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For such a seemingly humble garment, jeans have gone through many, many iterations, oscillating between the distressed, fitted styles favored by ’70s punks, to whatever the hell happened to denim in the early 2000s, to the super skinny styles of the mid to late aughts. Then came the denim nerds with their esoteric obsessiveness and willingness to shell out lots of cash for the perfect pair of vintage, raw, selvedge blue jeans. Thankfully, jeans have settled down a little bit. The best men’s jeans are eminently wearable in slim, tapered and straight fits, with just enough stretch to keep you comfortable. But that doesn’t mean jeans have to be boring. From workwear styles to unique colors, designers are still tweaking this nearly-150-year-old garment.
With so many options, a few cardinal rules when choosing the best men’s jeans worth investing in will serve you well. “We find having a good amount of stretch without actually looking stretchy is at the core of what makes a good pair of denim,” Arkun Durmaz, the President of Mavi North America, tells SPY.com. “A comfortable fit in the waist and upper thigh area along with movability is also key.”
Like the best men’s jeans, those shopping for them are not all built the same. It’s important to find a pair that highlights one’s silhouette and not the opposite. According to Durmaz, men are first attracted to jeans based on looks (completely normal) but remained hooked when they find the perfect fit. “Men become long-term fans when the fit is right. It’s quite common that a male customer walks into a store and directly asks for a specific style even before trying other fits,” Durmaz says.
After you’ve discovered comfortable, perfectly fitting jeans comes the fun part. While tradition says lighter denim is usually reserved for the day while darker denim reigns at night, Durmaz thinks denim should be worn in a way that speaks most to personal style. “I’ve seen many men wearing a light pair with a blazer at night and it looks amazing. Denim is so versatile and there are really no limits. It’s about customization and wearing what makes you most comfortable and feel like your most authentic self.”
6 Cuts of Jeans for Men
There are dozens of denim styles from which to choose, but let’s drill down the most wearable fits and styles.
The skinny fit is a skintight jean with either a low or mid-rise waist that looks like it’s molded to your body. The slim fit has a narrow cut that skims along the legs. Straight-cut jeans are the most common silhouette. Not too loose, or too tight, these jeans can go from office to weekend. Boot cut is a straight-leg jean that widens toward the ankle so it can accommodate boots. Tapered jeans have legs that are cut wider through the thigh and leg and then narrow near the hem, as with athletic-fit jeans. The relaxed fit could be called dad jeans; they’re loose cut from waistband to hem.
Now you know what’s what with the best men’s jeans, we’ve done all the heavy lifting and found the best jeans for men to add to your rotation throughout the year. These jeans vary in color and cut and pair well with anything you’ve already got in your closet.
1. Duer Performance Denim Jeans
Duer’s Performance Denim Jeans are the most comfortable jeans on the planet. Full stop. We fell in love with Duer this past year after testing out these jeans, which we’ve found incomparable in comfort to anything else we’ve ever put on our bodies. Think about the movability of your coziest sweatpants matched with the blue jean color you’ve been wearing since you could put on pants and you’ll get Duer. You can even do a split if you want. We love them so much that we named them our favorite jeans of the year in the 2021 Man, our end-of-year product awards.
2. Levi’s 501 Original Fit Jeans
Chances are that your first pair of jeans were Levi’s. These are the original jeans that are beloved throughout the planet. Also known as button-fly jeans, they have a regular fit at the thigh, and are cut straight throughout. Made with 100% cotton, they don’t stretch, but like any Levi’s jeans, wearing them for a bit molds them to your body. They look stellar both rolled at the cuff and worn straight. These 501s come in eight shades, too.
3. Levi’s Men’s 511 Slim Fit Jeans
BEST FOR EVERYDAY WEAR
The 501 is an undisputed cultural icon. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the cut that works for most guys. The straight fit and stiff denim can be hard to pull off, which is why the 511 is the secret star of Levi’s offerings. Slim but not skinny, with a decent amount of room in the thighs, the 511 works on just about every guy.
4. J.Crew 484 Slim-fit Jean
BEST LIGHT WASH
J.Crew cleverly labels their wash styles by year — the one-year wash is still dark blue, the two-year is a little lighter and so on, mimicking the effect of years of wear, right off the rack. These jeans are the five-year wash, so they have a vintage-looking light blue color. Unlike some light blue jeans, these don’t have aggressive distressing — the light whiskering and fades look classic, not trendy, staying true to J.Crew’s design ethos.
5. A.P.C. Petit Standard Slim-Fit Jeans
BEST SELVEDGE JEANS
A.P.C. kickstarted the selvedge denim trend in the late ’80s, and it remains one of the best brands for premium denim. The slim fit is the sweet spot between skinny and straight, making this a great option for men of any age. The classic indigo color will break in and fade with wear so you can make it your own, and the button-fly style nods to classic jeans like the 501.
6. Calvin Klein Men’s Straight Fit Jeans
BEST BLACK JEANS
Calvin Klein is widely credited with helping to popularize designer jeans in the 1980s; their jeans were marketed as having sex appeal, rather than the workwear focus of brands like Lee, Levi’s and Wrangler. These days, most of Calvin Klein’s jeans are about the same price as Levi’s, making them an affordable designer option. These jeans have a straight fit and jet black color for a classically cool look.
7. Lee Men’s Carpenter Jean
BEST WORKWEAR JEANS
Lee may not get as much love as Levi’s, but it’s still a legendary and storied denim brand, dating back to 1889. The quartz color combined with the hammer loop and tool pockets of these Lee jeans ups the vintage workwear vibe.
8. Everlane Relaxed 4-Way Stretch Organic Jeans
BEST BAGGY JEANS
These aren’t the baggiest of baggy jeans for men on the planet, but they are great for guys looking to ditch their extremely slim-fit jeans for a boxier approach. These four-way stretch organic jeans from Everlane are made for moving around in confidence, something that skinny jeans never allow for. All pairs are made in a denim factory that recycles 98% of its water. Additionally, the pants are made primarily from organic cotton and are backed by a 365-day guarantee.
9. Uniqlo Slim-Fit Jeans
Looking for a good-looking pair of jeans that won’t break the bank? Well, you found ’em. These slim-fit jeans cost just one Ulysses S. Grant (ahem, $50) and they come in three different colors for all types of jean wearers. Uniqlo is a hell of a trustworthy brand, too, so even though they’re cheap, we can assure you they’re not cheaply made.
10. ASOS Design High-Waisted Jeans
The ’90s high-waisted jeans are back. But how high is high? The waistline on most high-waisted jeans will hit a bit above the navel. Done in a mid-wash blue, these jeans have the same width from waist to hem. They’re great with a graphic tee, your favorite college crewneck or an open flannel with a white tee underneath. We suggest you get these a little shorter than you would regularly, they look pretty cool as high-waters.
11. Everlane The Organic Cotton Slim Fit Jean
BEST WHITE JEANS
If you aren’t aware of all of the stylish and minimal clothing that Everlane has to offer, then it’s time to get acquainted with the brand. Originally launched as a web-only brand in San Francisco, Everlane has become a recognized retailer with locations nationwide. Their clothing is durably made at affordable prices, and these white jeans are a perfect example of that. These slim-fit jeans are constructed of organic cotton and Roica V550 yarn for the perfect amount of stretch. Style the jeans with a solid color tee or bold print camp shirt for a trendy fit.
12. ASOS DESIGN Stretch Slim Heavy-Ripped Jeans
Come on, you can’t hate on a good-looking pair of ripped jeans — they’re stylish as all hell. Show some skin with these destructed slim jeans that rip all around. The wash is pretty light but looks good paired with any casual tee or flannel shirt. Wear these with your favorite beat-up sneakers to complete the somewhat damaged look and strut the streets like you paid $60 for a pair of jeans that look like they’re already falling apart but you’ve made it fashion.
13. Levi’s Western Boot Cut Fit Jeans
BEST BOOT CUT JEANS
Designed to accommodate cowboy boots, these Levi’s have cool touches like ergonomically shaped pockets, a double inseam and a reversed yoke that’ll highlight your butt. That alone could make them the best jeans for men. They’re made from cotton with great stretch. If this color ain’t your style, you can also buy them in the lighter wash.
14. Devil-Dog Dungarees Athletic Fit Jean
Devil-Dog jeans are stretchy, movable and absorb sweat and moisture to keep you cozy no matter how many hours you wear them. Materials used in the thread even include recycled plastic bottles, so these jeans are better for the environment, too. “I consider these the perfect post-quarantine jeans that everybody is sleeping on,” raves SPY’s e-commerce editor Tyler Schoeber. “Everyone needs to hear and try Devil-Dog out for themselves. It’s hard to find a pair of jeans that hits comfort and fashion the way these do.”
15. Mott and Bow Slim Crosby Jeans
BEST EVERYDAY STRETCH JEANS
Mott and Bow make classic men’s denim that blends both soft cotton and an expert washing process with just enough stretch to keep you moving from day to night in style. They’ve billed these as medium-weight jeans, which makes them perfect for wearing in most types of weather. Thanks to a dark wash and without too many fussy details, these are perfect for the office or a weekend date night. Note the slim fit and the agreeable price for designer-quality jeans, too.
Read More: The Best Men’s Stretch Jeans To Buy in 2022
Updates: This post was last updated on June 19, 2022, at which time SPY added quotes from Arkun Durmaz. Everlane Relaxed 4-Way Stretch Organic Jeans replaced BDG Dad Jean as Best Baggy Jean. Everlane The Organic Cotton Slim Fit Jean, Devil-Dog Dungarees Athletic Fit Jean and Mott and Bow Slim Crosby Jeans were added.