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Tapered vs Straight Jeans: What’s the Difference?

Every style of jeans has its unique shape and appearance just like every car brand has its distinct features. You will present a different image when you wear each style of jeans. For example, when you compare tapered vs straight jeans, what is the difference between them?

The biggest difference between tapered and straight-fit jeans is that tapered jeans get more narrow down the length of the leg. Straight jeans have the same width down the leg, either from the hip to the ankle or from the knee to the ankle. Tapered jeans often have a closer fit overall than straight jeans as well.

In this article, you will learn the key characteristics of tapered and straight jeans. You will discover the major differences between these two popular cuts. Finally, you will find out how tapered jeans compare to other styles like slim-fit jeans.

What are Tapered Jeans?

What are Tapered JeansTapered jeans have a looser top fit and legs that narrow as they reach the ankle, creating a smaller leg opening. Tapered fit does not mean the same as slim or skinny fit, though. Tapered jeans can have quite a loose fit in the seat and thighs but grow more narrow between the knee and the ankle.

Of course, some slim-fit jeans also have a tapered leg, meaning they have a closer fit all over and a tapering lower leg that leads to a smaller leg opening.

The basic idea of the tapered jeans is the overall shape. Picture each leg as the letter “V” because the leg has a wider circumference at the top but grows more narrow as it reaches the ankle. That narrowing shape describes tapered jeans!

The slightly confusing thing is that jeans combine this tapered aspect with many other stylistic details. For example, you can have athletic-tapered, slim-tapered, or even straight-tapered jeans!

The concept of tapering a wider leg to produce a more fitted silhouette around the lower leg is not new. Elvis Presley rocked slim-fitting jeans with tapered legs way back in the 1950s! For a while, close-fitting pant legs indicated a spirit of rebellion.

Today, tapered legs often present a neat, precise, or fashion-forward appearance. If you like a looser fit in your jeans for lots of mobility, you can get a loose cut with tapered legs and avoid looking baggy or sloppy. Or, if you want a sleek, fashion-forward appearance, try a slimmer cut overall and add tapered legs for that sharp silhouette.

What are Straight Jeans?

What are Straight JeansStraight jeans have legs that form a straight line, either from the hip to the ankle or the knee to the ankle. This means that if you measure the circle of the leg, it will have the same width at the knee as it does at the ankle.

Popular straight-leg jeans styles include looser-fitting options like boyfriend jeans. You often wear these baggier styles with the wide hem rolled up in a cuff to highlight the straight line of the jean leg. But straight-leg jeans also come in slimmer styles that do not taper in the lower leg.

Remember, the straight leg forms only one part of the style for any pair of jeans. You can have slim or relaxed straight-leg jeans. These cuts will look and fit quite differently!

Just like tapered jeans, it is all about the shape of the leg. The easiest way to wrap your head around the concept of straight jeans is to picture an old-school wooden ruler next to the jeans’ leg. If the ruler has the same rectangular shape as the leg, you have straight-leg jeans!

Straight-leg jeans look best when the hem ends right at your ankle. If you wear them longer than this, they can easily look saggy or too big for you.

Many classic styles, such as Levi’s famous Original 501, have a straight-leg fit. It represents the traditional looser leg, perfect for people who like to move comfortably while wearing jeans.

Tapered Jeans vs Straight Jeans: Key Points

Tapered vs Straight Jeans

This guide will give you an overview of the key differences between tapered and straight jeans.

Tapered JeansStraight Jeans
CutWider at the top and narrower at the ankleStraight line from top to bottom with wider ankle
FitVaries widely, as slim, related, or athletic jeans can all have tapered legsVaries widely, as many jean styles feature straight legs
TopOften looser at the top than at the bottom, though this variesOften slightly more fitted at the top and looser in the legs. But this can vary
WaistJeans with tapered legs can have a low, mid, or high-rise waistJeans with straight legs can have a low, mid, or high-rise waist
Leg OpeningAlways more narrow than the width of the leg at the kneeAlways the same width as the width of the leg at the knee
Body TypeTapered jeans can look great on any body type depending on the overall cut of the jeans. Athletic tapered jeans look good on people with bulkier bodies, and slim tapered jeans look great on tall, slender bodiesStraight-leg jeans look good on all body types because the rectangular shape makes everyone look taller and thinner.

What is the Difference Between Tapered Jeans and Straight Jeans?

Difference Between Tapered Jeans and Straight Jeans

The biggest difference between tapered and straight jeans is that tapered jeans have legs that narrow from top to bottom, while straight jeans have legs that keep the same width from top to bottom, forming a straight line.

That said, straight and tapered describe just one component of the style for any pair of jeans. This means you can find tapered or straight jeans in various cuts, from loose to tight-fitting styles. You can also find tapered and straight-fit jeans sold by pretty much any popular jeans brand.


The key difference between tapered and straight jeans lies in the cut of the legs. Tapered jeans always have legs with a wider upper portion and a narrower ankle. Straight jeans always have legs that fall in a straight line all the way down without narrowing.


Both tapered and straight jeans can come in a wide range of different fits. This is because you can mix and match the leg style with other style elements, such as a looser or more fitted seat and thighs, different rises on the waist, and even stretch or non-stretch denim. All of these factors impact the overall fit or style of the jeans.

Is tapered fit skinny? Not always! Not often.

Many brands sell slim-fit jeans with tapered legs for an overall tight fit, but you can also find plenty of loosely fitting jeans with tapered legs. Tapering the legs on a pair of athletic fit or relaxed fit jeans gives them a cleaner, more tailored look while still providing the extra necessary for easy movement or larger bodies.


Most of the time, tapered jeans have a looser top and get more narrow toward the bottom of the jeans, while straight-fit jeans have a more fitted top and looser legs. That is a big generalization, though; the fit at the top of the jeans will vary from one cut to another.

Levi’s jeans, for example, offer styles like the 512 “slim taper” that have a tailored, tight fit and a leg that tapers down to a narrow 12.75” leg opening. This style will fit closely all the way from the hip down to the ankle. But the same brand also sells the 541, an athletic tapered fit with a much looser top, including the seat and thighs.


You can find tapered and straight-fit jeans with low, mid, or high-rise waists. For instance, Levi’s classic 501 jeans have straight legs and a mid-rise waist.

Jeans with the right rise at the waist will look best with certain body types. Low-rise jeans have a waistline that falls below your natural waist. This looks good on people who want to accentuate their hipline or have abs to show off.

Mid-rise jeans have a waistline that falls right at your natural waist or just below your navel. This classic style looks good on everyone, making it the safest choice whether you want tapered or straight jeans!

High-rise jeans have a waistline that reaches higher up your torso, at or above the navel. This style can look good on people with a trim, athletic waist or an hourglass shape.

Leg Opening

In many cases, straight jeans have a wider leg opening than tapered jeans, because tapered jeans always narrow between the knee and the leg opening, while straight jeans do not. But this does not necessarily mean that tapered jeans have closer-fitting legs than straight jeans in every instance.

For example, straight slim-fit jeans can have legs that have a close fit all over, even though they don’t taper. And tapered jeans can have loosely fitted legs that ease in a little between the knee and ankle but still feature a generous leg opening of 15” or so.

Best for What Body Type

Both straight and tapered jeans can work well for many different body types. You simply need to pair the shape of the leg with other key features of the jeans, such as a looser seat and thighs for people with bigger bodies or a slimmer fit for people with more narrow bodies.

Tapered jeans highlight the shape of your legs because they have a wider top and then a more narrow lower leg. For people with slender bodies, this accentuates sharp, clean lines and can look neat, professional, or even fashion-forward.

But one of the cool things about tapered jeans is that they can also work for people with heavily muscled or bulkier frames. You just need a style that has an athletic or loose fit on the top of the jeans and then a tapered, more narrow fit in the lower leg! This way, you can rock a more modern style without sacrificing comfort for your body shape.

Straight-leg jeans can look flattering on men and women with any body type. This is because the straight, slightly boxier leg style elongates the line of your body, making you look taller. For this reason, people with an apple-shaped, hourglass, or athletic build often look good in straight-leg jeans.

Depending on the style of straight-leg jeans, they can present either an ultra-relaced look or a clean, basic look. They give you a great alternative to tighter styles like slim or skinny fit.

Are Tapered Jeans Better?

You could consider tapered jeans better than straight jeans as they have advantages like a more stylish appearance. The shape of tapered jeans outlines the natural form of the leg, making it look as if you selected clothing tailored to fit your body. This always looks pleasing and gives you a more professional and sharp style than the boxier shape of straight-leg jeans.

Another advantage to tapered jeans is that you can sometimes get away with wearing them to work or for dates and other outings. You can dress up tapered jeans with a blazer, sweater, or nice button-down because the crisp line of the jeans makes them look a tad more formal.

Tapered Jeans vs Other Fits

One of the best ways to decide if tapered jeans will work for you is to compare them to other popular fits.

Which is Better, Tapered Fit or Slim Fit?

Tapered Fit or Slim Fit

The key difference between tapered and slim-fit jeans is that tapered jeans have a wider top and narrower bottom, and slim-fit jeans have a narrower fit all the way down. This makes tapered jeans a great choice for anyone with muscled highs or a curvier build.

Are tapered jeans tighter than slim jeans? Most tapered-fit jeans have extra space in the seat and thighs compared to slim-fit jeans. They may have the same small leg opening because tapered jeans get narrower from the knee to the ankle.

Tapered Fit Vs Regular Fit

The main difference between tapered fit and regular fit jeans is that regular fit jeans always have a looser cut in the seat and thighs, while tapered fit can have a relaxed, regular, or slim fit in these areas. This is because tapered fit refers to the legs, while regular fit describes the fit of the upper section of the jeans.

That said, you can have tapered legs on regular-fit jeans! In fact, the key difference between regular and straight-fit jeans is that regular jeans do have a more narrow leg opening than straight-fit jeans.

Athletic Taper Jeans vs Straight

The biggest difference between athletic taper jeans and straight-fit jeans is that athletic jeans have extra room in the thighs, while straight-fit jeans have the same leg shape all the way down.

Another way to think of this is that athletic jeans have a design built to match the shape of a muscled leg, with a larger upper leg and a smaller lower leg. Straight-fit legs suit a wider range of body types because they do not highlight any one particular shape. Athletic-fit jeans do not look as good on people with slender legs because the wide thigh can look baggy.

Tapered Jeans Men’s

Now that you know what tapered jeans look like take a look at a few popular examples of tapered jeans for men from leading brands today.

Levi’s Men’s 512 Slim Taper Jeans

Levis 510 vs 512

Levi’s 512 slim taper jeans have remained a popular style for many years because the jeans have a slender, tapered legs but more space in the seat and thighs than regular slim-fit jeans. You can think of these sleek, modern jeans as a more comfortable substitute for skinny jeans. While not the best jeans to wear while working on the farm, they look great in a casual workplace, out at the bar, or paired with a blazer and loafers for a night out!

Wrangler Men’s Regular Fit Taper Jeans

Wrangler men’s regular-fit taper jeans have a relaxed cut through the seat and thighs and tapered legs that narrow slightly from the baggier top down to a 14.5” leg opening. These jeans mean comfort, ease of movement, and an old-school vibe. You can easily wear these jeans for hard outdoor labor or for a casual outing like running to the hardware store.

The tapered leg on these jeans does not indicate a skinny fit at all. It simply means that the leg narrows from a wide opening at the knee to a slightly smaller opening at the ankle.

Lee Modern Series Slim Tapered Leg

Lee’s slim tapered-leg jeans form part of the brand’s Modern series and have a stylish, fairly close fit. The seat and thighs will outline the shape of your body while the tapered legs narrow into a 14.5” leg opening. The overall appearance of these jeans gives you a trendy and slender look.

Straight Jeans Men’s

All big-name jeans brands also sell a great selection of straight-leg jeans for men.

Levi’s Men’s 514 Straight Fit Jeans

Levis 514

Levi’s 514 straight fit jeans for men offer a classic style with a more modern low rise for anyone with a regular or athletic build. These jeans have a narrower overall shape and leg than a relaxed fit but a looser and more comfy shape than a slim fit. Unlike other modern-looking jeans, these have a straight leg below the knee with a leg opening of a generous 16 inches.

Lee Men’s Regular Straight-Fit Jeans

Lee’s regular straight-fit jeans have remained the brand’s bestselling model for years because of their classic cut and roomy comfort. These jeans have a loose fit in the seat and thighs and a wide, straight leg that falls to a 16” leg opening. You can picture these as the perfect dad jeans or work jeans.

Levi’s Men’s 505 Regular Straight Fit Jeans

What Are Levis 505 Jeans

Levi’s famous 505 jeans, pioneered in 1967, style a classic straight leg with a regular, roomy fit in the seat and thighs. The jean legs fall in a straight line down to a slightly baggy 16” leg opening. Everything about these jeans says tradition and sturdy comfort rather than trendy or modern.


The big difference between tapered and straight-fit jeans is that tapered jeans have legs that narrow toward the ankle, while straight legs maintain a straight line from the knee to the ankle. Tapered jeans often (though not always) have a looser fit in the seat and thighs than in the lower leg, and straight-fit jeans often have a more even fit all the way down.

That said, you can mix and match the style of straight or tapered legs with many cuts of jeans. Tapered slim jeans have a slim fit all over, plus tapered legs. Relaxed straight-fit jeans have a super loose upper fit and straight, wide legs.