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What Is an Inseam?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The inseam is the element that binds the interior leg of pants made for both men and women. As part of the tailoring process, this seam is the inside stitching that creates a seal between the sections of fabric that form the front and back portions of the leg of the garment. In most cases, it is created using a double row of stitching, providing a strong seal between the two sections of material.

When creating a pair of pants, the inseam is one of the important measurements to consider. Its length is measured from the bottom of the crotch area to the point where the hem of the garment would hit on the lower ankle. Many people use the slightly protruding bone of the ankle as the extreme end. Essentially, this measurement will help to determine the overall length of the leg of the garment.

Tailors, when making alterations for a pair of pants or creating a new garment for a customer, will begin by taking a measurement between the crotch and the ankle. Once the customer has been measured, it is possible for the tailor to make the necessary cuts and changes to the construction of the pants so that the fit of the leg is both comfortable and in keeping with the current fashion dictates.

Consumers also pay close attention to the length of the inseam when purchasing ready-made slacks, casual pants, jeans, and any other garment that involves legs. Generally, mass produced clothing of this type — especially when made for men — will feature both the waist size and the inseam length. People who are not sure of the right length can easily measure themselves by holding one end of a tape measure at the crotch, and then dropping the other end of the tape measure to the floor, by the foot. Checking the reading where the tape seems to be more or less in line with the ankle will provide a reading that can be used as a benchmark.

It is then possible to visit a store and try on a pair of pants with a length that is close to that reading. By trying on pants with an measurement that is slightly less than the reading, and a second pair that is equal to or slightly more than the reading, it is possible to determine the right length for future purchases.

Men’s pants are typically sized based on the waist and inseam measurements. Measuring your waist is easy, but how do you find your inseam? Finding the inseam of your pants isn’t as difficult as it might sound. Once you understand how to measure inseam, you’ll see that it’s a simple and straightforward process. Buying pants based on their inseam is one of the only reliable ways to find pants that fit properly, so it’s a skill that everybody should have. If you want to learn how to measure your own inseam properly and find pants that fit correctly, start with this guide.

Where Is the Inseam?

Where is the inseam on your pants? This is yet another common question that too many people don’t know the answer to. Your pants inseam is located on the inside of the pants leg, starting at the seam of the crotch, and extending down to the edge of the leg. This measurement refers to the distance between these two points, and it’s important because it’s commonly used to size men’s pants — and some women’s pants, too. Inseam measurements are sometimes referred to as leg measurements, but it’s important not to get either of these terms mixed up with the length measurement.

Is Inseam the Same as Length?

One of the most common questions asked about inseam is whether or not it’s the same thing as the length of a pair of pants. Simply put, no, it is not. A pair of pants will have two different measurements for length and inseam. The length of your pants refers to the measurement taken from the top of the waistband to the bottom of the leg. Though this measurement is different than the inseam it’s useful because it can help you determine the rise of your pants. Rise refers to where the waistband of your pants hits on your torso. The longer the length of your pants, the higher the rise is likely to be, so if you prefer high-waisted, opt for pants with a longer length.

How to Measure Inseam

Knowing the length of your pants is important, but inseam is the measurement more commonly used to determine pants sizing. Knowing how to measure your inseam is an essential life skill. To start, you should find the pair of pants that fits you best and lay them out on a flat surface. Once the pants are flat, take a measuring tape and measure from seam of the crotch to the bottom of the leg. Consider the following tips to ensure accuracy:

  • Make sure you are measuring in inches, not centimeters
  • Keep the tape measure taut as you are taking measurements
  • If your measurement is not exact, round up instead of down

Keep in mind, too, that this measurement should be along the interior of the pant leg, and it will likely run somewhere between 32 to 38 inches, though some are shorter and some are longer.

Benefits of Measuring Your Inseam

Now that you know how to measure an inseam, you may still be wondering, why is it important? Knowing how to measure your pants’ inseam is vital because it allows you to find the best-fitting pants available. If you’re just guesstimating your measurements and blindly hoping that your pants fit, you’re risking wasted time and money. When you know your inseam measurement, you can shop with confidence, assured that you’ll find the right pants on the first try.

Shopping for Pants by Inseam

Once you’ve measured your inseam, you can minimize time spent shopping and reduce the likelihood of taking home ill-fitted pants. Still, it’s important to be thorough when you’re shopping and ensure that the inseam that’s advertised is accurate. Some retailers will advertise inseam measurements that don’t match the actual inseam of their pants. This can happen for a variety of different reasons, including poor manufacturing, shrinkage, or mislabeling — but regardless of the cause, the result is the same — you may wind up with pants that don’t fit.

To prevent this from happening, you should try pants on before making the final purchase — or if you’re shopping online, check the company’s return policy before checking out. Shopping for pants is easier after you’ve measured your inseam, but it’s still not entirely foolproof. Pay attention to the materials and tag of your new pants, too, to see if they may shrink in the wash. If so, you might end up with too-small pants even after you’ve tried them on and double-checked the inseam.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including HomeQuestionsAnswered, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By hangugeo112 — On Jul 12, 2010

I have had an embarrassing situation of splitting my pants. Is there a specific way to re-sew the inseam so that it will not split again, or does this require a tailor's finesse?

By babyksay — On Jul 08, 2010

For some people, an inseam measurement can be a very uncomfortable situation. Think of it this way, though: if you’re fidgeting and not standing up straight you most definitely won’t be walking around in the most comfortable pair of pants.

You should always remember to stand up straight when having your inseam measured and you should follow up with your tailor or seamstress to find out what that measurement is – in case you need it for shopping purposes later.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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