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Denim 101: Everything You Need to Know About Shopping for Jeans

There is a unique type of frustration that is reserved for jean shopping. There are so many stores that sell and specialize in denim, and all offer a wide variety of washes, styles, and fits to choose from — so where do you even start?

The reality is that everyone has a different body type, personal style, preference, and lifestyle. This means that what may be a perfect pair of jeans for you, will likely not be perfect for someone else. Finding the right pair is about identifying the pair that is comfortable and suits both your lifestyle and personal style.

There are a lot of decisions that you need to make to find the right ones for you. Making these choices beforehand will help you narrow down your options so that you can be selective and strategic when it comes time to try on.

Everyone deserves at least one pair of go-to jeans. Utilize this denim guide to plan ahead and identify what you should be looking for when shopping for jeans.

Where to Shop for Jeans

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There are a lot of retailers that sell them; there are brands like Levi’s that specialize in denim, brands like Gap and American Eagle that offer jeans alongside other types of clothing, and department stores that carry them from a wide variety of brands.

Retailers and brands all offer varied makes, styles, and selections of jeans, so it’s important to identify the stores that sell the right ones for you. There are a few things that you will want to consider when choosing where to shop for your jeans:

Cost & Sales:

Before you start looking for jeans, set a budget, and identify the stores selling denim that fit in this budget. To identify budget-friendly jean options you can utilize a shopping directory like that will provide flyers, coupons, and company-wide news about sales being offered by various brands.

What’s Open:

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The hours and availability of a store will vary based on if it is in a mall, if it has a street entrance, or if it is a stand-alone store. Be sure to confirm that a store is open before heading over to browse, make a purchase, or do a return. You can use a directory to identify this information beforehand.


You can utilize a shopping directory to locate a store’s closest open location to you. If you browse a store online, this will also help you to identify the closest location for pick up if you place an online order, or if you have confirmed your desired pair of jeans are available at a specific location.

Return Policy:

Sometimes you don’t have time to try on jeans in the change room, or just have a change of heart. For this reason, it’s important to purchase at stores with good return policies. Make sure you are only buying them from places that allow full refunds – or store credit if it’s a store you frequently shop at. You never know when jeans may not fit, fall apart, or just not work for you as well as you thought they might.


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Some stores boast US sizing, UK sizing, European sizing, numerical sizing, or letter size. The biggest mistake people make when shopping for jeans is deciding that they are definitely one size. Jessica Murphy, the co-founder of True Fit, shared with Today that “What’s happened over time is that (brands) have evolved their sizing to represent who they believe their core customer is. That’s why we have so much inconsistency.”

The reality is that to find the right pair of jeans for you, you need to identify your size every time you shop at a new store or opt for a new style of jeans. All retailers have their own sizing system, use different materials, and boast different fits. If you need a plus size clothing, you can visit Plus Motif.

In fact, even washes can fit differently based on the color and dye used. Identify your size first by trying on jeans in various washes and styles in a given retailer, and determine your size in that store based on physical try-on.


The most common types of jeans you will find offered by retailers include:

  • Ankle
  • Bootcut
  • Cropped
  • Flared
  • Tall
  • Skinny
  • Jegging
  • Straight leg
  • High waisted
  • Wide leg

Denim stores will typically have creative names for their different cuts of jeans. For example, American Eagle refers to their flare jean as the “artist jean.” This said it’s important to identify the cut that best suits your body and style.

Personal Style: If you are one who has a lot of cropped or fitted tops, you will likely want to opt for a higher waisted jean. If you are someone who frequently wears ankle boots, however, you will likely opt for a cropped or straight leg pant. Riding boots, on the other hand, will pair better with skinny jeans. Consider what you typically wear to identify the style you will get the most wear out of.

Body Shape & Comfort Level: When it comes to your body shape and personal preference, you will also want to identify those that will be most comfortable for you. Various resources will help you identify the best jeans for your body type, including online quizzes.


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The right jean wash for you will be dependent on your day to day responsibilities, your body shape, the washes you already own, and the season. Consider the different types of denim washes available and their individual advantages.

  • Light Wash: The lightest jean wash is a very faded light blue and is known to be a more casual option. This tends to be best suited to warmer weather and day time activity.
  • Medium Wash: This is a casual blue wash of jeans that tends to be vintage and classic looking. This wash is often seen on more structured, vintage-styled denim-like mom jeans.
  • Raw and Dark Wash Denim: Darker denim is known to be a slimming, more professional jean option. This denim can be dressed up or down depending on your preference and planned activities for the day.
  • Black & Grey Denim: Black is a classic dark jean option best suited for night time activity or office wear. Grey, on the other hand, is more of a casual dark jean option for day time.
  • White denim: White denim is sleek denim that is incredibly seasonal, but sometimes can be styled to suit colder seasons like winter. While white is more of a spring and summer denim, if you are feeling daring you can definitely try to pair this denim with a sweater or cardigan for more of a fall or winter look. White denim is incredibly versatile as there are various shades of white that you can play with to suit your various seasonal and style needs.


Denim is available in a wide variety of finishes; this is what provides denim with their unique style. Common jean styles include:

  • Distressed
  • Shibori (Tie Dye)
  • Whiskering
  • Acid Wash
  • Fringe
  • Step-hem

Buy Jeans That You Are Comfortable In

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Most denim guides tend to try to help you identify the most flattering jean style and wash for your body type, but it is important to consider the jean types that you are most comfortable in, that are most compatible with your daily activities, personal style, current wardrobe, and comfort level.


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