Skip to Content

Outseam vs Inseam: What’s the Difference?

If you have ever used a sizing chart to buy online clothes, you know that you need to measure yourself to get the right size of clothing. But sometimes, clothing measurements have odd names that may leave you wondering what parts of your body you should measure and how. For example, when you compare outseam vs inseam, what is the difference?

Outseam measures the length of the outer leg from the top of the hipbone to the top of the ankle bone. The inseam measures the inner leg from the ankle bone to the crotch. These measurements help determine the style and length of a pair of pants, shorts, or jeans.

In this article, you will find out how to measure for both outseam and inseam. You will discover the key differences between these two measurements. Finally, you will find tips for how to use outseam and inseam to help you buy the right size of pants.

What is an Outseam?

How to Measure Outseam

Outseam measures the distance down the outer leg from the top of the hip bone to the top of the ankle bone. If you make the measurement on a pair of pants, it would stretch from the top of the waistband down the outer side seam of the pants all the way to the hem.

Outseam typically has a much wider range in length than inseam because it depends on the cut of a pair of pants. Imagine that you have a pair of bootcut jeans, a pair of regular-fit slacks, and a pair of skinny jeans. All three pairs of pants fit you perfectly, but if you measure the outseam down the outer side seam of each style of pants, you will find that each has a different length!

This is because outseam tells you about the shape and style of pants, not just about how long they are.

If you consider yourself a snappy dresser, you have probably already used an outseam measurement to help you get the perfect break in your trousers. Break describes where the hem of your pants touches the top of your shoes. You have to get the right outseam measurement to know what break you will have.

When you pull up a sizing chart online to help you buy jeans, slacks, or shorts, you may notice that not every brand offers an outseam measurement. This is because clothing brands found that offering lots of sizing variables required them to make too many different shapes and sizes of clothing. Because of this, many brands now only allow you to choose from the waist size and the inseam of pants.

The good news is that more sellers have also started offering outseam options. Outseam plays a crucial role in determining if you will like the style of a pair of pants.

What is an Inseam?

What is Inseam on Pants

The inseam measures the length of the inner leg from the top of the ankle to the point where your thigh meets your torso. On a pair of pants, you measure the inseam from the hem, up the inner side seam, and to the crotch seam where the side seam ends.

Alternatively, you can measure from the bottom of the zipper down to the hem along the inner side seam. Remembering where to find your inseam measurement is easy because inseam means the inner side seam running up the inside of each pant leg!

Clothing manufacturers use the inseam to describe the length of a pair of pants or shorts. Inseam typically has much less variation than outseam, making it a more reliable metric to measure the length of pants. However, manufacturers do not use an agreed-upon standard for inseams and sizes.

For example, there is no rule that a 32” inseam equals a size medium in women’s pants. For men’s pants, most manufacturers simply provide the inseam in inches as part of the size. A pair of men’s jeans might have a size of 32X32, meaning the pants have a waist circumference of 32 inches and an inseam length of 32 inches.

Knowing your inseam matters quite a lot when it will impact the length of the pants you buy! Once you know your own inseam, you will never have to buy too-short pants again. For example, if you know that you have a 32” inseam, you will know not to buy jeans that offer a 30” inseam!

Of course, shorts, capris, and other legwear will have shorter inseams that do not reach the ankle. In this case, you will want to measure from the crotch seam on the shorts to the hem at the inner side seam to determine their length.

Remember, though, that inseam does leave out one crucial factor as you look at the length of a pair of pants, which is the rise. Every pair of pants and shorts has a front and back rise, which describes the distance from the center front and back of the waistband to the crotch seam. Basically, the rise tells you where the waistband of the pants will fall on your torso.

Inseam does not provide any information about the rise and simply tells you the length of the legs in the pants or shorts.

Outseam vs Inseam: What’s the Difference?

Inseam vs Outseam

The biggest difference between outseam and inseam is that outseam measures the outer side of the leg from hip to ankle, while inseam measures the inner leg from crotch to the ankle. This means that these measurements describe different areas of the body.

Other key differences include the fact that outseam length typically varies more than inseam length and that inseam serves as the official length measurement of pants or shorts.

Plus, every brand that offers a sizing chart for pants, leggings, shorts, or jeans will include the inseam measurement. This is not always the case for the outseam measurement. Typically, high-end clothing brands or custom-order clothing manufacturers will ask for your outseam measurement.

Finally, the last big difference between outseam and inseam is how you take each measurement.

To measure for outseam, follow these steps:

  1. Wear the shoes you want to wear with the pants to make sure you have the correct heel height.
  2. Place your back against a wall and relax your shoulders in a comfortable posture.
  3. Ask a friend or family member to take the measurement using a flexible tape measure. If you bend over to get the numbers yourself, you will skew the results.
  4. Have your friend hold the top of the tape at the top curve of your hipbone, and then trace the tape down the outside of your leg to the top of your shoe at your ankle.
  5. For a classic break at the hem for formal pants, add one inch to this measurement.

To measure for inseam, try these steps:

  1. Wear close-fitting leggings or shorts and no shoes as you take this measurement. Also, find somewhere with a full-length mirror to help you remain accurate.
  2. Stand up straight and relax your shoulders, and make sure you have your feet set hip distance apart flat on the floor.
  3. Place the top of the measure at the point where the inner side seam of your shorts or leggings meets the curved crotch seam. Hold the tape lightly in place with one hand.
  4. With your other hand, smooth the tape down your inner leg. Follow the side seam of your pants or shorts if possible. Stop when you reach your ankle bone.
  5. Watch the mirror to make sure you keep the tape in a straight line down your inner leg.
  6. Note down the measurement you find.

As you can see from the different measuring options, you measure two completely different parts of your leg to get the outseam and inseam measurements!

How Much Longer is Inseam Than Outseam?

The outseam on a pair of pants or jeans always has a longer length than the inseam, though how much longer will vary from one pair of pants to another. In some cases, you may find that the outseam measures as much as 25% longer than the inseam on pants or jeans.

This is because the outseam stretches from the top of the waistband down to the ankle on pants, while the inseam reaches only from the crotch seam to the hem.

Of course, if you measure outseam vs inseam on a pair of shorts, you will not see such a great difference. But the outseam will still have a longer length.

Another critical reason the outseam often has a longer length is that it measures the shape of the pant legs. If you have bootcut pants, for example, they will flare out and thus, the outer side seam will have a longer measurement.

Can You Calculate Inseam from Outseam?

You cannot calculate the inseam of a pair of pants from the outseam. Every style of pants has a different cut and shape, which changes its outseam.

Think of it this way: you could have an inseam of 30” on both skinny jeans and bootcut jeans, but the outseam for the skinny jeans would measure much less than the outseam for the bootcut jeans.

Because of this, there is no easy way to create an inseam/outseam conversion chart. What you can do instead is either measure yourself to have a baseline for your inseam/outseam or measure the pair of pants in question and find both the inseam and outseam for that garment.

How Do You Calculate Outseam?

You can calculate outseam by measuring the seam on a pair of pants or by measuring yourself with the help of a friend.

The easiest way to calculate outseam on a particular pair of pants, jeans, or shorts is to measure the garment itself.

  1. To do this, smooth out the pants on a rug or bed, so they lie flat.
  2. Find the side seam that runs up the outer leg on each side of the pants.
  3. Place the top of a flexible tape measure at the top edge of the waistband just over that seam.
  4. Now smooth the tape down the length of the seam, all the way down to the hem.
  5. Note down your measurement when you finish.

If you want to measure yourself to find out what outseam length your body has, ask a friend to help with this method:

  1. Wear socks and a pair of pants with the waist in the same place as the pants you want to buy. For example, if you want to buy new work slacks and you like a waistband that rests just above your hips, wear pants with a similar fit to take this measurement.
  2. Next, turn around so your friend can locate the center back of the waistband on your pants. They will place the top of the tape at that point.
  3. Now your friend will drop the rest of the tape and let it fall to the floor. Make sure the tape holds a straight line as it falls and down, not twist or get tangled up.
  4. Note down the measurement where the tape reaches the floor.
  5. This measurement provides the right length for a full break on classic trousers. If you want a half break, subtract an inch from the measurement. For a quarter break, subtract one and a half inches.

What is the Average Outseam?

Average Outseam

There is no average outseam for pants, though you can find the outseam used by any particular brand for each size of pants using a sizing chart.

The outseam of pants varies so much that you can’t even give an average outseam length for one brand, let alone for all brands of pants and jeans!

This is a big contrast to inseam measurements, which have slightly more standardized lengths and often serve as the length measurement for men’s pants and jeans. Typical inseam measurements for men’s pants, for example, often start at 30 inches and move up in two-inch increments, such as 32 inches, 34 inches, and so on.

How Do You Convert Inseam to Length?

You do not have to convert inseam to length because an inseam measurement describes the length of pants, shorts, and leggings.

Sometimes on a size chart, you will see just the letter “L” used for one of the categories. This means the length of the pants and it will provide the inseam measurement.

Most (though not all) clothing brands use somewhat standardized inseam measurements in pants. All clothing brands mean the inseam when they describe the length of pants or jeans.

Is Jean Length the Same as Outseam?

Jean length is not the same as outseam, though outseam does provide a length measurement. Instead, manufacturers use the inseam measurement as the length metric. Inseam tends to vary less than outseam and also has more standardized measurements. This makes it better suited to describe the length of pants.

That said, the outseam of jeans will help you find jeans that fit you better. Plus, the outseam can help you determine the overall style of the jeans, such as the rise and the cut of the legs. Inseam simply tells you whether or not the hem of the jeans will meet your ankles or not!

Inseam and Outseam Measurements

Finding the right inseam and outseam measurements may seem difficult, but the key to using these measurements successfully is to compare your personal measurements to the sizing charts offered online by most clothing brands. This way, you can match your body shape and leg length to a pair of pants that offers the same shape and leg length!

Now that you know how to take your own outseam and inseam measurements, check out these helpful tips to navigate common questions about outseam and inseam.

32” Inseam What is the Outseam?

There is no way to know what outseam measurement will pair with a 32” inseam for sure. You could buy jeans with a 30-inch, 32-inch, or even 40-inch waist with a 32-inch inseam. Similarly, you could buy jeans with a 32-inch inseam and a 40, 41, 42, or more outseam.

The outseam will vary based on the style of the jeans, the rise of the jeans, and several other factors as well. For example, some pants offer a curved seam at the hip to allow for more rounded bodies. This curve will add length to the outseam and give it a larger measurement.

That said, regular-cut pants and jeans often have an outseam that measures roughly ten inches more than the inseam. You could guesstimate that pants with a 32” inseam might have an outseam that measures somewhere around 42 inches because of that.

38 Inch Outseam What is the Inseam

There is no clear-cut way to know what inseam will go with a 38-inch outseam because inseam and outseam lengths do not directly correlate to each other. However, you know that the inseam will measure less than 38 inches because the inseam is always shorter than the outseam.

You could also estimate that the inseam will probably measure less than 28 inches because the outseam sometimes measures about ten inches more than the inseam. However, there is no way to know this without measuring the pants in question.

39 Outseam is What Inseam

You can’t predict an inseam measurement based on an outseam measurement, meaning there is no perfect way to know what the inseam will be for a pair of pants with a 39-ich outseam. But you can predict that pants with a 39-inch outseam will have an inseam that measures ten or more inches less than 39 inches, bringing it down to somewhere around 29 inches.

You can even take the speculation a step farther because most manufacturers use inseam lengths in two-inch increments on even numbers, using 28 inches, 30 inches, 32 inches, and so on. You can guess that the inseam length might measure either 28 or 30 inches based n that.

20 Outseam What is Inseam

For a pair of pants or shorts with a 20-inch outseam, you can predict that the inseam will measure less than 20 inches and perhaps even as little as ten inches. You can’t know what an inseam will be based on an outseam measurement, except to know that the inseam will have a shorter measurement than the outseam.

Based on these measurements, you can also guess that this garment might be shorts rather than pants, or perhaps swim trunks or capris. The short length of the outseam could also indicate a smaller size overall such as pants in a boy’s or girl’s size.

What Inseam is a 19 Outseam?

Once again, you can’t determine the inseam of a garment just by knowing the outseam, but you can guess that a garment with a 19-ich outseam will have quite a short inseam, probably of ten inches or less. This would indicate that the garment is shorts or children’s clothing rather than pants.

What Does 20 Inch Outseam Mean?

A 20-inch outseam means that the pants, shorts, or capris measure 20 inches from the side of the waistband down to the hem of the garment. You can measure this length by placing a tape measure next to the outset side seam running down the outside of each leg.

What Inseam is a 41 Inch Outseam?

While you can’t know the measurement of the inseam for pants with a 41-inch outseam for sure, you can guess that the inseam will measure significantly less than 41 inches, perhaps around 30 or 32 inches.

The best way to find the inseam for sure is to either read the sizing chart provided by the seller or measure the inseam of the pants yourself with a flexible tape measure.

How to Use Inseam and Outseam to Get the Right Size

The best way to use inseam and outseam to get the right size of pants, shorts, or jeans is to measure yourself and then compare your measurements to a sizing chart. Check out these tips to help you navigate the world of sizing charts!

  • The most important thing to remember when using a sizing chart is that all measurements have to fit you. Suppose you have a 32” inseam and you find a pair of pants that also has a 32” inseam, but the pants have a 30-inch waist and you have a 33” waist. You should not buy these pants because you will never get the zipper zipped or the button buttoned!
  • Sizing charts sometimes offer one, two, or three different measurements, such as the rise, waist, and inseam of pants. Sometimes they may include the outseam as well. Typically, the type of measurement will read across the top of the chart horizontally, and the size will fill in the left column of the chart vertically. The measurements in inches or centimeters will fill in the chart.
  • If you want pants in a particular length, start by matching the measurement you want in the inseam column. Then move sideways the same row to see if the waist, outseam, and rise measurements match your body, too!


The main difference between outseam and inseam is that these measurements measure different areas of the body. The inseam measures the length of the inner leg from crotch to ankle, and the outseam measures the outer leg from the top of the hip bone to the ankle bone. Both measurements can help you find pants that fit you properly.

Clothing manufacturers use the inseam measurement as the length of pants, shorts, or jeans. The outseam tends to vary a lot based on the shape or cut of the pants and does not serve as a reliable length indicator because of this.