Dress Better Instantly! Dark, Straight Leg Jeans

Ditch the wide legs and bleached whiskers. Wearing dark jeans in a straight leg fit will make you look more polished, whether you're having a beer with your pals, or talking raises with your boss.

Jeans: H&M, $19.99 | Suede Bucks: Bostonian, $80 | Sportcoat: Lands' End Canvas, $240

Jeans — the quintessential American garment steeped in casual wear. Jeans have permeated every corner of the American subculture from the the Marlboro man, to the President’s “dad” jeans, to the office on casual Friday. Jeans are inherently casual and are mostly associated with off duty and lounging activities. However, the right pair in the right color and fit can look downright smashing at the office or on date night.

Good jeans are all a matter of fit and color. Since fit is king we’ll start there.

Levi's 510 skinny


Levi's 510

In recent years the trend has gone to slim but this doesn’t mean the trend fits you.

Skinny jeans are just that, so if you’re carrying a little extra weight below your waist or have thighs bigger than your head, they won’t be the best option for you. Slim jeans for slim dudes. Just don’t go this slim.

Levi's 501


Levi's 501 Original

By far and away the best option for most men. Straight fit jeans flatter most body types whether slim or hefty and compliment the male form better than any other type of fit. It is the most classic and most widely accepted fit across the board, and in our opinion, a standard part of the uniform.

bootcut jeans


Levi's 517

These should only be worn with – boots. Point, blank, period. If you’re in the market for them, to wear with your boots, look for a style that doesn’t have an exaggerated flare leg opening.

Levi's Relaxed


Levi's 559

Unless you feel like swimming in a sea of denim never wear these.

Same goes for anything labeled as “Loose”.

Jeans: H&M, $19.99
V-Neck T-shirt: Target, $6.99
Henley: Target, $12.99
Shoes: Keds, $45

Once you’ve got the perfect fit it’s time to choose a color. Jean colors fall into two categories; light or dark. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Actually there isn’t. Dark jeans win handsdown over light—at least blue jeans, white are another matter. The light wash “dad” jeans should stay on your dad, especially since he’s not as cool as you. Dark jeans are more professional, more polished, easier to dress up AND down and hide stains better (if you’re washing your jeans every week you shouldn’t be). Light jeans should be saved for band members and those guys still stuck in the 80’s.

Dark plain wash jeans will be your best bet when you’re going after the “smart casual” look. You’ll look smart since you won’t have tons of distressing and rips in your jeans and you’ll still look casual because well, you’re wearing jeans. Take a break from the standard khaki and polo uniform and throw on some dark denim and a sportcoat—we’ll tell you which one later—or a fitted t-shirt and you’ll be two steps ahead of the next guy.

Jeans: H&M, $19.99
T-Shirt: American Apparel, $15.99
Shoes: Keds, $45

Which brand you wear—try Gap, H&M, or Levi’s— and how much they cost is up to you, but we’ve never paid more than $50 for a pair of jeans and don’t plan to. But we’ll save that discussion for another time. Now go try on some jeans!

Grant Harris is Owner & Chief Style Consultant at Image Granted; a Washington, DC based Image Consulting Company dedicated to solving the complex image, style & fashion issues of today's professional man. He has a healthy obsession with socks. Follow him on Twitter & Facebook.


  • Reply November 7, 2011


    No love for the Levi’s 514 (Slim Straight)? These are the perfect fit for me and I’m pretty sold on never buying any other brand who claim to have a similar fit. Pair the phenomenal fit along with a nice dark wash, and I got the perfect pair of jeans.

  • Reply November 7, 2011


    This is really awesome!!I like the style here…

  • Reply November 8, 2011


    Second for Levi’s 514s. As a pretty slim dude naturally, they fit better than even 501s, but not hipster skinny, just appropriately proportioned. Now if I could just find them with a button fly…

  • Reply November 8, 2011


    these are nice, i really like the dark over the light in the fall and winter months

  • Reply November 8, 2011


    I stopped wearing jeans when I was about 20 years old … quite a few years ago!

  • Reply November 8, 2011


    One thing you might want to remember is that relaxed jeans fit really stocky people, such as myself, like straight leg jeans. I’m 5’7″ 190 lbs and weightlifter so I wear Levi 550s as nicer straight leg jeans.

  • Reply November 8, 2011

    Grant Harris

    @JCARD21 – Wow, that’s interesting. I’ve gone several months without wearing jeans and I only own a few pairs, but it sounds like you haven’t worn them in years. What do you prefer?

  • Reply November 8, 2011


    I third the suggestion for 514s. I have pretty bulky thighs and the 514s are the best and most flattering fit I’ve found.

  • Reply November 8, 2011


    I’m also a huge fan of the 514s. They’re really comfortable with a great fit, and they look just as good.

  • Reply November 8, 2011


    I wear Levi’s 527 (boot-cut). I find that the boot-cut opening at the bottom fits over the tops of all my shoes just the way I like it. Am I completely wrong in this?

    Also, I followed the link to Amazon for the Levi’s 501. What color (out of the 10,000 they show) would most look like the jeans in this article?



    • Reply November 8, 2011


      Scott, I relate, I have some shoes that look better with a slight bootcut because of being bulky or having tabs that catch the bottom of the jeans. The idea here is that you don’t want huge flares, like were popular a few years ago. We’re going for a sleek silhouette. Looks like maybe “Rinse” would be the closest.

  • Reply November 8, 2011


    Great article. (And who knew you could get a half-decent pair of jeans for 20 bucks?) Just a heads up, but you typed ‘causal’ twice in the first paragraph, where I’m assuming you meant ‘casual’. Keep the good reads coming!

    • Reply November 8, 2011


      Crap! Thanks Paul, I hate when that happens.

  • Reply November 8, 2011


    I’m over jeans. They’re not that comfortable, and in the hot months they’re just way too hot. In the wet months, they stay wet all day.

  • Reply November 8, 2011


    @Steve – Agreed there are several other types of trousers out there that are more comfortable than jeans. Although if you wear the right weight and weave of denim it can just as comfortable as any other pair of pants.

    In the warm months I prefer chinos, in the cooler months I break out the cords. You mentioned months of wet weather. Where do you live that its wet for this length of time? If you don’t wear jeans what do you wear to stay cool when its hot and dry when its wet?

  • Reply November 8, 2011


    I’ve been wearing 517’s for, heck almost a decade now I think. With every type of shoe. The main reason I like them (aside from the design/art nerd in me just enjoying how the fold looks when it gets to my feet) is because I wear size 14 shoes, and a straight leg opening seems to enhance how large my feet are. There’s also a tendency for a straight leg opening to get caught behind the tongue of my shoe much more often than with the boot cut.

    Whenever I go shopping for jeans I do try on more traditional cuts to see how they look on me, but I just keep going back to those 517’s

    • Reply November 8, 2011


      Dennis, Absolutely agree with you. In those instances a wider leg will look better.

  • Reply November 8, 2011


    Sorry to distract from the jeans discussion, but I have a question about those bucks posted in the top banner. I know the article says that they are the olive, but they really look like they grey. Sorry if I’m beating a dead horse, but are they FOR SURE the olive?

    • Reply November 8, 2011


      Haha, as the proud owner of those bucks, I assure you they are olive. If you click on that link you can see some better pictures. But they are definitely green in person.

  • Reply November 9, 2011


    Thank you for the quick response. 6pm had 1 pair of the Olive’s left in my size for $50.00, so I just grabbed them.

  • Reply November 9, 2011


    “if you’re washing your jeans every week you shouldn’t be”

    How often should jeans be washed, and/or how many wearings between washes? Mine sometimes get kind of funky after only a couple of wearings (2-3), so I wash them after that.. Is there something else I should be doing?

  • Reply November 9, 2011


    @Paul – Great question. Denim enthusiasts will tell you never to wash your jeans especially if they are premium denim. There are several reasons behind this. Denim has a life of its own. It stretches and contracts due to heat cold and other elements. This is why your jeans may be tight when you try them on in the store and feel like they’re a whole size larger 2 weeks later. Washing denim negatively effects the fibres. It stretches them outside of their comfort zone and the extreme temperature ranges can cause permanent damage to the fibres which will affect the fit.

    This brings up the issue of cleanliness and smell. If your jeans get a bit of funk in them after a few wears the easiest thing to do is hit them with some Febreze or Lysol. This will get rid of most small orders. Other options are to hang them outdoors and let nature do its thing.

    If this doesn’t solve the issue and you really need to wash them there are two ways to do it–the right way and the wrong way. Most guys do it the wrong way.

    The first option is machine washing. Jeans of any quality should be turned inside out, washed in cold water, and air dried to keep the fibres away from heat. The second option is to soak them alone in a bath tub of lukewarm water. You should only be wearing dark jeans so use a mild detergent like Woolite Dark to keep the color from fading and to be easy on the fibres. The third option is the most interesting but many denim experts say it works. You can freeze your jeans. Fold them and seal them in a plastic back and remove the air. Put them in the freezer overnight. This will kill smelly bacteria and will save you money on water and detergent. Studies have shown that over a year of freezing jeans versus washing them regularly both pairs came out to have the same amount of bacteria under a microscope.

    Whatever you do with your jeans you should take care of them and they will take care of you.

    • Reply November 29, 2016


      Gross on not washing Levi’s/jeans!! I’ve been living in all types of (mostly Levi’s) jeans for 40 years, since they’re the only stye of pants I think flatter me. And I can affirm that they’re downright funky after 2 days of wear. For me: Dirty, oily, 3-day-old jeans are a complete turn-off and deal breaker with the man who wears them. (Uck! I’m still shuddering at the thought.)

  • Reply November 9, 2011


    To the gentlemen who don’t wear jeans anymore— What do you wear every day? Links to products are appreciated. I’m just curious what would supplant my jeans on a casual day with, say, a quarter-zip fleece (I live in Seattle, so fleeces are common), or maybe with a polo shirt or casual button-down.



  • Reply November 10, 2011


    WOW, thanks for the incredible answer Grant! I never knew about all of that! I’m saving your answer to my hard drive; I’ll definitely be referencing it again.


  • Reply November 10, 2011

    George Dunhill

    Agreed 100%

    As much thought should go into choosing jeans as choosing any other major item of clothing, and they should really fit your build. I’m a pretty slim guy, and I’ve been able to pull off both Levi’s 510s and 511s. It depends on the situation, footwear, and other items of clothing you’re pairing with the jeans. I will, however, agree 100% on the darker washes. Please stay away from bleached highlights.

    -Ben T. for George Dunhill

  • […] Dressing well doesn’t mean dressing up in suits all the time (though suiting up is seldom a bad thing). If you get the right pair of jeans, you can still look sharp. (Primer) […]

  • Reply November 14, 2011


    @Paul – You’re welcome. there is more where that came from. Let me know how it goes.

    @Scott – There are plenty of other options past denim. Try corduroy, flannel, or moleskin. Each is softer than denim, just as durable and can be dressed up or down just as easily.

  • Reply November 16, 2011


    I can personally attest for the greatness of 501s. The problem is that those jeans are usually the only ones that are long enough. I’ve got a 36″ inseam, so department stores are pretty much the only place for me to find my jeans. Not a bad thing, of course, but sometimes I wander into Express or something and fall for a pair of jeans that are too small.

    With that said, some 34″ inseam jeans will fit, as long as I’ve got a pair of hi-tops on, or sagging my jeans slightly.

    Any suggestions on finding jeans that would fit?

  • Reply November 30, 2011


    I really like the blazer in the first picture, I’ve been searching for one like that, does anybody have any info on it?

  • Reply December 16, 2011


    I love dark jeans, especially the Levis 501.
    I live in Germany though and here they ask for 80-90€ a pair. That goes for all of Europe actually (with the exception of Turkey where they are produced and cost “only” 60€).
    Just my thoughts on “but we’ve never paid more than $50 for a pair of jeans and don’t plan to.”

  • Reply January 15, 2012


    I generally agree that dark jeans are better, but what about with a light corduroy sports coat? Would lighter jeans not work better in this case?

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  • Reply August 16, 2012


    I know this is a rather old post, but I’m new here and reading up on all I’ve missed.

    I recently was at a Levi’s outlet store and the 559 was the only type that fit my waist snuggly AND left decent room in my thigh area.

    I’m a 29″ waist and very trim. I’ve always been a bit more muscular in my legs than my upper body so I’m hoping I didn’t commit a fashion sin by purchasing the 559’s.

    Anyone else have my problem?

  • Reply September 5, 2012


    @Mike – I have the same problem…I always have to buy relaxed or loose fit, because if I try on slim fit or classic fit, it looks like I’m wearing bellbottoms! Other than that, I think this article is right…

  • Reply March 28, 2013


    I know this is an old article, but I’ve used this as a reference on a few occasions when trying to find some good jeans. A few short years ago, I pretty much wore only bootcut, but its been time for a good pair of straight fit jeans! I looked…and looked…and tried on…and made poor fitting purchases. Wasn’t ever happy with the jeans I had! I FINALLY FOUND MY JEANS TODAY! Lucky 361 Vintage Straight is where it’s at for me, and I found them at Mens Wearhouse on sale BOGO free! Stocked up with two pairs, and I couldn’t be happier to finally have a few jeans I actually like wearing!

  • Reply April 10, 2013


    Hey guys,

    I’m sorry for the late question here, but I’ve just recently found your site. I love it by the way.

    I don’t want to write a novel, but feel it necessary to explain where I’m coming from. I am an average guy from a rural area that has, since little on up, been concerned/fascinated with style. I’ve always been more style savvy than my father, or any of my friends, but every time I go to a city or see a style magazine I still see people that know far more than me.
    I live in the type of are that wholeheartedly accepts, and almost expects cowboy boots. Something I call regional style trends. I love the boots, and wear them daily with jeans and plaid shirts. Now before you start thinking I live in Hickville USA, I do actually wear them with high quality denim and nice plaid shirt. I’m by far not a redneck, It’s just the area I live in.

    I’ve also been described as a “man with a butt”, by my wife. I don’t have a huge butt, however its by no means flat so some of these jeans will fit me waist but not my butt, and vice versa.
    My 2 questions are these. First, is wearing regional style a complete faux paus? Second, is there any advice for finding a nice pair of denims for a guy with my body type.
    Also I love the advice on suits and stuff you guys give here!! I attend a church where probably fewer Than 25% of the members wear a suit but absolutely love to dress up myself. I currently own 2 suits and am planning on buying 2 more in the next month or so. Is Kohls a place you’ve heard of, or would recommend buying from. It’s where I buy all my suits, for a very reasonable price. Cheap yes but well fitting with a bit of tailoring, and I get compliments every time I’m out.
    Again my apologies for writing an entire book for 3 simple questions.


  • Reply August 19, 2013


    It’s not even a matter of discussion, there is only one brand and style of jeans: Levi’s 501 Shrink-to-Fit in indigo. Anything else is either an imitation or perversion.

  • […] our latest piece over at Primer.  If you’re on the hunt for jeans, hunt no more. GET THE LOOK: Jeans: H&M;, $19.99 | […]

  • Reply April 30, 2017

    Matthieu Gagnon

    Im looking at buying Levis 501 Original Fit Jeans. I read that these are the most popular Fit of the levis man jeans.

    I look at dark wash on levis website.

    My question is about Color.

    Should i go for Rinse 501 original or Black Original Color?

    I dont want any of the stone wash jeans.


    Rinse or Black?

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