What Is The Difference Between Flare and Bootcut Jeans?

Jeans are the backbone of many people’s style – they can make you feel totally put together or grungy and cool. But with so many fits and washes to choose from, it can get confusing. What exactly is the difference between bootcut and flare jeans?

If you’ve ever pondered this question while rifling through denim racks or gone to a store looking for one style and left with the other, this guide is for you. We’ll break down the history, key distinctions, and style tips for mastering both bootcut and flare jeans.

Trust us, after reading this you’ll know exactly how to tell these denim styles apart. And you’ll gain the knowledge and confidence to pick the perfect pair to show off your shape and personal fashion sense.

The History of Flare and Bootcut Jeans

To understand the distinction between flares and bootcuts, it helps to take a look at the history of each style.

The Origins of Flare Jeans

Flare jeans, also known as bell bottoms, first emerged in the 1960s and 70s. They were defined by their exaggerated flared leg, starting from the knee and drastically widening towards the hem to create a bell-like shape.

Flare jeans originated from a practical need – to fit over boots – but became both a fashion statement and symbol of hippie counterculture in the 60s and 70s. Their popularity faded by the late 70s, before a 90s revival saw them return with a slimmer, more fitted thigh.

Woman in 1960s bellbottom jeans

Bootcut Jeans Emerge

Meanwhile, bootcut jeans emerged as a variant of the classic straight leg jean. Like flares, they were designed to fit over boots, but with a subtler flare.

Bootcuts first appeared in the 1960s. However, they didn’t hit mainstream fashion until the 1990s, promoted by brands like Levi’s as a moderate alternative to the dramatic flare. They’ve remained popular ever since as a versatile style.

1990s Levi's bootcut jean

So in summary, while both styles originated from a need to fit over boots, the flared jean made its big entrance in the 60s/70s as a bold fashion statement, while subtle bootcuts gained traction in the 90s as a wardrobe staple.

Key Differences in Cut and Shape

While flare and bootcut jeans share some similarities, there are distinct differences when it comes to their cut and shape.

Where the Flare Starts

The most obvious difference is where the flare starts.

  • Bootcut jeans have a slight flare starting below the knee and gradually widening towards the ankle. The flare is quite subtle.
  • Flare jeans have an exaggerated, dramatic flare that starts higher up the leg, from mid-thigh downwards.

Degree of Flare

As a result of their flare starting higher up, flare jeans have a much more dramatic widened leg than bootcuts.

  • For bootcuts, the leg opening is only 2-3 inches wider than the thigh.
  • For flares, the leg opening can be 6 inches or greater than the thigh width.

Leg Shape

The overall leg shape also differs:

  • Bootcut jeans maintain a fairly straight silhouette from thigh to knee, with a slight curve outwards at the ankle.
  • Flare jeans have a tapered thigh and dramatic bell shape flaring from knee to hem.


While variable, flare jeans often have a lower rise (sitting lower on the hips) while bootcuts typically have a higher rise.

Key Differences in Fit

Flare and bootcut jeans not only differ in shape but also in fit:

Thigh Fit

  • Bootcut jeans have a fitted thigh, similar to a straight leg jean.
  • Flare jeans tend to have a more relaxed thigh and are cut to sit looser through the hip and upper thigh.

Leg Fit

  • Bootcuts maintain a fitted leg from thigh to knee.
  • Flare jeans have a slightly looser cut throughout the leg.

So in summary, bootcuts have a tighter, curve-hugging fit from thigh to knee, while flares have a more relaxed fit through the thigh and leg.

Styling Tips for Flare and Bootcut Jeans

To pull them off stylishly, flare and bootcut jeans require different styling approaches. Here are some top tips:

Styling Flare Jeans


  • Cropped, boxy crop tops work well to balance the flare. Avoid longer tops.
  • Fitted tanks and camis tucked in also look great.
  • Go for crop trench coats, denim jackets, and shorter cardigans.


  • Pair with heels or wedges to elongate the leg.
  • Ankle boots, strappy sandals, and mules also complement the flare.
  • Try cuffed sneakers to show off the hem.


  • Cinch flares in at the waist with a belt.
  • Layer with chokers, pendant necklaces and stack rings.

Styling Bootcut Jeans


  • Balance bootcuts with longer, drapey tops and flowing blouses.
  • For casual looks, style with oversized band tees and boxy tops.
  • Fitted tanks tucked in work well too.


  • Ankle boots are a perfect match for bootcut jeans.
  • Try ballet flats, loafers, or white sneakers for relaxed looks.
  • Heels, especially kitten heels, are great for dressing them up.


  • Cinch the waist with a skinny belt.
  • Layer with long necklaces.
  • Add a scarf for chillier weather.

Which Style Suits Your Body Type?

The flattering qualities of flare and bootcut jeans also differ based on your body shape:

Flare Jeans Flatter:

  • Straight, athletic and ruler body types – creates curves.
  • Pear shapes – balances bottom-heavy figures.
  • Shorter frames – elongates the legs.

Bootcut Jeans Flatter:

  • Curvy hourglass figures – fitted thigh flatters curves.
  • Petite frames – the subtle flare elongates.
  • Athletic body types – adds softness to muscular legs.

Overall, dramatic flares tend to suit straighter frames, while sultry bootcuts complement curvier figures. But exceptions always apply – go with whichever style you feel most confident rocking!

Comparison Chart

Flare Jeans
Bootcut Jeans
OriginsBell bottoms of the 60s/70sEmerged as a straight leg variant in the 90s
Leg ShapeExaggerated bell flare from mid-thigh downSubtle flare from knee to ankle
Degree of FlareDramatically wide leg openingSlight 2-3 inch flare at ankle
Leg OpeningTypically 21 inches +Around 17 – 20 inches
RiseOften have a low riseTend to have a higher rise
Thigh FitRelaxed fit through thighFitted, curve-hugging thigh
Flattering ForStraight frames, pear shapesCurvy and petite figures

Finding the Best Bootcut and Flare Jeans

From slim bootcuts to dramatic flares, you can find countless stylish options. Here are some go-to brands for each style:

Great Flare Jean Brands

  • Levi’s
  • Wrangler
  • Topshop
  • Madewell
  • Guess

Fabulous Bootcut Brands

  • Gap
  • Lucky Brand
  • NYDJ
  • Rag & Bone
  • Joe’s Jeans

It’s also worth getting to know your unique measurements, rise preferences and ideal inseam length to find your perfect pair.

Take your time trying on different brands and cuts. Focus on how they fit through the hip, thigh, and leg rather than getting hung up on terminology. Find the silhouette that makes you feel amazing!

The Bottom Line

While their names sound similar, flare and bootcut jeans have distinct differences when it comes to history, cut, shape, rise and fit.

Flares make a bolder fashion statement with their dramatic silhouette. Bootcuts have a more subtle flair and versatile appeal.

Use the styling tips to pick which flatters your body type best. Most importantly, go for the pair that boosts your confidence and has you excited to get dressed!

We hope this guide helps you find your perfect pair! Let us know if you have any other jean fit queries – we’re here to help.

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