These days, you can’t just know your clothing size when you go shopping for new jeans, a new shirt, or even a new hoodie. You also need to know what cut or fit you like best. For example, when you compare loose fit vs relaxed fit, what’s the difference?
Relaxed-fit pants and jeans typically provide extra space in the upper leg but less in the lower leg, while loose-fit jeans have little shape and fall in a loose, untapered line down the entire leg. Some brands also sell relaxed vs loose fit shirts and tops. Relaxed fit tops often have a longer hemline but tapered side seams, while a loose fit has more room throughout the whole garment.
In this article, you will learn the key differences between relaxed and loose fit in clothing. You will discover how the proportions compare from one brand to another. Finally, you will find tips on how to pick the best fit for you.
Loose Fit Vs Relaxed: Key Points
|Loose Fit||Relaxed Fit|
|Appearance||Boxy and baggier||Roomy in some areas, but tailored in others|
|Comfort||Extremely roomy and comfortable||Roomy in key areas to provide comfortable ease of movement|
|Cut||Rectangular and roomy with straight side seams||Wide in upper portions, but narrowing with tapered side seams toward the bottom of the garment|
|Body Shape||Looks good on slender people who want a stylish, loose fit, or people with rectangular or triangular bodies, to balance out the wide upper body||Looks best on people with a broad chest, wide hips, or muscular thighs|
|Shoulders||Sometimes provides extra room but is not consistent||Sometimes provides extra room but is not consistent|
|Chest||Always features a wide chest space||Always features a wide chest area|
|Sleeves||The cut of the sleeve usually does not fit differently than a regular or classic cut, but this depends on the brand||The cut of the sleeve usually does not fit differently than a regular or classic cut, but this depends on the brand|
|Waist||Typically just as wide as the chest measurement of the shirt, giving the garment a boxy, rectangle shape||Always more narrow than the chest measurement, giving the shirt or top a more fitted appearance|
|Seat||Always roomy and comfortable||Roomy and comfortable but sometimes slightly more fitted than a loose fit style|
|Leg Opening||Always wide||Slightly more narrow due to tapered side seams|
What is Loose Fit?Loose-fit clothing has more drape and less shape due to its generous cut. In a shirt or top, you see this in extra width from side seam to side seam and no tapering toward the waistline. In pants or jeans, you will find extra space in the seat, thighs, calves, and wider leg opening.
Loose-fit styles offer some of the most comfortable, roomy clothing you will find anywhere. This cut lends itself toward casual, comfortable outfits, but you can also dress up loose-fit pants to look stylish.
The versatility of loose-fit clothing is great because, just like with any other cut, loose-fit clothing is designed to look good on certain body types. For example, loose-fit jeans often look especially good on people with triangular or rectangular body shapes because the extra width in the pants can balance out the rest of the body.
While some brands do sell loose-fit shirts, hoodies, and other garments, you see this cut used most often for pants and jeans.
Before ordering your first pair of loose-fit jeans, though, you should note two important facts.
First, the exact definition of what “loose fit” means will vary significantly from one brand to another. You could buy a pair of ladies’ Size 8 loose-fit jeans from one prominent brand and think you will get the same fit from the same size in another big-name brand. This never happens, so check the measurements listed by each brand before making a purchase!
Second, when it comes to pants and jeans, some brands use the term “wide leg” instead of “loose fit.” Other brands use these terms to mean two different styles, as “wide leg” can also mean flared instead of a loose, straight leg!
What is Relaxed Fit?Relaxed fit describes a clothing style with extra space in key areas of the garment, such as the chest or thighs, but tapering in other portions of the garment to outline the body’s shape. This fit provides a slim, modern silhouette while still featuring comfortable room for people with certain body types or who just like extra ease of movement within their clothing.
If a brand offers both a relaxed fit and a loose fit, the loose fit style usually looks a little bigger because the garment has more extra space overall. Sometimes relaxed-fit garments have a longer length than loose-fit garments, making them ideal for people with a muscled or extra-long torso or legs.
Relaxed-fit pants and jeans work especially well for anyone with wider hips or muscular thighs. These pants and jeans offer a deeper rise, providing more space in the crotch area. They also have more material from side seam to side seam in the thighs, providing extra space for people with more body mass.
For shirts, relaxed fit styles have more space from armhole to armhole, providing extra ease of movement in the chest and shoulders. This works great for people with an athletic or bulky torso. Some prominent brands like Carhartt also offer a longer length in the relaxed-fit shirt cut.
That said, just like with loose fit, the exact proportions used to create a relaxed fit in jeans, shirts, and so on will vary from one brand to another. You may find that a relaxed-fit tee fits you perfectly in the shoulders when you buy it from one brand but feels too tight when you order it from another brand. You can always check the measurements provided in the sizing chart from each brand to make sure the proportions will suit your body.
What is the Difference Between Loose Fit and Relaxed Fit?
The main difference between loose fit and relaxed fit is that loose-fit clothes often have a baggier shape overall, while relaxed-fit styles provide extra space but still have a tapered silhouette.
Both relaxed-fit and loose-fit styles provide extra space in a garment and extra comfort for anyone who likes freedom of movement. But the two different styles work best for particular body types, and these styles also have slight differences in other key areas like the leg opening on jeans or the chest width on tops.
One of the biggest differences between loose fit and relaxed fit is the overall appearance because loose fit styles often look much baggier than relaxed fit styles. This does vary slightly from one brand to another, but the overall shape of loose-fit clothing tends to look boxier, creating a baggier silhouette when you wear the garment.
For example, suppose you try on a loose-fit t-shirt and then a relaxed-fit t-shirt. The loose-fit shirt will have extra space in the chest, but it will also have that same extra-wide circumference at the hem of the shirt, meaning that shirt could look kind of baggy around your waist.
The relaxed-fit shirt will have extra space in the chest but will then narrow in a little at your waist to show the natural outline of your body.
Both relaxed-fit and loose-fit clothing is designed to provide more comfort than a regular or skinny fit, but loose-fit has extra space that generally makes this style the most comfortable for people who like generously shaped and roomy clothing.
This does depend on personal preference, though. While it’s true that a loose fit style usually offers more ease of movement, you may find that wider pants legs or a baggier hem on your shirt feel bulky or flappy instead of comfortable. In this case, you may prefer the more defined shape of a relaxed fit style.
You will typically find key differences in the cut of relaxed-fit and loose-fit clothing, largely because relaxed-fit clothing has tapered side seams and loose-fit clothing does not.
If you spread out a loose-fit top and laid a relaxed-fit shirt in the same size on top of it, you would notice that the garments look quite similar in the shoulders and chest but different in the bottom half of the garment. The relaxed-fit top will pinch in toward the waist and end up with a smaller circumference at the hemline than the loose-fit top.
This holds true for pants and jeans, too. They have a different cut or overall shape. The relaxed-fit pants will have more narrow lower legs, meaning they have less fabric in a different shape or cut than the loose-fit pants.
Anyone who likes roomy clothing can enjoy wearing both loose-fit and relaxed-fit clothing. But these cuts do look best on people with certain body types.
- Loose-fit jeans and pants can look good on slim people who want that baggy, stylish look. Just make sure to order your correct waist size, or the pants will sag and look oversized instead of loose.
- Loose-fit trousers and jeans can also look good on people with a triangle body because the wide legs balance out the shape of the upper body.
- Relaxed-fit pants and jeans look great on people with larger hips or thighs. They narrow in the lower leg, giving you an overall slimming appearance.
- Loose-fit shirts do not usually look as modern and trendy as tailored or more fitted shirts, but they do provide ease of movement for people with a bulkier or rounder build.
- Relaxed fit shirts look on people with a broader chest and a more narrow waist, as the shirt will still narrow in to highlight the thinner waist shape.
Relaxed fit shirts also offer a good solution for people with a slender build who like to layer shirts, like wearing a button-down over a t-shirt.
Loose-fit and relaxed-fit shirts and tops do not necessarily have extra shoulder space. This is one of the big differences between these cuts and an oversized style. This is because one of the keys for telling if a shirt fits you is looking at the shoulder seams, which should hit you right where your shoulder meets your arm.
The only exception is for an oversized style when you want the shoulder seam to hang down onto your upper arm to create a super baggy and draped style.
If you have broad shoulders, you will probably find that both loose fit and relaxed fit feel more comfortable because of the extra room in the chest. You may also want to look for shirts made of stretchier material that can accommodate the width of your shoulders.
Other options for men with broad shoulders include looking for an athletic cut, which includes extra shoulder room, or finding dress shirts with a box pleat at the upper back to ease the shoulders.
Both relaxed and loose-fit shirts always include additional space in the chest. The exact amount of extra room varies from one brand to another.
But if you lay out a regular, relaxed, and loose fit cut of the same shirt on the floor, you could measure from side seam to side seam just below the armpit and find that the relaxed and loose fits always have a bigger measurement in this area than the regular fit.
Whether or not a loose-fit shirt has a bigger chest measurement than a relaxed-fit top varies from brand to brand.
You see this in t-shirts, dress shirts, and even hoodies. It is one of the defining characteristics of the comfortable, roomy style of both relaxed and loose fits in tops.
Generally speaking, neither loose-fit nor relaxed-fit shirts should have baggy sleeves. Baggy sleeves that sag off your upper arm look sloppy and poorly fitted in t-shirts and button-up shirts. However, some cuts may have a slightly wider armhole to provide more space for a wide upper arm. This varies from one brand to another, though and is not a consistent feature of these styles.
If you like bigger sleeves, you can try two tactics. First, try burying shirts designed as oversized. These intentionally hang off your arms, providing lots of space for people with larger upper arms.
Second, read buyers’ reviews on a shirt you like to see if people mention the sleeves. Sizing charts do not usually tell you how wide a sleeve is, so sometimes you have to guess about this feature.
When you compare loose-fit and relaxed-fit shirts, one of the key differences you will spot is that the relaxed-fit shirt usually has a smaller waist. This is because the relaxed-fit shirt has tapered side seams, narrowing the circumference of the shirt from the chest to the hemline.
The waist on loose-fit and relaxed-fit pants and jeans usually does not look different. You should order pants in your normal waist measurement because you want the pants to fit around your waist so that they do not look too big for you.
Loose fit pants often have more room in the seat and crotch than relaxed-ft jeans, but this is not always the case. Both styles will provide extra space in the seat by adding a deeper front and back rise than many other cuts of jeans.
If you like to stand up and sit down while wearing jeans without feeling any pull or pinching in your seat, you will feel comfortable in both relaxed and loose-fit jeans.
If a brand sells both loose and relaxed fit, the loose fit will typically have a baggier seat area. But if you compare loose and relaxed fit styles of jeans from one brand to another, you may find that many styles fit in a similar way, with lots of comfortable room in the seat.
Loose-fit jeans usually have a wider leg opening than relaxed-fit jeans. This is because loose-fit jean legs have a rectangular shape: they maintain the same width from the hips down to the ankle! This gives them a wider leg opening, as you might expect.
Loose-fit jeans and trousers have such a wide leg opening that some brands call this style “wide leg” instead of a loose fit.
Relaxed-fit jeans, in contrast, start with a wide upper leg but narrow slightly down the length of the leg. This means the leg opening will have a smaller measurement than the width of the jean leg at the thigh.
Loose fit clothing often looks more casual than relaxed fit clothing because of its roomy, boxy shape. Relaxed-ft clothing can look casual, especially if you wear jeans and a T-shirt. But its more tailored shape can also look dressier, depending on the clothing you choose.
People with a muscular body or wide hips often enjoy wearing relaxed-fit clothing. People with rounder or slender bodies who like the stylish, baggy look of loose-fit clothing will enjoy this cut.
Loose Fit vs Relaxed Fit
Now that you know the key features of loose and relaxed fit styles, look at the important distinctions for particular types of clothes.
One thing to keep in mind when you wear loose-fit pants is that darker colors and nicer fabrics will help this roomy style look dressier. Light colors like blue jeans or khaki tend to look casual, but they will look extra casual in the generous cut of a pair of loose-fit trousers.
If you want to feel comfortable in your favorite loose-fit trousers while looking dressed up, pick pants made out of a classy fabric like wool in a dark color like charcoal, navy, or black. You could also wear the trousers with a stylish and dressier top like a blazer or a nice sweater.
JeansLoose-fit jeans have wide lower legs and a more generous seat than relaxed-fit jeans, but relaxed-fit jeans sometimes have wider thighs than loose-fit jeans. This depends on the brand.
What you can always expect is that both cuts will feature a roomy, comfortable seat and crotch area and that relaxed-fit jeans will have slightly tapered legs with a more narrow leg opening.
Not every brand offers both loose-fit and relaxed-fit button shirts, but those often focus on providing additional space in the chest area of the shirt. A relaxed-fit dress shirt will narrow slightly toward the waist, and a loose-fit dress shirt will not, giving the shirt a boxy shape and a wide waist opening.
T-ShirtThe difference between loose fit and relaxed fit t-shirts can get a little confusing because some brands use the term “loose fit” to describe what is an oversized t-shirt, especially for women.
If you see in the product image that the tee has shoulder seams sagging down the model’s upper arms, the shirt is oversized. It will feel comfortable, but it will not look like a t-shirt you bought in your size to fit you neatly.
In contrast, many t-shirt brands do offer an actual relaxed-fit tee. This shirt style will have a broader chest than the classic or regular tee from the same brand. It will also have tapered side seams and a more fitted waist. In some cases, relaxed-fit tees have an extra-long hemline perfect for people with long torsos.
SweatshirtWhile you do not usually find many loose-fit sweatshirts, you will find relaxed-fit sweatshirts, hoodies, and sweaters designed to suit people with broader chests or larger upper bodies.
If you simply want a slouchy oversized look in your hoodie, you may find it easier to buy a hoodie a size larger rather than hunting down a relaxed-fit style, though.
Is Loose Fit Oversized?
Loose-fit clothing is not the same thing as oversized clothing, but in some cases, you could wear it this way by buying a garment a size larger than usual, and it would look ok. This is because loose-fit styles have a boxy shape that lends itself to looking a bit baggy and slouchy.
Is Relaxed Fit Oversized?
Relaxed-fit clothing is not the same as oversized clothing, and it might look odd if you try to wear it instead of oversized clothing. This is because relaxed-fit clothes have a specific shape, designed to outline the build of a person with broad shoulders or broad thighs while still narrowing in on the less bulky portions of the anatomy, like the calves and waist.
If you try to wear a bigger size, it will look like you dressed up in someone else’s clothing because the garment will awkwardly narrow in on the wrong parts of your smaller build.
Carhartt Loose Fit vs Relaxed Fit
Carhartt’s loose fit t-shirt has so much extra room in the chest and waist that it often measures a whole size bigger than a shirt in the same size from other brands. Carhartt’s relaxed fit tee has considerably less space, with a slightly tailored waistline but a comfortably roomy chest area.
It is also worth noting that Caratt recently renamed what used to be called an original fit tee and now calls it a loose fit.
Are Relaxed Fit Jeans Good for Big Thighs?
Relaxed-fit jeans work perfectly for people with big thighs or wider hips. They include extra fabric in the upper leg for exactly this reason. If you don’t like feeling denim straining around your upper legs when you stand and sit, try a pair of relaxed-fit jeans!
Is Relaxed or Loose Fit Best?
Whether relaxed-fit or loose-fit clothing works best for you depends on your body type and preference. Relaxed-fit clothing works great on people with a broad chest or wide hips or thighs. Loose-fit clothing looks good on people with many body types, including slender triangular or rectangular.
You may also want to consider the overall casual or formal appearance of these cuts. Relaxed-fit clothing can look a little dressier due to its more tapered outline, while loose-fit clothing often looks super casual unless you select garments made out of dark, expensive fabrics.
Have you tried relaxed and loose-fit clothes to see which you liked better? Did one style fit you better than the other? Leave a comment to let us know!