Timeless and eminently versatile, a great pair of jeans should be an anchor of every man’s wardrobe. Whether you’re into the raw selvedge style or want something a little on the softer side, getting the fit right is crucial. Fit is essential. It’s what takes a pair of jeans from meh to man, where’d you get those?. According to Matt Kong of Bay Area denim-maker Gustin, “the seat and waist should fit snug when new and the legs should look clean to complement your silhouette without looking baggy.”
Remember, when you’re trying on jeans — or pretty much any other pants — they are going to stretch out as you wear them. “When looking for denim, I always seek out a pair that is understated in look and will wear nicely,” says Taylor Stitch co-founder Mike Maher. “A slim — not skinny — leg won’t eat your shoes and should leave a bit of room to breathe. They should fit snug when you first pull ’em on but you shouldn’t be struggling to get your hands in your pockets.”
You should have a few pairs of jeans in rotation. While blue and black are classics, any number of colors and washes can look great (Though we think it’s wise to avoid the ’80s acid iterations unless you plan on leaning against a parking lot Camaro anytime soon.) It’s also always good to have a pair of unexpected jeans in the rotation. “I like to have a pair with a classic deep indigo hue in the perpetual rotation because they will just get better with every wear to the point of sweat-pant comfort,” Maher says.
If you’re looking to upgrade your current selection of jeans, here are seven pairs we stand behind.
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Taylor Stitch Slim Jean Cone Mills Era Selvedge
The legendary Cone Mills White Oak denim mill may have closed up shop earlier this year but Taylor Stitch seems to still have a few bolts left. Their slim jeans are made from Cone Mills-era 13 oz selvedge that was woven on draped shuttle looms at the famed Greensboro, NC plant. Simple and classic, this is a pair that will look better and better with age. Get them before they’re gone.
Buck Mason Slim Fit Jean
If raw denim is too crisp and you’re into something a little softer, Buck Mason’s three-month wash comes a little broken in broken in right off the rack. Made in the USA from Japanese denim with a two percent stretch, this wash has already started to fade into a softer blue but the rich texture of the high-quality denim will never fade away.
Uniqlo Slim Fit Jean Black
You don’t have to spend $100 or more to find a great looking pair of jeans. Uniqlo’s slim fits go for half that and are made from a 12 oz selvedge denim woven with a touch of stretch so they look and feel great from the very first time you put them on.
Sugar Cane 2014 Jean
This is quite simply one of the best pairs of jeans we have ever worn. Made from a lightweight 12ozi indigo-dyed unsanforized Japanese selvedge denim that is easy to wear and break in, the jeans are slim fitting with a tapered leg below the knee. They’re exactly how jeans should feel and, treated right, will last until 2028. At least.
Baldwin Henley Jean in Sage
Jeans don’t have to be black or blue. The Baldwin Henley jean looks great in sage and pairs more easily with a dark shirt than does raw denim.
Gustin Okayama Standard
California brand Gustin makes tons of great jeans in a wide variety of selvedge denims from Japan, the USA, and Italy. But every fabric is not always available since they use a crowd-funded business model. Customers can back the ones they want and if that model sells out, they make the jeans, which ship a couple of months later. Gustin’s Okayama Standard is their best selling Japanese iteration — and for good reason: A 14.5 oz denim that starts off dark indigo and fades into a creamy blue with a little time and love. Bonus tip: Be on the lookout for their Italian grey silk jeans. They are gorgeous, as soft as they sound and don’t come around very often.
Levis 501 Taper Fit
An old classic with a new twist. Levis 501 taper fit is slimmer and trimmer than the iconic original. It also comes with a bit of stretch making them easy to move even if they aren’t broken in yet.