A great pair of jeans can be your go-to trousers for almost any occasion, from work to a date to a night out. They can also be found at just about any price and in an array of styles and washes. However, the sheer endlessness of available options can make searching for a new pair feel like a full-time job but don't freak out. We've figured out the best brands to buy from for you.
Levi's 501 Jean Read More
Todd Snyder Slim Fit Stretch Jean Read More
J. Crew 770 Jean Read More
Everlane 4-Way Stretch Organic Jean Read More
Outerknown Local Straight Fit Jeans Read More
While die-hard denimheads embrace a fuller, workwear-influenced shape that references the 1950s, many guys are opting for a slimmer, more classic silhouette — sometimes with a bit of stretch. Never should they fit like yoga tights, but jeans with a cut that’s just a little closer to the body and streamlined through the leg remain an important part of every man's wardrobe. On the opposite end, wide-leg jeans are just as in. Again, you shouldn't take the trend to an extreme, but relaxed-fitting jeans have never been more flattering.
Jeans are versatile — they can be worn raw or washed and faded; there are cheap pairs; pairs made from hemp; expensive reproductions from Japan; and so on and so forth. "Denim has transcended all social classes and levels of fashion," says Kiya Babzani, the cofounder of Self Edge, the world’s leading selvedge denim retailer, which started, fittingly, in the Mission District of San Francisco.
How to Be a Better Jean Buyer
When buying good jeans, your focus should rest on two things: fabric then fit. High-quality jeans are often made from selvedge denim, a fabric that ages over time in a way that reflects the lifestyle and habits of the wearer. Even if you choose a pre-washed pair, though, they'll fade and rub and shred in their own way, too, but less obviously.
Raw denim typically develops two distinct types of fades: whiskers, which are long creases found around the waist and crotch area, and honeycombs, which are fades behind the knees that look like honeycombs. Though a new pair of jeans made from raw selvedge denim can take up to a year to break in, the results are unique, and well-made denim will continue to age in a graceful manner for many years. "You don’t know how good a jean is until it’s worn in," Babzani says.
Like I said, most jeans are offered in different washes and can even come pre-distressed. But according to Todd Barket, owner of Unionmade in San Francisco, these jeans “can feel inauthentic sometimes, like the work has been done for you.” Over time, selvedge jeans become an expression of yourself, and transforming them with constant wear is a dedicated hobby for some folks. For others, jeans are just clothes — a casual alternative to chinos.
Try Them on
"Always buy jeans in person. Go into a retail store, try them on and feel them. You’ll be able to get the fit right and compare the fabric. Any manufacturer can make any fit of jean, but the fabric is what makes one brand stand out from another," Babzani says.
Focus on How They Fit
"If you’re buying quality denim, start with the fit. You want your jeans to feel good and suit your body. When buying unwashed, raw denim, make sure the fit is a little tight because they will stretch after a few wears," Barket says.
Three Things to Consider Before Buying
Denim traditionally starts out as a deep, dark, inky-blue fabric dyed with indigo. The magic happens once the fabric is stitched into jeans, the five-pocket style, and gets washed in massive — and increasingly eco-friendly — washing machines. Sometimes stuff is tossed in to achieve sand- or stone-washed effects, all in an effort to make a pair feel softer and broken in. Other effects include using high-tech lasers to burn designs into the fabric and jeans literally being torn and repaired to mimic the scars and blemishes of a well-lived life. But because it’s not your life, it’s hard for us to recommend them. This leaves you with a handful of options:
Though even the darkest wash jeans are still decidedly casual, these pairs have what it takes to make it in a serious setting. Pair it with a crisp white shirt, a lightweight sweater and a blazer for work.
Go a little lighter for date night. Keep it clean, but feel free to go for whiskering — those thin, faded lines across the front that look like you’ve been standing and sitting in this pair forever—or some light faded effects across the seat and thighs.
Some abrasion here and there, usually a bit paler, more faded. More emphasis on points of wear like the butt, thighs, and pockets. Great for a tailgate or other similarly casual settings. Most brands make their own distressed jeans nowadays.
Twill refers to the way denim is woven (this method causes those diagonal lines you can see if you look very closely), and this method is what makes denim so tough and so stiff. In an attempt to keep up with the increasing demand for clothes that work hard and look good, most modern denim makers now sneak a little stretch fiber into their jeans for comfort and flexibility.
Stretch also helps keep jeans from getting saggy, so they look great all day. Most companies limit the mix to one or two percent of overall material makeup, using fibers like lycra or elastane. Others are adding performance fibers to denim, like Coolmax, for moisture and temperature management. (These fibers help keep you cool if you wear jeans in the summer.) While our recommendations include some of these materials, many are 100 percent cotton.
While some serious denim aficionados insist on never washing your jeans, the reality is that most guys should wash their jeans. The editors at Denimhunters, a subscription-based denim learning platform, have found that if you don’t wash raw denim, the fiber may become brittle and break prematurely. Here’s your playbook for keeping jeans fresh but not stripping them of their color too quickly:
- Wash denim with similarly colored clothing.
- Turn jeans inside-out before washing to preserve color and finish.
- Use cold water and a gentle cycle in the washing machine.
- Use a gentle detergent such as Woolite. Avoid bleach, spot cleaners or fabric softeners.
- Have a top loader? Start the machine first, then when the soap and water are completely mixed, throw in jeans and run a full cycle.
- To dry, roll in a towel to remove excess water. Lay flat or hang to finish drying.
- Tumble drying causes shrinkage and breaks down fibers (specifically those added for stretch). If you must, use a low heat cycle and run for as little time as possible. But your best bet is line drying.
The Best Jeans for Men
After sifting through and testing a sea of Indigo-colored trousers in every shape, color and cut imaginable, we identified over 25 different brands (at different prices) that we recommend you buy your jeans from. They're here because they make durable, comfortable jeans that range from raw to heavily faded. But no matter the wash, we found these were the easiest to wear — and that's what blue jeans should be: easy.