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Are men’s skinny pants supposed to be worn tight?

Tim Fraser/The Globe and Mail

The question

All the pants I've been trying on lately are so skinny, it's hard to get them to fit my sturdy build. Are they meant to be worn tight?

The answer

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No. There's a difference between a slim fit and a tight pant.

Modern trousers, both dressy and casual, do have a very narrow line all the way down. Some casual trousers and jeans fit so close around the calf they almost look like tights or leggings.

This does not mean they are to be worn revealingly or uncomfortably tight in the groin and butt. The waistband should not pinch you or give you a muffin top, nor should your bulging crotch cause great embarrassment to the accidental glimpser.

Paradoxically, current fashion in jeans demands a fairly roomy fit up top. (Compare the opposite demands of the 1970s, when crotch, butt and waist were tightly restrained, but the leg expanded into a flare.) Suit trousers should be fitted close enough that you don't create a fold when you do up your belt, but not so tight as to be in any way suggestive of what lies beneath.

If you are worried that you don't have the "right" body for narrow suits or jeans, don't be. Skinniness in the wearer is not essential. A sturdy leg is a fine thing for a man to show off, and always has been. (Henry VIII liked to pose for full-body portraits with his legs in a wide stance so as to show off his thick and muscular calves in his hose.)

Buy your trousers loose enough to enable you to sit down comfortably or eat a megameal. If the thighs and calves still fit quite close, be pleased: You officially have great legs.

Novelist Russell Smith 's memoir, Blindsided, is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a men's style question? E-mail

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