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What is Boot Cut?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 21, 2024
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Fashion is constantly evolving, and the definition of a boot cut pant is no exception. Essentially, this style of pant today has a wider leg opening at the bottom and usually features a tighter or straight leg fit from waist to knee. There can be variations in this definition, however.

It’s thought that the term "boot cut" was first commonly used the beginning of the 1990s or end of the 1980s to to describe pants with a slightly flared cuff. Perhaps one of the reasons the flared leg pant was reinvented under this name was to distinguish it from bell-bottom or flare styles of the 1960s and 1970s, which might have been considered dated. Renaming the pant coincided with other fashion and popular trends, like interest in country western music and learning country and western line dancing.

Since many people were also attracted to the fashion of having a good pair of cowboy boots or boots in other styles, having a little more room on the ankle and calf to accommodate wearing these shoes was a great idea. As a result, the boot cut pant, and particularly blue jean, grew in popularity. The style continues to be popular, particularly with modern fits that have proven to be exceptionally flattering on many different types of figures.

The more recent style does differ from those produced in the early 1990s. Typically, the waist height is lower than earlier versions, at about the belly button and below natural waistline. Fit, especially in jeans, is straight-legged and snug through hips and thighs. At about the knee, the pants begin to flare slightly, and may end up as an exaggerated flare or a true bell-bottom, or just slightly flared at the cuffs. These pants are often worn with heels or wedges to accentuate a sense of length, and for those with extra curves, wearing dark colors is highly recommended.

This style is typically more figure flattering for most women than the skinny jean or even regular jean style. The flared leg tends to move focus from hips and belly. Length can be a problem, however, if women don’t want to wear a higher shoe, since cuffs may drag on the ground. Men have an advantage here because they can purchase in specific lengths.

The degree of flare at the cuff often depends on the manufacturer. Though jeans may be the most popular boot cut pants, there are slacks of a variety of types that might mimic this style. The skinny jean has made something of a comeback in recent years, and higher-waisted pants are becoming more in style again. As yet, this doesn’t mean the boot cut pant is finished in fashion, and it might be the case that the many who appreciate its style would be completely frustrated if it suddenly became hard to obtain. It’s likely some version of the pant will remain, though with each new season, changes to its style might occur, and definition may someday be outdated.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By lighth0se33 — On Feb 16, 2013

@Kristee – I've never seen any boot cut trousers or slacks before! All of mine are just straight-legged or really wide and loose through the legs from top to bottom.

I do have a pair of boot cut embroidered jeans that are nice enough to wear to work yet comfortable enough to wear at home. From the middle of the calf down, they have embroidered vines and flowers running along the outside of each leg.

The flowers are red and yellow, and the vines and leaves are green. I've never seen anyone else wearing jeans like these, and I love feeling unique.

By healthy4life — On Feb 16, 2013

I never wear boots, but I own several pairs of boot cut jeans. I love the loose fit in the legs.

I hate the constricted feeling of skinny jeans or even tapered leg jeans. Boot cut jeans give my legs room to breathe, and they also are long enough that my socks don't show. I prefer it if the tops of my shoes show but my socks remain hidden.

By Kristee — On Feb 15, 2013

I once had a pair of khaki boot cut slacks. I liked mixing the semi-casual pants with nice boots or dress shoes for a mixed vibe!

By orangey03 — On Feb 15, 2013

Men definitely are lucky that they get to choose their jeans by length as well as waist size. I am a female who is in between petite and regular sizes, so regular length pants are way too long, while petite ones are too short.

I love boot cut jeans, but I definitely have to wear high heels with them to keep them off the ground. This means I can't be fully comfortable while wearing them, since I can't wear my flip-flops or sneakers.

By anon171772 — On May 01, 2011

Bootleg is the worst cut ever! Curvy women should avoid a bootcut; straight leg jeans elongate the leg and body.

By googlefanz — On Aug 19, 2010

They also have boot cut capris now. I think it is supposed to be more flattering on your calves and legs to have a slightly looser capri, but I think sometimes it can end up looking like you're wearing bells on your legs!

By pharmchick78 — On Aug 19, 2010

One thing that I'm not quite such a fan of is mens boot cut denim. I think that the boot cut can look kind of feminine on a man, especially if they're something other than denim, like khakis, or, heaven forbid, boot cut corduroys.

I say go with a straight cut leg guys -- you don't have hips like us girls do, so you can pull off a straight line.

Of course, it is possible to go too far the other way with those weird tapered men's jeans...

By FirstViolin — On Aug 19, 2010

Boot cut jeans can be a lifesaver for women with curvier hips, since the slight flare in the leg can balance out the wider hips.

Of course, if your hips are slightly larger, then you may want to move up to flares, since they are a little bigger -- it's all about keeping things in proportion.

That being said though, in the boot cut/flare discussion, I think that boot cuts are still more versatile, as flares can look a little dated.

By chrisinbama — On Aug 17, 2010

Great article! I can remember wearing boot-leg pants when I was much younger. In my teens, it was definitely not the style anymore!

Then, in my 30's, it came back! Had I only kept all the clothes in my closet!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia...
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