Think about it: your jeans are probably among the oldest pieces of clothing you have in your wardrobe. And there's a reason for this: endlessly versatile, utterly comfortable and supremely practical, jeans are a dependable staple that prove their worth time and again. Read on for a comprehensive guide to men's jeans and where to find your perfect pair.
The origins of jeans can be traced back to the 1870s, when they were patented by Jacob Davis, an American tailor, in partnership with Levi Strauss, the owner of a wholesale fabric house in San Francisco. Originally designed as workwear for miners and labourers, they eventually became popularised through Hollywood cinema – worn by cowboys played by the likes of John Wayne and Gary Cooper, and later on by denim-clad rebels like James Dean and Marlon Brando in the '50s.
Now, jeans are an intrinsic part of our collective style consciousness, having become adopted by just about every demographic – from rockers to rappers, punks to pensioners.
Denim has as much to do with the allure of jeans as the design of them does. An extremely tough, durable fabric, denim is hard-wearing and made to last. There’s a reason it was favoured by cowboys, Clint Eastwood and The Terminator – denim is as tough as those who wear it, and is a staple of the workwear wardrobe as a result.
Denim comes in many forms, from raw indigo which has been in its natural, unwashed state, to washed and treated denim, which is usually more faded and softer as a result. Once you've chosen your preferred wash and colour, decide on the fit. To name a few: Straight-leg jeans are a fail-safe classic suitable for every body type, tapered jeans offer a middle ground between a straight leg and skinny jeans, and wide-leg jeans are ideal for a slouchier look.
While the fits can alter dramatically, jeans typically come with five riveted pockets, straight hems and either a buttoned or zipped fly. Overwhelmed at all the options? Fear not – jeans are the everyman of clothing, and it definitely doesn't hurt to own a few pairs in different styles.
The beauty of jeans is their inherent versatility: as the backbone of an outfit they can be easily dressed up or down. For everyday ease, team a pair of straight leg jeans with a plain tee and an overshirt thrown on top. A workwear-inspired look would benefit from selvedge denim jeans complimented by a classic chore jacket and lace-up boots, while a more work-friendly look calls for black tapered jeans with an Oxford shirt, blazer and Chelsea boots.
Never be afraid to double down on the denim, particularly if you're combining different types. Dark denim jeans will look great with a lighter denim jacket or shirt or opt for raw denim on raw denim for the ultimate workwear look.
If you're on the hunt for that perfect pair of jeans, scroll on to discover some of the best jeans brands for men out there at the moment – from independents to established denim labels.
Stockholm-based denim brand Jeanerica adheres to the characteristically Scandinavian ideals of minimalist, made-to-last design. With simplicity at its core, the Jeanerica range features essential styles in perfect fits and expert washes. The look is classic-meets-contemporary, updated takes on old-school favourites. There's a style for everyone: from the late '90s-inspired tapered leg of the TM005 to the classic straight fit of the CM002 or the '70s-style bootcut of the PM007. All jeans are made from 98% organic cotton with 2% elastane for the perfect combination of sturdiness and stretch.
German label Closed was founded in the '70s and quickly garnered a cult following, with the likes of Tupac Shakur, George Michael and Will Smith all embracing the brand's unique Italian-made denim styles. Characterised by a signature fly label and iconic X-Pockets set at a 33-degree angle, Closed's jeans are distinctive yet utterly wearable – streamlined, yet never too tight. In recent years, the brand has taken its commitment to sustainability to the next level with a new line of eco-denim, made from organic cotton and recycled elastane.
Iconic jeans label Edwin has been at the forefront of denim craftsmanship since it was established in 1947 by Japanese denim obsessive Mr Tsunemi. Fast forward all these years later, and it's safe to say that Edwin has revolutionised the entire denim industry. After creating its own washing technology, it went on to develop a series of washes over the years – from 'Old Wash' – used to replicate a worn-in feel – to the iconic method of stone washing.
Denim is one of the most water-intensive fabrics to produce, which is why Unrecorded's sustainability efforts are so important. The Amsterdam-based brand only uses GOTS-certified organic cotton, which requires 70% less water than standard cotton. It offers two styles of unisex jeans – the Straight Jeans and the Cropped Jeans, both of which boast a timeless aesthetic that will suit any look.
ASKET constantly strives for the ‘less is more’ approach, meaning its product offering is impressively streamlined. It aims to produce a collection that both lasts and stays stylish for decades, and its jeans are case in point. Made from a 13oz Japanese denim that either comes raw or in a range of different washes, you can wear them with literally anything and still be the best-dressed man in the room.
Parisian-based AMI is among the most lauded modern menswear names today and it's quickly become one of the best jeans brands too. It’s known for its progressive cuts and innovative fabric use, but it’s the brand’s denim line that remains a mainstay in its ever-growing collection. Made from high quality denims that come in a range of washes, they tend to fit on the slimmer side, making them perfect if you’re after a trim, tapered style of jean.
Also based in Paris is A.P.C., a brand known for its masterful use of denim. The brand’s jeans are purposely designed as blank canvasses, with no extraneous detailing or any branding at all. You can normally tell an A.P.C. raw jean when you see it though. Its denim – a secret blend of fibres – gives off a distinctive blue hue, as do the minimally-stitched hems when turned up.
One of the Scandinavian OGs, Acne Studios was doing minimalist, pared-back clothing before most of today’s brands had been established. It has since moved towards more forward-thinking cuts, but its denim offering has remained a constant since its founding in 1996. Black, raw and washed denim is all available in a range of cuts – if you want something wider in the leg, Acne Studios could be the one.
For more workwear staples, check out our guide to the best overshirts.
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