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Finding the best pair of jeans can be a daunting task. Not only do dedicated denim labels and designer brands offer their own range, but there are also a vast amount of styles that fall under the jean category. The options are practically endless. There are a spectrum of washes, from acid and sun-faded to granite and midnight blue. Some are built for comfort, featuring a bit of stretch, while others are made of selvedge denim, a stiff material that’ll soften over the years. There’s also the choice of silhouettes: slim, wide-leg, boot-cut, skinny, relaxed, straight, and more.
In short, jeans aren’t one size fits all. There are many, many factors to consider before choosing the best pair. This is why we narrowed the search by focusing on jean brands with a breadth of experience in producing high-quality, specialized denim. But first, some background.
A Brief History on Jean Brands:
Blue jeans, as we know them today, debuted in 1873, when tailor Jacob Davis and fabric wholesaler Levi Strauss patented indigo-dyed denim with pockets and riveting. For decades, Levi’s, the brand, was the only player in the game, its styles worn as workwear and as an off-duty staple for men in the military. Then, by the 1920s and ’30s, Blue Bell (now Wrangler) and Lee’s became worthy contenders. And with the advent of Hollywood, jeans went from a blue-collar stalwart to something cinematic. Think John Wayne, James Dean, Marlon Brando, and a whole host of Tinseltown heavyweights. The humble blue jean became an emblem of rugged sex appeal, a sign of rebellion. This sentiment extended to the ’60s, when the style became the unofficial uniform of anti-war and women’s rights protestors.
With its popularity growing, it was inevitable that the high-fashion industry began to take interest. Enter Fiorucci in the 1970s, which introduced its iconic Buffalo 70—a dark-wash, slim-fit style that projected luxury. A few years later, Calvin Klein sent blue jeans down the runway and then, over the decades, made them infamous with a series of titillating advertisements. Today, everyone from Saint Laurent and Versace to Louis Vuitton and Dior are producing their own jean collections in small batches.
How to Choose the Best Jeans for Men:
Now let’s return to the pertinent topic at hand: Getting your hands on the jeans that are best for you. As we mentioned, the key characteristics to always keep in mind are fit, silhouette, material, and overall vibe. This takes trial and error, of course, but once you found an ideal match, a label that offers a style or collection that just works, hold on to it, regardless of the trend du jour. See, in the realm of jeans, certain brands have honed in, dominated, and otherwise perfected a signature pair. This is what makes them a cut above the rest.
Below, the best jeans brands for men, all of them great, all of them different, but at least one of them perfect for you.
Best Classic Jean Brand
No round-up of best jeans brands would be complete without the OG. Levi’s is the first, the inventor, and still, to this day, the standard. And the best-known, most-iconic fit, without a doubt, is the 501. Its rigid straight-leg silhouette is a legend of the denim world, worn by too many fashion icons to list. Whether it’s a new variation or vintage style, the 501 is a solid investment. In fact, it’s the best.
Best Rugged Jean Brand
Since the late ’60s, Ralph Lauren has been perfecting idealized Americana, offering the best in preppy styles, from his signature polo shirts to traditional boxy suiting. His RRL label explores another facet of the red, white, and blue: the Wild West, home of the cowboy. As a result, the collections have a rough-and-tough quality, often made of selvedge denim and always produced in the USA using methods from the 1930s.
Best Wide-Leg Jean Brand
Swedish brand Our Legacy broke onto the scene with understated grunge appeal. The brand fills a distinct gap, oscillating between old and new, edgy and refined. This especially rings true in the jeans department, where its wide-leg, distressed, and just-distinct-enough styles made in small batches have developed a fervent fashion following.
Best Western Jean Brand
When it comes to western wear, very few can rival the prowess and reputation of Wrangler. The brand has been around for over a century, consistently beloved by workmen, rachers, rodeo stars, and fans of Yellowstone. It should come as no surprise, then, that it is the undisputed master of the Cowboy cut, a style that’s rugged, a style with flare, a style that’s an ideal match for the boot with the same.
Best Understand Jean Brand
Paris-based A.P.C. has been mastering the art of minimal dressing since it was founded in 1987. From unfussy knits to streamlined outerwear, the brand offers staples that’ll last the long haul. But what really cemented its standing in the annals of fashion history is its approach to denim. It is a label for denimheads, celebrated for its raw, built-to-last material and exceptionally tasteful cuts. Try the New Standard for a modern classic.
Best Multipurpose Jean Brand
No one does all-American sex appeal quite like Calvin Klein. With its titillating ads, fronted by the hottest celebrities of the day—from Brooke Shields in the ’80s to Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg in the ’90s to Maluma in the 2020s—the brand created (and continues to promote) an alluring aura around jeans. It made them cool, sexy, and covetable. But it’s not all hype: The assortment of styles are constructed to stand the test of time. Indeed, nothing should come between you and your Calvins.
Best Jean Brand for Athletic Builds
Since launching in 2012, Erik Torstensson and Jens Grede’s Frame has taken the fashion world by storm, first with the introduction of a pair of carefully crafted skinny jeans and, eventually, a full range of styles. The Los Angeles–based brand is particularly great for this with athletic builds; styles such as the L’Homme Athletic and this season’s Boxy Clayton are ideal for men with thicker legs looking for a tailored fit. Indeed, the brand is an off-duty favorite of ballers, from Dwayne Wade to Steph Curry to Terrance Mann.
Best Minimalist Jean Brand
Swedish label Acne Studios never fails to bring an understated, thoughtful edge with its runway collections. But the foundation of the brand is in denim. Indeed, Acne is one of the original players in the Scandinavian denim movement, styles characterized by tapered silhouettes that are edgy but never trendy. Its collections are subtle, devoid of flash and gimmicks, instead focusing on construction and fit.
Best Subversive Jean Brand
Diesel has been a denim mainstay since its advent in 1978, but it was current creative director Glenn Martens—known for his subversive ready-to-wear at his own label, Y/Project—who injected the brand with the kind of cool and relevancy that is seldom achieved in the fashion industry. His designs are subversive, at times ironic, and, true to the brand’s long denim history, expertly made.
Best Artisanal Jean Brand
Founded by a father and son in Okayama (Japan’s denim capital) in the mid-80s, Kapital began as an ode to midcentury American denim. It started small, offering limited quantities of expertly crafted denim that look like they were pieced by hand. Today, the line produces some of the wildest and highest quality styles with the type of artisanal details—think intricate embellishments and hand-stitched patches—that is rare today.
Best Tailored Jean Brand
The cult of denim in the early aughts began in Los Angeles, and one of its leaders was Adriano Goldschmied. Indeed, there are many reasons why he is called “The Godfather of Denim.” Primary among them is the way he perfectly cut jeans, offering tailored fits that rivaled wool trousers, fits that look sharp but are also extremely comfortable. And the style that exemplifies this ethos most in the Graduate.
Best Eco-Conscious Jean Brand
Istanbul-founded Mavi has been refining everyday denim since its launch in the early ’90s. Today, the brand is focused on eco-conscious wares. Think natural dye, biodegradable details, and hang tags often containing basil seeds that can be planted. Simply put, Mavi is a go-to for updated traditional styles made with environmental awareness.
Best Jean Brand for Flared Styles
If you’re searching for flared jeans, there is no better place to go than Gallery Dept. It’s a relatively new label, founded in Los Angeles in 2017 by designer Josué Thomas, but in short time, it has accrued a loyal following that includes Drake, Meek Mill, and fashion heavy-hitters. These forward-thinking folks appreciate the paint details he adds, the patches, the splatters, the frayed edges, and, of course, the flare, which is the brand’s signature.
Best Cult Jean Brand
In the world of small batch Japanese denim (grails of the jean industry), Hiroki Nakamura’s Visvim is a verified cult favorite. Yes, the pieces may look unassuming, but upon close inspection, it is clear why the brand’s pieces are collectibles. Quality is the focus here, with expert craftsmanship taking center stage.
Best Under-the-Radar Jean Brand
For those in the know, 3sixteen jeans aren’t just a decent denim option—they’re standouts, crafted with custom fabrics from the Kuroki Mills in Okayama, Japan. And the Classic Tapered cut, a modern update on the straight-leg silhouette with gunmetal YKK rivets and a high rise, is its best-seller.