Pant legs change shapes every ten years or so, like the big floppy jean legs you probably sported in the 90s vs the trend for slim, close-fitting legs today. Whether or not you keep up with these trends, you may wonder why pants and jeans come with so many differently shaped lower legs. Fortunately, you can learn how to measure the leg opening on pants in just a few steps to understand this mystery!
The best way to measure leg opening on pants is to flatten the hem of the leg to measure straight across the stitching. Popular leg opening widths range from 10 to 14-inch openings for skinny jeans to roughly 20 inches for bootcut jeans. The width of the leg opening determines the shape of the lower leg in pants and jeans.
In this article, you will learn how to measure the leg opening on pants, jeans, and shorts. You will discover common leg opening measurements. Finally, you will find tips for how to choose a leg opening that looks good on you.
What is the Leg Opening on Pants?
The leg opening on pants is the spot your foot goes through at the bottom of the leg. Sometimes you also call this portion of the pants the hem or the ankle.
But tailors and professionals call this area the “leg opening” because not all pants have legs that end right at the ankle. You can also have a leg opening on garments like shorts or capris.
Why does the leg opening matter? It does not just come down to sizing like many pants measurements–in most cases, you can always fit your ankle through the leg opening in a pair of pants, so you don’t need to worry about measuring to see if your ankle is too big for the opening.
What you want to think about is the shape of the pant leg. Standard dress pants today have a leg opening width of about 16”, generally speaking. But most clothing brands offer a huge range of different pants cuts, or styles, beyond the classic model.
These include options like slim-fit pants or jeans that might have a 14” leg opening width. Or bootcut jeans with a leg opening as wide as 20 inches. Regular-fit straight jeans often have a leg opening of 16 inches.
Of course, every different width makes the lower leg of your pants look quite different. If you want to balance out a broader or curvier torso, you may want a wider leg opening on your pants or a straight, generously cut on the pants overall. If you want to present a modern, fashion-forward style, you may prefer to have your pants cut close to your body in a slim-fit style with a narrow leg opening.
The bottom line is that every type of leg opening gives your pants a slightly different stylistic appearance.
How to Measure Leg Opening
You can measure the leg opening on pants, jeans, or shorts by using a tape measure to find the length of the hem around the opening. This process takes just a moment of your time and can help you quickly determine what width of opening looks best on your body.
One great way to do this is to choose a couple of pairs of pants that fit you perfectly. Try them on and decide why you like the way they look on you. Then follow the steps in this section to take your measurements and write down the numbers.
Next time you go shopping for pants, look for a style that has the same leg opening width as your ideal that you found while taking these measurements!
Pants can have a leg opening width ranging from about 10 to over 20 inches. A more narrow width will more closely match the shape of your ankle, while a wider width obscures the natural shape of your leg and presents a different shape instead.
Before you measure your pants, check the size label inside them. Most leg width numbers, like the average span of 10 to 20 inches mentioned above, come from the average size of pants with a 32-inch waist. If you have a larger or smaller size, you should consider that. To do this, add about ⅛ inch for every additional size larger, or subtract ⅛” from the measurement for every size smaller the next time you go shopping for pants.
- Start by smoothing out your pants on a table or ironing board. Arrange the pant leg so the side seams rest perfectly on each side and tug away any wrinkles.
- Stretch a tape measure across the bottom edge of the pants.
- Write down that number, and then multiply it to account for both the front and back of the pants. (Though in some cases, clothing brands use just the flat of the ants, meaning only the measurement across one side. In this instance, a brand would list the leg opening width as just 8” instead of the full width of 16 inches.)
Every style of jeans has a unique leg opening, from the small 12” you will find on most skinny jeans to the loose, large 18 to 20 inches you can find on relaxed boyfriend-style jeans.
You measure the leg opening on a pair of jeans the same way you would for pants. Simply smooth out the hem, measure across it from one side seam to the other, and then double the measurement.
That said, you may want to repeat this process multiple times. Many of us have a stash of several different kinds of jeans that we like to wear–like the baggy number you hold onto for raking leaves in the yard and the trim, dark-wash pair you like to wear out for a Friday evening.
Because every cut of jeans can have such a distinctly different leg opening width, you should repeat the measuring process for every pair. That way, you will have a good idea of the types of leg openings you like in the future.
The leg opening on a pair of shorts will usually have a larger width than the leg opening on pants because shorts’ legs end above the knee. Your thigh has a much larger circumference than your ankle, so this makes sense!
Once again, you measure in the same manner. Simply measure the length of the lower edge of the shorts, from one side seam to the other, and then multiply that number by two.
In this case, though, you do need to worry about sizing. You can measure around your thigh at its widest point, making sure the tape remains level to make sure that your leg has a smaller circumference than the opening on the shorts you want to buy.
What is Inseam and Leg Opening?
The inseam of pants or shorts measures the distance between the crotch seam to the cuff or hem of the pants, while the leg opening measures the width of the hemline at the bottom of the pants.
Another way to think about this is that the inseam tells you the length of a pair of pants, while the leg opening tells you how much room you have in the pants around your ankle.
The inseam measurement matters for the size of the pants, while the leg opening measurement matters more for stylistic reasons.
How Do You Measure Hip Opening?
The hip opening on a pair of pants tells you the width of the widest portion of the seat and the hips in the pants. This is not the same as the waistband and the opening at the top of the pants–that tells you how much space you have for your waist! To find the hip opening, you want to know how much space the pants provide for your hips and seat.
- To find this measurement, spread out the pant flat, face-up.
- Use a tape measure to mark a point nine inches down the side seam from the top edge of the waistband. Mark this point. Repeat this measurement on the other side seam.
- Now measure from one mark to the other, and double the measurement.
Leg Opening Measurements
Now that you know how to measure leg opening width check out some common questions about this area on your pants!
12 Inch Leg Opening
A 12-inch leg opening has a narrow circle at the hemline measuring just 12 inches. You see this tight fit primarily in skinny jeans or pants that use stretch fabric.
What is a 14 Leg Opening?
A 14 leg opening means a leg opening at the ankle with a width of 14 inches. This opening size will give you a narrow lower fit on the pants but not so tight that the fabric will cling to your calf or ankle.
Is a Regular Leg 30 or 32?
Pant leg measurements of 30 or 32 inches typically refer to the inseam, or length, of the garment. Both 30 and 32 inches are standard inseam measurements for men’s pants and jeans. This tells you the distance between the bottom of the pant leg and the crotch seam beneath the fly.
This measurement will help you find pants or jeans that have the right length for your height, but it does not tell you anything about how the leg opening will fit around your ankle.
17-Inch Leg Opening Pants
A 17-inch opening on a pair of pants or jeans will have a fairly loose, relaxed shape. For example, most brands that sell a regular fit of jeans that have a sort of “dad jeans” vibe only have a leg opening width of 16 inches!
Leg Opening Size Chart
Check out these leg opening size charts to get an idea of how leg opening widths work for different styles of pants.
Classic dress pants for men:
Leg Opening Styles
One of the most useful ways to think about leg opening widths is to consider what style of pants has a certain measurement, like skinny jeans vs bootcut jeans.
What Leg Opening is Considered Skinny?
Skinny jeans typically have a leg opening measurement between 10 and 14 inches for men’s jeans. This style of pants has a close-fitting knee and the lower leg remains tight all the way down the calf to the ankle. But unlike slim-fit jeans, they may not taper to pinch in around your ankle.
What is a Wide Leg Opening?
A wide leg opening usually has a measurement of 18 to 20 inches. This generous opening usually pairs with either bell-bottom or bootcut pants, though some relaxed-fit jeans may have a wide leg opening as well.
How Big of a Leg Opening Do You Need for Boots?
You need a leg opening wide enough to hang over your boot shaft, typically measuring about 20 inches. This does depend on the style of boots you want to wear, though. Twenty-inch works well for cowboy boots, but more narrow ones can fit inside straight-cut jeans with a 16” opening.
You may also need pants with a longer inseam to wear with your boots. For cowboy boots, the hem should break only a half-inch to a quarter-inch above the point where the heel of the boot begins. For other boots, look at the point where the hem of the pants breaks on the boot top.
Straight Leg Opening
Straight-cut pants have lower legs with the same width from the knee to the ankle without tapering in or flaring out. But this stylistic feature can have many different leg opening measurements depending on the overall fit of the pants or jeans.
For example, skinny jeans can have a straight leg with a measurement of 12 inches at the knee and ankle. But classic pants may have a straight cut and have a knee measurement of 16 inches as well as a leg opening width of 16 inches.
How to Adjust Leg Opening When Hemming
One great way to get pants that fit you perfectly is to adjust the leg opening when you take your pants in to get hemmed. Tailors can easily hem dress pants to exactly match the length of your legs in just a few minutes. You can also ask a tailor to modify the leg opening width, making it a bit more narrow or even (in some cases) a fraction wider to better match the shape of your body.
The most common way to alter pants to make them look tailored just for you is to shorten the hem to the correct length and then taper the leg opening slightly, more closely outlining your leg.
Usually, a tailor will charge around $15 to $30 for these minor alterations.
How Wide Should Leg Opening Be For Jeans?
How wide a leg opening should be for jeans depends on the style of the jeans and how you intend to wear them. The leg opening plays a key role in shaping the cut or style of a pair of jeans. This is because every shape of the leg needs a specific leg opening width.
For example, skinny jeans have narrow legs with a narrow leg opening of about 10-14”. Related-fit jeans have loose, baggier legs with bigger leg openings of anywhere from 14 to 18 inches. Bootcut jeans have fitted legs at the knee that flares out to a wider opening so the jeans can fit over the top of your boots.
Besides determining the style of the jeans, you may also want to think about when you intend to wear jeans when picking the best leg opening width. If you want to wear jeans with boots, you will need a more generous leg opening width. But if you want to wear jeans to a club, you probably want tighter, more fitted jeans with a smaller leg opening.
What Leg Opening Looks Best on You?
Check out these tips to pick pants or jeans with a leg opening that looks best on your body type.
- People with slender, rectangular frames often look best with straight but not skinny pants with a moderate leg opening of over 10”. Pants with a wide leg opening may look baggy or seem to flap around your ankles.
- If you have an athletic build with a V-shaped torso, you may look best in pants with an athletic slim fit, tapering to show off your shape. But you should avoid pants with wide, loose-fitting openings, as this will make your bottom look as wide as your top!
- If you have muscled legs and wide hips, with more of a triangular body shape, you will look great in straight-leg pants with a midsized leg opening. You will want to stay away from skinny or slim-fit pants with narrow leg openings, as these will outline the curve from hip to lower leg too closely.
- If you have more generous curves or a bit of a belly, try balancing out the shape of your torso by wearing jeans with wider leg openings, such as relaxed-fit jeans or classic pants with a straight leg. Stay away from skinny or slim-fit pants, as this will highlight the curves in your upper body by making your lower body appear smaller.
Finally, you may also want to pick leg opening width for your pants or jeans based on the occasion. In today’s fashion world, skinnier leg openings have a trendier vibe. This means picking a moderate leg opening can give you a more conservative vibe. You may want to wear dress pants with a slim fit style and a narrow leg opening to give a big presentation but wear classic cut dress pants with a wider leg opening at the office for a meeting with your boss.
The best way to measure the leg opening on pants, jeans, or shorts is to measure the distance from one side seam to another at the hem of the leg and then double that number to determine the width. Pants and jeans can have a wide range of leg opening measurements. The width of the opening plays a key role in the overall fit or style of the pants, such as the difference between bootcut and slim-fit jeans.
More tailored pants typically have tapered legs that narrow into a smaller leg opening. More relaxed pants or jeans have looser legs that hang down to a wider leg opening. To choose pants with the best leg opening for your body, use the width of the leg to balance out the shape of your body.