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.
While die-hard denimheads embrace a fuller, workwear-influenced shape that’s a throwback to 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.
After sifting through a sea of Indigo-colored trousers in every shape, color, and cut imaginable, we’ve identified over 20 different brands (at different prices) that we recommend buying denim from. Some make impressively traditional pairs; others are modernizing the garment. We've done the work of sussing out which brand's jeans are the best for your money, no matter the fit, origin, or wash you prefer. First, though, look through our shortlist of considerations you should take in before adding a pair to your shopping cart.
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 get 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. Which leaves you with a handful of options:
Dark Wash: 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.
Light Wash: 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 looks like you’ve been standing and sitting in this pair forever—or some light faded effects across the seat and thighs.
Distressed: 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.
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. 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:
1. Wash denim with similarly colored clothing.
2. Turn jeans inside-out before washing to preserve color and finish.
3. Use a cold water and the gentle cycle in the washing machine.
4. Use a gentle detergent such as Woolite. Avoid bleach, spot cleaners or fabric softeners.
5. 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.
6. To dry, roll in a towel to remove excess water. Lay flat or hang to finish drying.
7. 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.
No other garment has aged nearly as well as the historic Levi’s 501. The quintessential blue jean comes in all manner of shades, washes and distressing. No matter where you start, it'll get better with every wear and every wash, which is really what a blue jean is all about. Plus, $60 for the classic of classics is a deal in itself, but they're often on sale.
Our Pick: Levi's 501 Jean
American designer Todd Snyder's eponymous label launched a denim collection earlier in 2021. The debut was designed to make the process of shopping for jeans easier, thus dividing his iterations into three categories, Stretch, Selvedge, and Small Batch. His jeans are available in an array of washes and wears, and most feature a nearly undetectable amount of stretch.
Our Pick: Todd Snyder Selvedge Jean
Outerknown's collection of S.E.A. Jeans emphasize sustainable manufacturing. The organic cotton comes from the Candiani mill in Milan, Italy, and each pair is made by Saitex, an innovative, eco-friendly Vietnamese factory. Plus, every pair comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Our Pick: Local Straight Fit Jeans
Wrangler has been making jeans since 1947, a whole 75 years after Levi's was launched. Like Levi's, most of Wrangler's jeans are made overseas, but select lines are manufactured stateside. Noted for their affordability, the quality of the denim used varies depending on the store — they make affordable lines exclusive to retailers like Walmart — but they are generally good jeans. The Heritage Larston, for example, is a soft, 98-percent cotton, 2-percent spandex jean available in two washes.
Our Pick: Wrangler Heritage Larston Jean
As of 2019, the same parent organization that owns Wrangler also owns Lee. However, despite a collection with rapper Lil Nas X, Lee's outshined its new step sibling. They've maintained their affordability — $44 for most pairs — while still 100-percent heavyweight cotton. But, that's hard to commend without acknowledging concerns over work conditions for seamstresses at Lee.
Our Pick: Lee Regular Fit Straight Leg Jean
It's hard to get better basics than Uniqlo. The Japanese mega brand's the go-to for clothes that spin all three plates of style, price and quality. Its Stretch Selvedge Jeans are the cheapest selvedge denim jeans you can get and they've also got a smidge of stretch for comfort straight off the shelve. They come in a variety of colorways, too, so you're not just limited to the standard blue jean. However, their classic Washed Slim-Fit Jeans are stellar, too.
Our Pick: Uniqlo Slim-Fit Washed Jeans
Buck Mason builds most of their jeans from soft-washed Japanese denim. The brand also boasts pairs at both ends of the fading spectrum. From Dark Wash to White, there's something for everyone. Like the Ford Standard Jean, what one reviewer called "what the Levi's 501 Jean should be."
Our Pick: Buck Mason Ford Standard Jean
Launched in 2019 by consultant and stylist Stevie Dance, The Feel Studio initially debuted just one type of denim jean. Since, though, they've expanded to six styles for men. Three pairs sit below $300 while the other three go for over $600. It's a premium, small-batch label with serious fashion chops.
Our Pick: The Feel Studio The Genuine Jean
Catapulted by early success in fashion circles, Frame, which was founded at the turn of the 2010s, calls itself a label "inspired by London, crafted in Los Angeles." As such, there are references to styles both UK and stateside, but the look can be simply described as minimal luxury — or designer without the thousand-dollar price tag.
Our Pick: Frame Blue Washed Denim
The availability of Taylor Stitch's denim depends on the brand's Workshop schedule, which acts as an incubator for the company's new clothes. Right now, there's only the Selvage Slim Jean on sale, but no matter the edition, they're pairs well worth purchasing. 100-percent organic cotton forms the foundation of every iteration.
Often the gateway for those getting into raw denim, A.P.C. is known for its purely minimal aesthetic and its jeans are noted for birthing a new generation of denimheads. The New Standard makes a bold claim and though it hasn’t come close to surpassing the 501, its stripped-down details gives way for Japanese raw selvedge denim to take the spotlight and make it a go-to. The denim’s smooth hand and fast-fading capabilities make it easy to see why everyone from your local fashion enthusiast to celebs wearing them.
Our Pick: A.P.C. Indigo Petit Selvedge Denim
Tellason's Raw Denim Selvage jeans are made in San Francisco and finished with a Tanner Goods leather patch made in Portland, Oregon. "It is very important that historically American products are produced in the USA. And on a micro-level, that blue jeans are produced in their home of San Francisco. Just as we do not want prosciutto from Germany, denim conscious consumers around the world desire jeans made in America (and specifically in San Francisco)," founders Pete and Tony write.
J. Crew hasn't been its best lately. I'm just being honest. But their denim, sourced from the "legendary Cone mill," so they say, isn't bad at all. Their pairs come in a spectrum of shades and fades, some feature stretch, and all come in several different fits.
Our Pick: J. Crew 770 Jean
Raleigh Denim Workshop makes all of their jeans — save for some they task collaborators across the country with making for them — in a downtown Raleigh workshop. (Fitting, right?) From light washed to raw, they have denim designed to fit every style — and even those seeking stretch.
Nashville-based brand Imogene and Willie launched in 2009 with two original denim designs, the Imogene for women and the Willie for men. The instant success of both styles compelled the company's founding duo to purchase a derelict gas station, which would become their brick-and-mortar. Since, the brand's grown, but their line of jeans — some made from Japanese denim, all manufactured in the US — remain a fan favorite.
Our Pick: Imogene and Willie Indigo Rigid JP
Based in Richmond, Virgina, Shockoe Atelier makes new American workwear inspired by European tailoring. Raw denim selvedge makes up a significant part of the company's catalog, making up roughly 11 of their pant options. It's all handmade in small-batches in their Richmond workshop, where they also offer free lifetime repairs.
Our Pick: Shockoe Atelier Slim Kojima
Originally made for bikers, by a veteran of the Japanese garment industry, Iron Heart makes jeans weighing everywhere from 14 to 21-oz. Some are selvedge, while others non, but every pair is durable and beloved by denim-heads all over.
Our Pick: Iron Heart 21oz Selvedge Denim
NYC store 3Sixteen launched in 2008 with one signature jean, the SL-100x. From launch through present day collections, they've used denim custom sourced from the Kuroki Mills in Okayama, Japan. The style names may have changed in their 10-plus years in operation, but the quality remains the same.
Our Pick: 3Sixteen CS-222xs Jean
Drake's successes as a casual clothier may come as a surprise to those who know the brand for its suiting, exclusively. However, they make six different pairs of jeans, each differing in both wash, fade and fit. Five of which are made from Japanese selvedge denim, while one is made from Ecru denim in Portugal.
Headquartered in Okayama, Japan's jean capital, The Strike Gold is the Hamamoto family's product line. Denim manufacturers at first, they faced no trouble selling their own jeans once they started making them. Beloved by the true aficionados of both denim and traditional Japanese craft, Strike Gold's jeans are not cheap, but they are quality garments that'll last several lifetimes.
While A.P.C. makes what is perhaps the quintessential minimalist jean, Japanese repro brand orSlow’s jeans might best be described as plain. And that’s no knock. There’s no overt branding, it’s based on classic jeans from the mid-1900s and is cut with custom-milled denim that would have anyone fooled into thinking you scored a pair of near-deadstock jeans that were hidden away in your grandparents’ attic.
Our Pick: orSlow 107 Indigo Selvedge Jeans
Everlane’s jeans come from a highly-respected Japanese denim mill but at a price point of less than half of what you’d typically expect. Weighing a middle-of-the-road 11 ounces, the denim is made with a touch of two-way stretch, just enough for comfort and not so much to qualify as yoga pants. They come in a range of washes to satisfy a wide range of blue jean lovers. And at just $78, you could get into a few different washes.
Our Pick: Everlane 4-Way Stretch Organic Jean
Noriko Machida’s highly-sought brand Chimala has garnered devoted fans since its founding in 2005. The brand is known for its midcentury workwear and militaria-inspired garments produced with lofty levels of quality and unparalleled distressing, not to mention incredible fits.
Our Pick: Chimala Dark Denim Selvedge Jeans
Made entirely in New York by one craftsman, Glenn's Denim is something truly special. The artisan behind the sewing machine (the Glenn) has been in the business of making jeans for decades and his custom jeans are an amalgamation of all the legacy denim brands he's worked for in the past. The one-on-one fitting process is a well-executed experience akin to getting a bespoke suit. All the fabrics are custom-woven in America specifically for Glenn's Denim, with next-level denimhead details throughout and a fit that's uniquely yours.
Our Pick: Glenn's Denim GD112 Jean