Searching the internet high and low for the best athletic fit jeans on the market? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got all the crisp, comfortable denim your Crossfit-jacked legs can possibly handle. Because no matter how outlandish and out-there menswear becomes, a great pair of jeans will always be an unconditional wardrobe essential. Unless, of course, you’re a dude with prodigiously developed quads or a naturally fuller figure, in which case jeans are just a (literal) pain in the ass. Even with the skinny jeans era thankfully behind us, it can be difficult for bigger fellas to find denim that fits flatteringly and comfortably. Or it was, anyway, before a handful of denim brands started tailoring their dungarees specifically to the needs of swoler physiques. Enter the athletic fit, a roomier and more forgiving silhouette that accentuates your legs rather than hiding them under a baggy, JNCO-esque curtain of fabric. If you’re a committed leg day practitioner or just the proud owner of a dad bod, these are the best athletic fit jeans for every budget that’ll look and feel incredible straight off the rack.
The Best Athletic Fit Jeans, at a Glance
Big Tips from Big-Thigh’d Guys
We consider ourselves pretty big denimheads, but big thigh’d guys, we are not. So we tapped some real heads with real big thighs for tips on how to find the perfect pair of jeans.
Fit Is Relative
“There are so many different bodies and all of them can achieve similar looks,” says Albert Muzquiz, a fashion influencer, actor, and denim expert whose resume includes stints at Self Edge and Heddels. “But they have to look at different cuts that have different names.” There’s endless talk about the Levi’s 501 as the ultimate jean. Aside from literally birthing a new type of garment, the 501’s iconic fit is basically a yard stick for every other straight-leg silhouette out there. But it ain’t gonna fit the same way for a rail-thin body as it will for someone with thunder thighs. You might be after a straight-leg fit, but you’ll probably have to do some transposing to figure out which models actually offer your desired fit. What’s marketed as a slim jean only fits comfortably on a handful of frames. For people who have bigger legs, they can achieve a slimmer, tailored look, but they have to look at different models.
Higher Rise Jeans Are Your Friends
“I look for a high rise,” Musquiz says. “I tend to find that any jean that’s cut with a high rise almost always has a more accommodating thigh.” Muzquiz also notes that folks who work out a lot tend to have a smaller waist relative to their frame. Because of that, higher rise jeans tend to accommodate that differential better. Mahler says he looks for higher rise jeans because those jeans sit higher up on the body which naturally gives you more room in the top block. Not only does it give the wearer more room, it also gives them the option to wear the jeans higher or lower, depending on their preference.
Size Up and Find a Tailor
The perfect pair of jeans is like Atlantis—it probably doesn’t exist. Or at least, for most people, it doesn’t exist straight off the rack. That’s why both Muzquiz and Brandon Mahler, a visuals manager in New York, advocate for taking your jeans to the tailor. The jeans journey is enough of a hassle, so why in Ralph Lauren’s name would you want to add another step to it? Well, you might actually waste more time searching for those Atlantis jeans. Instead, what you want to do is get a pair of jeans that fits close enough and take them to the tailor. It’s important to make sure they fit well in the top block—that is, the area around the hips, seat, and crotch—since that area won’t stretch very much and it’s harder for a tailor to adjust. “I tend to size up in a lot of jeans in general,” Mahler points out. “I usually want the leg opening to be a little wider. I would size up and then I would take them to Self Edge and be like ‘Yo, take the waist in an inch and a half.’ You can always start bigger and make it smaller.” The waist, the thighs, the legs, and the inseam can all be tailored. (Hopefully, you won’t need to have every one of those areas adjusted.)
Also keep in mind that denim changes over time. With wearing and laundering, the fit will shrink and expand. So once you land the right pair of jeans in a close-enough size, wait until you give it a wear and a wash before you take it to the tailor. And a final plea that could help the denim afflicted: “If you can part with this tiny leg opening,” Muzquiz says, “if you can accept the straight leg jean or even a wide leg jean into your life, then you’re gonna have way fewer problems finding a good fit.”
The Best Athletic Fit Jeans Overall
The Levi’s 501 may reign supreme for most of the world. Even then, it’s not for everyone. The legendary denim brand’s range of iconic fits, however, does include a pair of jeans made specifically for the thunder thigh’d homies among us. The Levi’s 541 cut is the brand’s athletic cut and features a classic medium rise with a roomy thigh and an ever-so-slight, perfectly-balanced taper. These jeans won’t give you an extreme thigh to hem differential that other jeans fall prey to. Instead, these aim to give you that classic silhouette while keeping in mind your well-endowed thigh meat.
The Best Budget Athletic Fit Jeans
Don’t let the wide-fit name fool you. (Remember, fit is relative.) Though Uniqlo’s jeans are indeed wide-legged, the generous silhouette will look a touch roomy on athletic frames, but definitely not baggy.
The Denimhead-Approved Athletic Fit Jeans
Denimheads have thick thighs, too. There’s no shortage of vintage-y, mid-century reproduction jeans to satisfy the uber-picky denim lover out there. In fact, fancy repro jeans are a great place to look for high-end denim if you’re bottom heavy since jeans of the era were often very wide. But if you’re looking for something a bit more tailored with the pedigree to back up your blue jeans bona fides, 3sixteen’s CT-100x jeans are the pair to slide your legs into.
The Best Bootcut Jeans for Big Thighs
Okay, so we did say that fit is relative. Different people can make a straight cut jean look like a skinny jean and vice versa. The bootcut silhouette can’t really be finagled. Slinky, sleazy dressing and cowboy aesthetics are extremely on-trend (a resurrecting and reinventing of Y2K fashion), so if you’re gearing up to look your grooviest or rarin’ to get your rootin-est, Wrangler’s Cowboy cut jeans are the pair to step your fancy boots into. But as tempting as it may be, don’t opt for the Wrangler’s slim fit version of the Cowboy cut—the original is better suited for your build.