There's something strangely daunting about shopping for jeans. Why? Because it's not just any old garment you're looking to buy. Oh, no. A good pair of jeans are so much more than trousers. They're practical, versatile companions — as ready to nip to a party as they are to help with a spot of DIY. And so they need to be perfect.
But, before you start fretting, allow us to step in — in an excellently tailored, selvedge pair of jeans, you'll notice. With so many styles, cuts and shades of denims now on the market for men, the perfect pair of jeans you're imagining really does exist. You just need to know where to look. So, from American jean giants to smaller, stylish Italian fashion houses, here are the best jeans for men…
Levi’s is synonymous with jeans for a reason
Well where else would we start? The US icon is synonymous with denim jeans — and for good reason; brand founder Levi Strauss helped create the garment. They were first patented in 1873, which means there’s been a lot of time to perfect the design. And perfect it Levi’s has.
What’s the classic fit? The 501s, no contest. Levi’s signature fit are the all-American, original straight fit jeans, crafted from non-stretch denim and boasting five pockets and a button fly. They sit on your waist, and have a regular fit from thigh through to ankle. Timeless stuff.
Where’s the denim from? Thankfully, in a world now recognising the importance of sustainability, even Levi’s has cottoned on — and support the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). The brand now use cotton from BCI growers, organic cotton farms, or recycled cotton suppliers for all of its jeans. Additionally, it’s experimenting with innovations to make your tough old jeans even tougher — from recycled Evrnu and wood-based Tencel to cottonised hemp.
Levi's 501 Original Straight Jeans
Asket is a brand you can trust
Jeans need to be trustworthy; we’re sure you’d agree. Not only should they be tough and practical, but also versatile — a denim companion to see you through thick and thin. Asket know that. They also know that a good, honest garment such as a pair of jeans should be made with honesty.
What’s the classic fit? Allow us to explain. Each of the Swedish brand’s three types of jeans follow the same fit — somewhere between a slim and a straight leg, and crafted to shape themselves to your body after time. And how does it do this? By knowing absolutely everything there is to know about its denim.
Where’s the denim from? Take a look on the brand’s website and you can peruse the provenance of every item — through Asket’s Full Traceability transparency standard. The jeans? Asket follow the raw cotton from either Texas, Mississippi or Australia as it hops across the ocean to Japan, where it’s whipped into raw denim and then delivered to Italy, where the final garments are tailored.
The Washed Denim Jeans
J. Crew is an all-American jeans icon
True, J. Crew may have had a sketchy time of late — and we never tend to trust a brand that spreads themselves so thin (seriously, the brand makes everything from shoe horns to ice cube trays) — but when Alessandro Squarzi names one of his brands to rely on, you listen. And J. Crew jeans have been a cornerstone of many stylish wardrobes over the years.
What’s the classic fit? We’re talking a little slimmer than Levi’s here. With its preppy background, J. Crew is a little less blue-collar, working-man than its fellow American brand. But that’s not a bad thing. With a slightly tighter fit through the hip and thigh, leading to a narrow, tapered leg, these are modern jeans with a classic spirit.
Where’s the denim from? Whereas Levi’s focuses on eco-responsibility when sourcing its denim, J. Crew has taken a more socially-sustainable stance. The brand has, in the recent past, taken stands against the child labour used in the harvesting of cotton in Uzbekistan, and the use of potentially dangerous sandblasting — to achieve a worn look — during the production process. As such, it’s another brand you can pull on with peace of mind.
Classic Straight-Fit jean
A.P.C has given jeans a chic spin
Next we travel from the United States to France, where the ultra-voguish A.P.C has been churning out reliably chic garments since the 1980s. The minimalist, simple approach of the brand chimes perfectly with the spirit of jeans — and its raw-denim selvedge offerings have become something of a must-have for denim enthusiasts.
What’s the classic fit? The brand has a couple of signature fits, but the most popular is the ‘New Standard’. Similar in cut to the 501 design from Levi’s, they have a straight leg, fitted ankle and are mid-rise.
Where’s the denim from? The best A.P.C jeans use raw Japanese denim. Again, it’s a far-cry from the all-American style of denim that the two brands above prefer, but we’ve got a soft spot for this far eastern take on the fabric. The weave is slightly tighter, the jeans hold their shape longer and they tend to be dyed with natural indigo.
Ermenegildo Zegna has tailored jeans to a new level
Another European take on the classic style, Ermenegildo Zegna has approached the classic garment from a fashion angle. And doesn’t it show? While undoubtedly being a slimmer silhouette than your classic jeans, Zegna’s fitted spin on the style fares better for smarter occasions and dressier events.
What’s the classic fit? ‘Stretch’ — which, as the name suggests, are rather snug. But it works. The design isn’t so tight that the jeans lose their inherent versatility, but it’ll also afford a more considered, tapered look to your trousers. Let’s put it this way; there’s not a style of shoe you can’t pair with a pair of Zegna jeans — and you couldn’t lace up a pair of boat shoes with your 501s.
Where’s the denim from? As with A.P.C, Ermenegildo Zegna also turned to Japan for its denim. Pairing the softest selvedge with classic Italian tailoring proved to be a masterstroke — with the densely woven material lending itself to tighter cuts than some chunkier denim options allowed.
Stretch cotton 5-pocket jeans
Ralph Lauren offers reliable blue jeans at their best
If you thought J. Crew was preppy, just wait until you see what Ralph Lauren has done with your classic pair of jeans. You can hardly separate the American brand’s iconic take on the style from a cable knit jumper or polo shirt, and they’re more often than not accompanied by a pair of loafers. Don’t get us wrong, a pair of Ralph Lauren jeans inhabits a very specific social area, but they don’t half work with those woven belts…
What’s the classic fit? There are four main fits from Ralph, but we’d always opt for the Sullivan. A middle ground between straight and slim fit, they have a regular rise and a trim leg that tapers slightly from the knee down — although they’re not without a hint of flare, which we’re quite partial to when we’re in a vintage mood.
Where’s the denim from? Where isn’t it from. Ralph Lauren seems to experiment more with its denim than any other high-profile brand. Some, like the Ridgway twill, is sourced in the US. Some, like the selvedge left-hand denim, comes from Japan. But all of it is, like Levi’s above, in line with the Better Cotton Initiative.
Sullivan Slim Stretch Jeans
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