Men’s clothing has, by design, always remained more resilient to trends than womenswear. Consequently, some tend to think of the former as ‘boring’ — and to an extent, that’s true. Menswear focuses predominantly on the idea of ‘evolving’ a man’s wardrobe, usually through the addition of styles that are tried & tested. However, not all classics are impervious to change: one such item is the humble denim jean, which has evolved ever so subtly over the decades.
First designed by pioneering American clothier Levi Strauss — so as to help miners withstand the less-than-ideal conditions of their workplace — jeans by necessity had to be tough and comfortable. The style was revolutionary for its incorporation of copper rivets — used not only to reinforce points of stress, but the habits and lifestyle of the individual wearer. It didn’t take long for jeans to infiltrate pop culture: teenagers began adopting them as a symbol of rebellion, in an effort to emulate the disaffected heroes of The Wild One or Rebel Without A Cause.
The decades since have seen the introduction of flares (think Alessandro Michele’s Gucci circa 1970) and in more recent memory, the skinny jean revolution — instigated in 2001 by current Celine creative director, Hedi Slimane. In our guide to the best men’s jeans currently on the market, we stick to more classic silhouettes (i.e. straight or gently tapered), so as to leave you with a few more wardrobe essentials that will last for more than one season.
Levi’s Vintage Clothing 1947 501XX
It would be outrageous to begin this list without a pair of Levi’s iconic ‘501’ jeans. This version, produced by the brand’s premium diffusion label Levi’s Vintage Clothing, is made in a raw and rigid ‘selvedge’ denim. (The term comes from ‘self-edge’, used to describe denim that has been woven on old shuttle looms and then finished with tight fray-resistant edges.) Touted as the model that flatters all body types, the 501XX is an ideal choice for men looking to dip their toe in the proverbial denim pond without breaking the bank.
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The ‘710’ is the brainchild of Yoshiyuki Hayashi — one of the godfathers of the cult that is Japanese denim. Inspired by Levi’s beloved ’66’ configuration, the Resolute 710 features a slim-straight cut and subtle taper that’s accomplished by gently twisting seams near the leg opening. In contrast to conventional denim head wisdom, to achieve a desirable fade Hayashi recommends a shorter inseam and machine-washing on a cold cycle (once every five wears). Thanks to this denim’s slub and its subtle taper, this is a true all-rounder that’s fantastic with everything from tees to cordovan loafers. Be sure to size up as these run small.
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RRL Selvedge jeans
Inspired by Ralph Lauren’s own ranch in Colorado, the RRL diffusion brand has a decidedly frontier-led aesthetic. In this range, expect to find chunky hand-knit shawl cardigans, Navajo-inspired jewellery, along with an extensive range of very very good denim. As you’d expect from any RL label, every detail has to be painstakingly considered — given that these are the jeans most often favoured by the American icon himself. Not to detract from their core offering of rinsed dark denim, the washed versions convincingly ape the natural look and feel of an authentic vintage pair — minus the musk.
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Blackhorse Lane Ateliers NW3
Hailing from industrial East London, Blackhorse Lane Ateliers is, compared to some of the aforementioned brands, a newcomer to the denim scene — but its relative newness belies just how popular it is with enthusiasts. Founder Bilgehan ‘Han’ Ates has more than 25 years of experience in the textile industry, and can be found roaming around the factory floor on a daily basis. Fabrics are sourced from Japan, Turkey or Italy and each pair is proudly made right in the heart of London: featuring a distinctive one-piece fly construction that is durable and visually appealing. For those who prefer to pair their jeans with tailoring, the NW3 (cheekily named after a London postcode) is the clear choice, featuring a higher rise and roomier seat.
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