. For example, men’s pants in size 34 X 32 indicate a waist measurement of 34 inches and an inseam of 32 inches.
You can get a pretty good idea of your inseam measurement just by looking at the pants you already own and writing down those inseam numbers!
You may also want to try one of the measuring methods listed here to have 100% certainty that you know your own inseam measurement.
4. For Women
One of the tricky things about getting inseam measurements for women is that you often want slightly longer or shorter pants depending on the style of your outfit. For instance, you may want to add half an inch to the inseam of a pair of jeans you plan to wear with heels.
You can often get inseam measurements that tell you accurately how pants in many styles will fit you by measuring old pants that fit you well.
- First, pick a couple of pairs of pants or jeans in varying styles. For example, you may want a pair of skinny jeans, a pair of bootcut or looser jeans, and a pair of nice dress pants.
- You do not need to try on the pants for this method. Instead, spread them out flat on the floor.
- Fold the pants down the middle so that the side seams lie on top of each other.
- Lift the top pant leg away and locate the inner leg seam, starting at the crotch.
- Slowly smooth out a tape measure from the crotch seam to the point where the seam ends at the hem of the pants. Make sure your tape measure stays on top of the seam the whole way down instead of sliding off onto the pant leg.
- Snap a pic of the tape measure with your phone, or jot down the measurement.
As a pro tip, some women’s pants include the inseam measurement on the manufacturer’s tag inside the garment. This is not as common as it is in menswear, but you can always check to see if the label includes this helpful information!
5. For Youth
So long as you can convince your child to stand still for just a moment, you can easily get an inseam measurement following the same basic steps as the “with someone else” method.
- Have your child stand with feet spread slightly apart, as tall and straight as possible.
- Have your child hold one end of the tape measure at their crotch seam.
- Slide the long end of the measure down your child’s leg to their ankle.
- Write down this measurement!
Kids grow really fast, so you will want to take this measurement every time you go shopping!
As a fun tip for anyone with a small person in their life, many bike sellers also use a child’s inseam to help match the kid to the right shape and size of the bike. So you may find several uses for this measurement!
6. On Shorts
You can use the same basic steps to measure the inseam on shorts, but there is one crucial difference to keep in mind. Every different kind of shorts has a different length, meaning that each style will also have very different inseam measurements. You can buy biker shorts, loose khaki shorts, boating shorts, booty shorts, and the list goes on!
Some of the inseam measurements you see on shorts are five, seven, nine, or eleven-inch inseams. But again, every different type of shorts will have a unique inseam!
For this reason, you may need to familiarize yourself with several inseam measurements that work for you when you want to buy shorts. Using an old pair of shorts from last summer that fit well can help you figure out what length of shorts you like.
For women, you may want to lay out three or even four different kinds of shorts and measure the inseam on each pair.
Most pants have a hem that ends at or around your ankle. Shorts don’t do this–every style has a unique length! So make sure you know what style of shorts you like before choosing an inseam measurement.
Inseam vs Length: What is the Difference?
The main difference between inseam and length is that length measures the pants, shorts, or jeans from the top of the waistband to the hem, while inseam measures the distance between the crotch and the hem.
This means that the length measurement is not the same as the inseam measurement!
Most manufacturers will not necessarily include the length in a product description. Almost everyone will provide the inseam measurement, though, as it is crucial to achieving a good fit for any kind of pants.
That said, knowing the inseam does help you understand how long a pair of pants is. If you need to adjust the inseam, you do this by lengthening or shortening the hem. In other words, you alter the length of the pants to alter the inseam!
What is the Inseam for Regular Length?
For men, regular-length pants often have an inseam of 32”, but this does vary from one brand to another. For women, inseam measurements vary too much to have much of a regular-length expectation.
A longer inseam for women will make your legs look longer. You will also want to consider whether or not your shoes will add height to your legs because you may need a longer inseam to go with certain shoes.
Pants with an inseam too long for your legs end up having a break that crumples up or “stacks,” meaning that the hem wrinkles up because you had too much pant leg left over when the pants hit your foot. If you don’t fit some of the regular sizes you see out there, you may want to buy pants with this extra-long inseam and just get them hemmed.
Inseam to Height Ratio
In most cases, your inseam measurement is about 45% of your full height, or a ratio of 2.2:1. Of course, every person has slightly different proportions, which is just a generalization!
However, if you know your full height in inches, you can easily multiply that by .45 and get an estimate of the average inseam for a person of your height. This is kind of cool if you want to know whether you have longer or shorter legs than the average person of your height.
But for accurate measurement of your own inseam, make sure to use one of the methods described in this article!
Inseam Size Chart
Every brand selling legwear will offer an inseam size chart that helps you find the right size based on your particular measurements. These charts usually also include things like waist measurements and sometimes front and back rise.
When using a sizing chart, you want to match all your key measurements if possible. Otherwise, you could end up with pants with the correct length but a gaping waist. Or you might get pants that fit perfectly in the waist but end at mid-calf instead of at your ankle!
The problem is that every brand will offer slight differences in the measurements and sizing they use. Plus, the sizes for men and women will look quite different!
However, this handy height and inseam chart will give you an idea of the average inseam to height proportions you can expect to see in legwear.
|Average Height||Average Inseam|
|5’ to 5’3”||28” to 30”|
|5’4” to 5’6”||30” to 31”|
|5’7” to 5’9”||31” to 33”|
|5’10” to 6’||33” to 35”|
|6’1” to 6’3”||34” to 35”|
How to Measure Inseam for Bike
You can easily measure your inseam to help you get the right size of the bike by using a book to mimic the shape of a bike seat.
- First, stand up straight with your back flat against a wall.
- Place a book between your legs as if it was the seat of a bike.
- Have a friend measure the distance from the top of the book to the floor.
- This is your inseam measurement for a bike!
You can use this measurement in your search for the perfect bike by matching your inseam to the measurement of the seat tube. Or you can try this conversion formula.
If you want a road bike, multiply your inseam in centimeters by .665. The result will tell you what size of road bike to buy in centimeters!
For a mountain bike, you do the same thing, but multiply your inseam measurement in centimeters by .225 to get your bike size in centimeters.
Inseam vs Outseam
The inseam on legwear measures the seam that runs up the inner leg, while the outseam measures the longer seam running from the waistband to the hem on your outer leg.
Most pants, shorts, and jeans have two main seams down the length of the leg. You will find one of the seams running down the outer edge of your leg, from your hip to your ankle. The other makes an upside-down “V” shape running up your inner leg.
That inside seam is what you need to measure to get pant legs that fit you perfectly!
You do not see outseam measurements included in product descriptions as often as inseam measurements. But if you do want to take this measurement, find a pair of close-fitting pants, spread them flat on the floor, and measure along the outside seam from the edge of the waistband down to the hem of the pant leg.
Learning how to get accurate inseam measurements will help you buy pants, jeans, and shorts that fit you perfectly! You can take your own measurement with the help of a mirror or by analyzing an old pair of pants that fits you perfectly. You can also get a professional or a friend to help, which allows you to stand up straight during the measurements more easily.
Men’s legwear almost always includes the inseam measurement as part of the size, such as pants with a 32 X 32 size, meaning a 32” waist and a 32” inseam. Women’s clothes often have very diverse inseams depending on the style of the legwear.
Have you ever used your inseam measurement and a sizing chart to buy pants? Did the process help you get pants that fit well? Leave a comment below to let us know!