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What are Tapered Jeans?

By Jane Lapham
Updated May 21, 2024
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Tapered jeans are jeans that have a narrow opening at the ankle. Their cut contrasts with boot-cut and flared jeans, which feature a wide ankle opening to accommodate boots or other bulky footwear. They can be designed with a relaxed fit or a tight, "skinny" fit. They are often constructed of denim but can instead be made from a denim blend that employs spandex or another material that lends stretch. Over time, tapered leg jeans have come into and gone out of style many times.

Materials from which tapered jeans are constructed range from 100% cotton denim to denim and synthetic fiber blends that give the jean additional stretch. Tapered jeans may be constructed with a high or a low waist, and because they are made with a smaller leg opening at the bottom than at the top, they tend to give the wearer an inverted triangle appearance, making the hips appear relatively wide. The cut tends to appeal to those who like to wear jeans with trendy boots, because doing so allows the jeans leg to be tucked in so that the boot can become a focal point of the outfit. These jeans are also sometimes worn with high heels.

Some notable fashion trends related to music have featured tapered-leg jeans. Perhaps one of the most famous male performers to ever wear tapered jeans was Elvis Presley. Later, these jeans became popular among glam rock and rockabilly aficionados in the 1970s. Punk fashion embraced the tapered trend, often opting for tapered jeans that were faded and torn. Acid-washed, skin-tight tapered jeans appeared in the 1980s, when heavy metal bands made them popular through music videos.

Some tapered jeans feature an ankle so slim that the manufacturer must place a zipper at the ankle so that the opening can fit over the foot. Skinny jeans are a type of tapered jean that features a tight fit throughout in addition to a narrow ankle opening. They are sometimes made so tight that they must be constructed with a spandex blend for additional stretch.

There are many different terms that can be used to describe tapered leg jeans. The use of any of these names usually correlates with age, since the terms relate to fashion styles that last no longer that one generation. Some people use the word "pegs" to describe jeans with a tapered leg, while others prefer the name "drainpipes." "Pencil pants" and "cigarette pants" may also be used to describe a pant with a slim ankle.

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Discussion Comments
By Mae82 — On Sep 02, 2011

@animegal - Wow, it really sounds like your friend is going all out when it comes to wearing tapered jeans. I have seen waddling girls too and wonder how they could possibly be comfortable.

I actually do wear skinny jeans and the key to get a good fit is to not get real jeans. Basically you need something with a good portion of spandex or some other stretchable material in it. The stretch skinny jeans are way more comfortable and are a lot like wearing well-fitting tights.

If you don't want the painted on tapered jeans look, your best off going with a straight leg jean. I still love my old boot-cut jeans the best, but alas, I will wait until they come back into fashion before wearing them again.

By animegal — On Sep 01, 2011

Most of my friends are into skinny jeans, but unfortunately I think they have taken the tapered jeans look a bit too far. My one friend can barely sit in her pants because they are too tight, and she walks a bit awkwardly. I know she thinks they are super stylish, but she waddles when she wears them.

I tried a pair of skinny jeans on, and even in a size that "fits" they are still terribly uncomfortable. I feel like if I were to try and sit cross-legged or in a relaxed pose they would sever my blood supply. I suppose it is just one fashion trend I am not going to get in on.

By MissCourt — On Sep 01, 2011

I bought a pair of skinny jeans awhile ago -- I just never had the nerve to wear them outside. I have a big rear end and I always feel like it just makes it worse. Whenever I wear them, it's like I'm balancing on tiny little tiptoes.

Flared jeans or ripped jeans are way better to me. They balance out my figure better and I can wear fuzzy boots with them. The ripped ones kind of break up the solid color and show a little skin without being short.

By honeybees — On Sep 01, 2011

Once I got used to wearing straight leg jeans, I found out they were more comfortable than I thought they would be. Sometimes it just takes some time to get used to a different style.

It usually depends on what type of shoe I want to wear when I choose what style of jean I am going to wear. If I want to wear a pair of boots, I will go with a pair that has more flare than a straight leg.

On the other hand, I have some really great shoes that look awesome with a straight leg. If the hardest decision I have to make in one day is what kind of jeans or shoes I am going to wear, then it is a pretty good day.

By sunshined — On Aug 31, 2011

It seems like most of the jeans in my daughters closet are skinny jeans. She loves the tapered look and I probably would to if I looked as good in them as she does.

I think the best jeans are the ones that you feel most comfortable in. If somebody else thinks you look great in a pair of jeans, but you don't feel very comfortable, I don't think it's worth the trouble.

Some people look good in any style of jeans they wear, but I am not one of those people. I am not very tall, so I need to find jeans that make me look taller.

Whenever I put on a pair of tapered jeans I feel like they make my legs look stubby, and therefore I appear even shorter than I already am.

By myharley — On Aug 30, 2011

I have a hard time getting used to wearing tapered jeans. I am slowly coming around to the idea of skinny jeans as I have seen them in a lot of the stores. Wearing them and seeing someone else wear them are two different stories though.

I remember when bell bottom jeans were in style, so getting used to a tapered cut takes some time. After enjoying the look and feel of a flared jean for so many years, I decided to try something different and bought a pair of tapered jeans.

Sadly, they usually just sit on the shelf in my closet because whenever I put them on, I end up taking them right back off again. I resort back to my old jeans that fit and feel much more comfortable to me.

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