Comfortable Pants for People With Athletic Builds

Bottom Line Up Front: After years of research into pants for those of us with thick thighs, here is a round-up of the options for comfortable pants for people with athletic builds.


I have not often been able to find pants that fit me well. 25 years ago it was because I was a fat kid. Today it is kind of the same problem – I don’t fit the normal measurements of those who make pants. If I pull a pair of 32-inch-waisted pants off most racks, my thighs and glutes either won’t fit at all or they would split the pants if I sat down. Most of my adult life I just wore larger-waisted pants than I needed to cover for this. Recently with a slimmer style in vogue, it didn’t allow for the tapered appearance I was looking for. It was also annoying to constantly be wearing belts with extra pants material bunched up all the time.

I few years ago, I decided I was going to suck up the tight thighs and butt in favor of wearing pants that matched my waist. I got ten+ pairs of new pants & shorts, all that basically allowed me to be semi-comfortable standing only. I had no room for a phone, wallet, or keys (my ass took that all up). This was all in the name of style! It took a few years of this to wear off and I just redid my pants wardrobe. Here it what I learned.

More Expensive Route

I had been hearing adds and first-hand accounts of companies that were making clothes for people with athletic builds just about the time I got sick of my tight pants. Upon checking them out, they seemingly had solved my problem: they gave the extra room in the thighs but kept the waist tight and/or they use elastic in their material. The two most prominent were Mizzen & Main and Barbell Apparel. If I had more disposable income that I wasn’t spending on garage gym gear and hunting equipment, I may have stopped there. Both of these companies have really nice clothes that would have been very comfortable and stylish. I was seconds away from ordering some Barbell jeans, but I decided to visit Amazon and Kohl’s to check out some other options because I wasn’t into spending $150 on jeans. I went down a path that saved me money and produced great results.

Stylish Yet Economical

I was able to find multiple pairs of pants & shorts that have some form of elastic (elastane) in them for stretch when sitting and/or larger thigh/butt room built in. Here is what I ordered and tried on with some commentary on each. Most of them are linked to Amazon, but you can find the first few in Target (they are Target brands so you have to) and then most of the Levi’s and Dockers at Kohl’s. This lets you get in there and try them all on without the hassle of shipping and returning many sizes.

Men’s Athletic Fit Hennepin Chino Pants – Goodfellow & Co™ Khaki
These are actually my favorite pants and they are the cheapest I own! You can tell the material isn’t going to last very long relative to a pair that costs $50+, but I will wear them into the ground. Got two pairs. This is Targets house brand of clothing, which is actually very stylist and inexpensive (and also isn’t the best quality to be fair).

Levi’s Denizen Athletic Fit 231 Jeans
These are my other favorite pants and also so cheap! This is a Target-only brand of Levi’s that is similar to the 541 below. More like pants than jeans sort of, but they are jeans truly. Much more durable. Like wearing sweat pants.

Men’s Dockers® Smart 360 FLEX Slim Tapered Fit Workday Khaki Pants
These are much more of a modern style, tapered close to the legs, but since they are so stretchy, I can wear them. They make this same 360 Flex material in standard fit and classic fit (those are for dorks from what I can tell though…). Dockers has a whole bunch of pants that are stretchy now. Kohl’s is the way to go here. Try them all on in person.

Men’s Dockers® Smart 360 FLEX Slim Tapered Fit Downtime Khaki Pants
More casual version of the above Workday pants.

Haggar H26 ® Performance 4 Way Stretch Slim Fit Trouser Pants
Much more of a dress pant but very comfortable. Haggar also has a lot of options for variations of these in the stretch variety. Again, hit a Target to find these.

Dockers Men’s Alpha Khaki Athletic Tapered Flat Front Pant
Really comfortable and fit as described. Room for thigh movement. Another variation of the above in an older style.

Levi’s Men’s 541 Athletic Fit Jeans
I got two pairs of these and kept them. This style of jeans from Levi’s was completely unknown to me and are new. They are stretchy and have thigh room. At $45, they are 1/3 the price of Barbell Jeans and seemingly do the same thing. Available in a ton of colors too. I tried on 32×32, 33×32, and 34×32 and all of them fit, but the smaller ones had a tighter cowboy fit. Due to the elastic material, I could easily sit in them and move around though.

RVCA Men’s The Weekend Stretch Pant
From what I can tell these are skater pants, but I love them. I could wear these to a party and easily go right into a squat rack. They have a slim, modern fit but are almost built for performance.

Volcom Men’s Frickin Modern Stretch Pant
Also skater-ish pants. Better than normal pants but not as good as the RVCA. Fit wasn’t as good for my body style. These aren’t for people with athletic builds – they just stretch.

Volcom Men’s Frickin Modern Stretch Chino Pant
Same assessment as the previous pair. I could make due with them, but the fit of the RVCAs was better.

Volcom Modern Frickin Stretch Short
The shorts from Volcom were spot on. Very comfortable. I kept these ones.

Final Advice

  • Check a Target or Kohl’s store first to physically try them on then and there.
  • If you order online (Target, Kohl’s or Amazon are all good), instead of trying to find the exact right pair (color & size) order some options with the full understanding that you will return them. I got 32 x 30, 33 x 30, 34, x 30, 32 x 32, 33 x 32, and 34 x 32 all of the same one pair of pants. Maybe that’s overkill, but I did not want to have any doubts for pants I will wear for years. In a store you would just go back to the shelf, but shopping online you can’t do that.
  • Remember that if you order from Kohl’s or Target online, you can return them to the store, which is a good hybrid option I used.
  • Save some boxes to return pants to Amazon. They send clothes in those industrial strength bags a lot of times, but you probably need to return them in boxes.
  • Some pants are eligible for Amazon Wardrobe where they send you a bunch of sizes/colors/styles and you return the ones you don’t want. They basically made a formal program out of what I was doing manually for years.

I hope the tons pairs of pants I tried on were of some value to you. They definitely were to me.

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