Denim jeans: the workhorse of every well-stocked wardrobe. They’re a smart casual staple, a weekend warrior, and everything in between. They’re trousers you bike to work in, the garment you reach for when nipping out on errands. They’ve even got your back in certain semi-formal settings, for which dress pants would be overkill.
Despite their everyday appeal, choosing the perfect pair shouldn’t be taken lightly. Get them right and they’re one of the most versatile pieces of clothing in a man’s wardrobe. Get them wrong, on the other hand, and your in Jeremy Clarkson territory.
But before you go reaching for the £400 Japanese selvedge, first consider that it is actually possible to acquire high-quality denim for less than the cost of your mortgage. There’s plenty of variety on both the high-street and online, provided you know where to look. Which is why, here at Ape, we’ve decided to give you a rundown of our favourite spots for affordable denim.
Fit is king when it comes to most garments, but with jeans it’s crucial. Take the time to find the right cut, whether that means spending extra minutes in the changing room, or ordering in a selection of sizes and fits when buying online. Slim is always your safe space, but if your frame requires it, opt for a straight or regular leg. Avoid extreme fits if you value versatility and don’t want to look back on old photos and cringe.
Make sure the waist is snug, there’s movement in the leg and a balance of material around thigh and shin. There shouldn’t be too much excess fabric bunching around the footwear either, but legs can always be shortened or pinrolled accordingly. It’s also worth noting that raw denim should fit tight to the point of being almost uncomfortable in the waist and seat at first. This is to compensate for that fact that it will stretch out dramatically within the first few days of wear.
If you’ve settled on a style but can’t find the fit, a tailor is your best friend. There really is no excuse when it comes to fit.
You can tell straight away if a pair of jeans is worth it or not. Avoid anything with an unforgivable amount of elasticity that often corresponds with denim that feels strangely thin. 100% cotton is of course the ideal, but if you want some stretch, allow for 5% knocked off in exchange for a material that’s going to give a little.
Look for straight-forward stitching on the front and back with minimal branding. Rivets indicate strength in the engineering of the jeans and it’s worth considering whether you want a button or zip fly. The former will last longer, but you can’t beat the ease of the latter when you’re caught short. Wear and tear with well-worn jeans is unavoidable, so it’s good to know a new pair won’t break the bank.
The Best Brands For Affordable Denim
No wardrobe can be considered complete without a pair of slim-fit, raw denim jeans. These indigo wonders may be uncomfortable at first, but stick with them and you’ll be rewarded. Over time, they’ll mould to your body and develop their own individual fading, resulting in a pair of jeans that are totally unique to you. This sort of thing doesn’t tend to come cheap, which is why Swedish basics label Asket’s raw denim jeans – in quality 13oz Japanese heritage – is such a treat to both wallet and wardrobe, coming in at a third less than comparable versions on the market.
Purveyor of Scandinavian minimalism, Arket should be your first port of call if you’re looking for a tightly-curated range of simple, high-quality denim jeans – there is such thing as choice overload, after all. Their slim cotton-stretch versions are phenomenal value and come in a range of washes designed to complement the traditionally neutral-dominated male palette. They also do a fantastic cropped black jean in organic cotton.
If it’s good enough for male model David Gandy, it’s good enough for us mere mortals. People may scoff at a brand aimed at a more mature audience, but if you’re in search of timeless, quality pieces with minimal branding, you can do much worse. The selvedge M&S Collection, from the world-renowned Kurabo mill in Japan is a steal, whilst also being the perfect shade for twinning with a dark leather boot or brogue.
The one stop shop for utilitarian, millennial style. Uniqlo’s range of denim is diverse and all-encompassing, with a wide selection of fits, styles and washes, tending to even the most niche of denim needs. If slim isn’t your bag or your frame doesn’t allow it, try a pair of regular fit Uniqlo jeans and a turned up cuff. Make sure to check out the brand’s selvedge offerings – they tend to fly off the shelves, and for good reason: where else can you get real selvedge denim for under £50?
Denim was originally intended for blue-collar applications, and when it comes to workwear, few labels carry the same clout as Carhartt. The American brand has been doing its thing for well over a century, and has even branched out into contemporary, street-friendly staples through its Work In Progress (W.I.P) line. The 12oz-denim “Vicious” pants are designed with a casual, low rise and tapered fit, making them a great weekend option. Wear with a rugged pair of boots and a sturdy chore jacket.
San Francisco’s Levi’s is a name synonymous with denim. If it hadn’t been for this pioneering label, jeans as we know and love them today would simply not exist. This considered, you might expect Levi’s offerings to sit at the upper end of the pricing spectrum. However, the heritage label’s clothing is actually surprisingly affordable. Take the 501 for example – an icon within the world of menswear and they can be yours for as little as £65.
American brand Everlane prides itself on a crafting timeless, modern essentials. Falling firmly within that remit are jeans – a garment that can slot seamlessly into any wardrobe. The trouble is, Japanese denim isn’t usually all that cheap. Still, thanks to Everlane, it is possible to clad yourself in Nippon’s finest and still come away with some change.