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Straight vs Bootcut Jeans: What Is the Difference?

Do you want to wear bootcut jeans, but you wonder if you can wear them without cowboy boots? Or perhaps you like straight jeans but do not know if they look the best on your body type. Fortunately, you can find the answers to these questions and many more by checking out this guide comparing straight vs bootcut jeans!

The main difference between straight and bootcut jeans is that straight jeans do not widen at the leg opening, while bootcut jeans flare out from the knee to the ankle. Straight-leg jeans also do not taper in at the knee. Bootcut jeans work well for people with curvy bodies and straight jeans work best for people with slender or short bodies.

In this article, you will learn the key differences between straight and bootcut jeans. You will find out how they compare to other styles, such as flared or relaxed jeans. Finally, you will discover how to easily style straight and bootcut jeans.

What are Straight Jeans?

What are Straight JeansStraight jeans have legs that form a straight line down with no tapering or flaring. Another way to think about this is that the legs have the same diameter inside all the way down from the hip through the ankle.

Straight-leg jeans can come in several different cuts, such as loose boyfriend models with straight legs or slim-fit-straight styles with much more narrow legs that form a straight line.

Depending on the style you select, you can also find straight jeans with low, mid, or high-rise waists.

Straight-leg jeans have a long history because the very first jeans sold by Levi Strauss back in the 1800s used this style. Levi’s 501 Classic model, which still sells like hotcakes today, features this straight-leg style. When you think of cowboy jeans, dad jeans, or work-in-the-backyard jeans, you probably picture this classic straight-leg style with a relaxed fit.

The great thing about straight-leg jeans is that they provide more space in the lower leg and can feel more comfortable during activities that require a lot of movement. This is even more true if you get a looser style, such as a boyfriend or relaxed-fit jeans with straight legs.

What are Bootcut Jeans?

What are Bootcut JeansBootcut jeans feature legs that flare out from the knee to the ankle. Typically bootcut styles also have a slightly tapered leg through the thigh, causing the upper leg to fit tightly. The flared portion of the lower leg can range from a tiny increase in width between the knee and the ankle or a generous increase in width with a noticeably wider ankle.

Bootcut jeans move in and out of popular style quite often. The style originated in the wide-legged pants sailors in the British navy wore as part of the sea uniform in the mid-1800s. In the golden age of cowboys in the Wild West, this “bootcut” style rose to popularity because the wider ankle can easily slide down over the cowboy boots.

During the early 20th century, cowboys and laborers who needed to wear sturdy boots kept shops selling bootcut jeans. But it wasn’t until the 1940s and 50s, when Hollywood glamorized cowboys, that this style moved into popular fashion.

Of course, the 60s and 70s took the concept of the flared denim leg and ran with it, leading to the development of the bell-bottom style. The bell-bottom craze kept bootcut denim in fashion for several decades.

Today, bootcut jeans remain a popular choice for relaxed home wear or to pair with either heels or boots. They do not have the edgy style of skinny jeans, but celebrities continue to wear them in public and you can still find them on store shelves from all the big-name brands.

Wrangler’s 13mwz Cowboy Cut gives you a good idea of the traditional, relaxed-fit bootcut jeans, but you can also check out Levi’s 527 Slim Fit Bootcut to see a more tailored example of the flared jean leg.

Straight vs Bootcut Jeans: Key Points

Bootcut vs Straight Jeans

This chart gives a quick overview of the key differences between straight-leg and bootcut jeans.

CutLegs that have the same width from the hip to the ankleLegs that have a tighter thigh and then flare out from the knee to the leg opening
FitCan come in a variety of fits ranging from relaxed or boyfriend to slim-straightUsually have a fitted upper leg and looser lower leg, but can vary depending on the brand
TopFeatures straight lines and the same width of the upper leg as the lower legFeatures tighter upper legs
WaistCan have a variety of waist styles with low, mid or high riseCan have a variety of waist styles with low, mid or high rise, but women’s models often have a lower rise
Leg OpeningAlways the same width as the upper legAlways wider than the leg at the knee
How to WearPairs well wth casual outfits and flat shoes such as sneakersPairs well with rugged cowboy boots or with dressier heels or heeled boots
Body TypeBest for people with slender or rectangular body types, though they can make people with petite figures look tallerBest for people with curvy bodies as the flared legs balanced out curves on the upper body

What is the Difference Between Straight and Bootcut Jeans?

Straight vs Bootcut Jeans

The biggest difference between straight and bootcut jeans is in the width of the legs. Straight jeans have the same width down the entire leg, but bootcut jeans have legs that become wider at the leg opening.


Bootcut and straight-leg jeans have very different cuts because bootcut models flare out at the leg opening and straight styles do not. Another big difference in the cut is that straight jeans have the same width throughout the whole leg, while bootcut legs typically taper a bit from the hip to the knee.

Another common difference in the cut between the two styles is that bootcut jeans usually have a longer inseam so that the legs can fall to about one inch above your shoe or to just above the floor if you do not have shoes on. Straight-leg jeans typically have a shorter length.


Both bootcut and straight-leg jean styles can have a wide variety of fits. This is because you can have slim or relaxed straight-legged jeans, and you can have relaxed or fitted bootcut jeans as well!

In general, you see straight-leg styles with a more relaxed fit. For women, bootcut jeans more often have a fitted style with a tapered upper leg. For men, it is easy to find both relaxed-fit bootcut jeans meant for wearing while working and moving and more fitted bootcut jeans meant for wearing out on the town and looking stylish.


The top area of straight and bootcut jeans, from the waistband through the upper leg, looks very different because bootcut jeans have more closely fitted thighs than straight jeans.

The tapered upper leg in bootcut jeans allows the legs to curve in and back out at the ankle, creating a nicely balanced look. But the tapered upper leg does create a tighter, more fitted thigh in both men’s and women’s bootcut jeans.

Straight jeans, in contrast, have the same width all the way down the leg and will not cling to your thighs. So if you like pants that do not squeeze your leg at any point, go with straight-leg jeans!


Both bootcut and straight jeans can have waists with varying rises, ranging from low cut to high rise. The rise on a pair of pants describes the distance from the crotch to the top edge of the waistband. A bigger rise means that the waistband reaches higher up on your torso.

Flower-child style bootcut styles usually have a low-rise waist. But on the other hand, you can also find plenty of bootcut jeans with a mid-waist rise and looser pants legs, intended for both men and women to wear while riding horses or working outdoors.

Straight-leg jeans also come with low or high waists. More relaxed straight jeans typically have a mid to high-rise waist, but you can get boyfriend or slim-straight straight-leg jeans with a low-rise waist.

Leg Opening

Bootcut jeans often have wider leg openings than straight jeans, though you can find exceptions to this rule. This is because bootcut jeans always have a leg opening wider than the knee. But straight jeans can have super wide leg openings as well–they just have the same width all the way down the leg.

It is always the case that bootcut jeans look as if they have wider leg openings, though, because of the flared lower leg.

It is also worth noting that bootcut jeans look best when they end about one inch above the top of your shoe or boot at the arch of your foot. Straight jeans, in contrast, more often end either at the ankle bone or just below it.

How to Wear

One of the best things about both bootcut and straight-leg jeans is that you can wear them with many different styles of clothing.

Bootcut jeans work great with heeled or chunky boots, high heels, or cowboy boots. Depending on the rise in a particular style, you may want to pair your bootcut jeans with a poofy or flowy top for women or with an unbuttoned shirt layered over a tee for men. This looser top can offset the tapered upper leg of the bootcut jeans.

Straight-leg jeans can look good with boots if you have a more relaxed fit in the legs. For slim-straight jeans, you may want to wear sneakers or flats instead. Relaxed or boyfriend-style straight-leg styles often look more casual, but if you go with a more slim fit, you could also dress up these jeans with a nicer top.

Of course, you can always pair any style of jeans with a casual hoodie or t-shirt for a comfortable at-home style!

Body Type

Straight-leg jeans look great on people with shorter legs or petite frames, while bootcut jeans look great on people with curvier bodies because they make the thighs look slimmer.

Women’s bootcut jeans often create the appearance of an hourglass figure, even for people who don’t exactly have that body shape! They also have a longer inseam which can make people of all heights seem to have longer legs.

Straight-leg jeans do not accentuate a curving body and may look better on people with more boxy or slender body types. But straight-leg styles also provide more room through the whole leg for comfortable movement, so this style does remain a classic for anyone with any body type who likes to wear jeans for tough outdoor work.

Straight Leg vs Bootcut Men’s Jeans

Straight Leg vs Bootcut

Straight-leg jeans for men can look good on any body type and come in many different fits, but so do bootcut jeans!

There is no popular jeans brand that does not sell some version of straight-leg jeans for men. This is the classic cut, after all!

The most common and iconic type of straight-leg jeans for men has a mid-rise, a comfortably roomy seat, and straight legs leading to a leg opening of about 8 inches. But most brands also sell a wide range of variations on this, such as more modern-looking slim-straight styles that have more narrow legs.

Bootcut jeans for men tend to fall into two separate stylistic camps. First, you can find the traditional, rugged, relaxed-but-sturdy style of cowboy jeans meant for actual hard work. This type of bootcut jeans usually has a mid to high rise and looser legs, though it still features the flared lower leg to accommodate cowboy boots!

The other, more modern, style of bootcut jeans for men often has a slimmer fit and a low-rise waist. This style has more of a “night out at the bar” vibe than an “about to jump on a horse” vibe.

Brands from Old Navy to Levis, Wrangler, and American Eagle all sell popular versions of bootcut jeans for men today.

Straight vs Bootcut Jeans Women’s

Straight jeans often work better for short or petite women who want to look taller, but bootcut styles work better to highlight and streamline curves for women with rounder figures.

Current fashion trends make loose boyfriend-style straight-leg jeans for women super popular. But because straight-leg styles remain the classic choice, you can find many different fits of straight-leg models for women on the market today. For example, just Levi’s brand sells more than 25 varieties of straight-leg jeans for women!

Bootcut jeans for women have flared in and out of the fashion world repeatedly since the 70s, but they never entirely go out of style because they do a better job highlighting the curves of the female body than any other style of jeans! This is why you can find bootcut jeans for sale from pretty much all major women’s brands today.

Wrangler, Levis, Lee, Old Navy, and many more popular brands offer a variety of bootcut jeans for women. Even “mom age” influencers like the Pioneer Women sell a line of bootcut jeans!

Bootcut vs Flare Jeans

Straight vs Bootcut Jeans Women
The main difference between bootcut and flare jeans is that bootcut jeans have a tapered upper leg, while flare jeans often have a loose leg throughout that flares out from the knee to the ankle. In other words, flare jeans often have a looser overall cut than bootcut styles.

In some cases, flare jeans also have a much bigger leg opening and a more dramatic outward tapering from the knee to the ankle. Bootcut jeans can have quite a subtle flare at the leg opening, especially in men’s jeans.

Wrangler Straight Leg vs Bootcut

Wrangler jeans have a reputation as the ultimate cowboy jeans, and this famous brand sells both straight and bootcut models for men and women.

For men, you can find Wrangler straight-leg models ranging from the “Heritage Frontier” version to a sleek, modern number like the North Carolina Slim Fit Straight Leg. Wrangler also offers many different bootcut styles for men, like the Cowboy Cut Original Fit model vs the Cowboy Cut Silver Edition Slim Fit model.

While Wrangler originally existed to provide jeans for cowboys and ranch hands, these days, the brand also has a lot of popularity with women! You can find plenty of hardy jeans perfect for women who ride and want to look stylish in more modern bootcut styles from this brand today.

Wrangler’s straight-leg jeans for women run the gamut from styles like the Mom Jean, the Wild West 603 High Rise, and the Walker jeans. But if you want a style to suit every taste, check out Wrangler’s Ladies Bootcut and Riding Jeans collection! Here you can find bootcut styles to suit pretty much anyone, such as the looser-fitting Shiloh model, the Westward 626 High Rise bootcut, and the 70s-style Retro Sadie model.

Straight vs Bootcut vs Relaxed

Straight, bootcut, and relaxed jeans all have differently shaped legs that give each style a unique appearance.

Straight jeans have legs that fall straight from the hip to the ankle. Bootcut jeans have tighter upper legs and then an outward taper from the knee to a wider leg opening. Relaxed-fit jeans always have a loose upper leg to provide room for people with wider thighs, but they can have either straight, slim, or flared lower legs, depending on the brand.

One other key characteristic of relaxed-fit jeans is that they often have a generous back rise, providing plenty of room in the seat as well.

In fact, you can have relaxed-fit straight-leg jeans as well! This just means that the jeans have wide legs that fall in a straight line.

How to Style Bootcut or Straight Jeans

Now that you know the key differences between straight-leg and bootcut jeans, check out these tips for how to style your jeans, so they look best on your body!

Do Bootcut Jeans Make You Look Thinner?

Bootcut jeans can make you look thinner, especially if you get a pair with a high-rise waist. The main reason bootcut jeans work well for curvier bodies is that the curve of the jeans balances out your top cures. Plus, bootcut jeans look good for big thighs because they taper at the knee, giving you an hourglass appearance.

Do bootcut jeans make you look taller? They can, especially if you pair them with heels or heeled boots! Bootcut jeans often feature a longer inseam than other styles of jeans because they are designed to wear with boots. This means you can add several inches to your height when wearing these jeans!

Are Straight-Leg Jeans More Flattering?

Whether or not straight-leg jeans will flatter your figure often depends on the fit of the individual jeans. For example, you can get super relaxed straight-leg jeans that drape from your body and look both stylish and comfortable, or you can get slim-fit straight-leg jeans that make a petite figure look taller.

Most jeans brands offer a wide range of straight-leg styles to help you find the best fit for your figure.

Bootcut or Straight Leg with Cowboy Boots?

The classic choice of jeans to wear with cowboy boots is the bootcut style, for obvious reasons! Bootcut jeans have a leg opening that flares out so your jeans can easily fit over your cowboy boots. This is the whole reason bootcut jeans were invented!

That said, many relaxed-fit straight-leg jeans also have a leg opening wide enough to slide down over the top of your boots. So you can certainly elect to wear comfy, sturdy straight-leg jeans with your cowboy boots as you work outside.

Are Bootcut Jeans Still in Style 2022?

Bootcut jeans are still in style in 2022 and will likely remain popular in 2023. Of course, plenty of other styles of denim remain popular this year, too, including a trend for high-rise, loose-fitting jeans that have an urban appeal.

Check out a few ideas for styling your bootcut jeans in the coming year:

  • For wider bootcut jeans, try a vintage style by pairing your jeans with a retro graphic tee or a 70s-style flowy top.
  • For the classic cowboy or cowgirl look, wear a subtle bootcut and chunky boots.
  • For a trendy look, wear high-waisted bootcut jeans with a crop top shirt and heels or sandals.


The biggest difference between straight and bootcut jeans is that straight-leg jeans have a constant width down the entire leg. Bootcut jeans taper in through the thigh but then flare out at the ankle. Bootcut jeans may have a wider leg opening than straight jeans because of the flared ankle.

In general, bootcut jeans look great on curvy people because the shape of the leg balances out the curves at the top of the body. Straight-leg jeans look great on people with a more boxy or slender body type. Bootcut jeans pair well with heels or heeled boots, and straight-leg jeans look great with sneakers or flats.