It’s difficult to overstate the role of a good pair of jeans in the modern man’s wardrobe. These simple denim trousers have been on the scene for 150 years and have spent more than half of that time as the world’s default casual legwear. Beyond formal settings, there’s nowhere they’re unwelcome, and as the years tick by and dress codes become more relaxed, their territory continues to expand.
Something this integral to your day-to-day looks deserves some real thought. There are countless colours, fits, styles and price brackets to pick from, not all of which will work for everyone.
To help you make an informed choice, we got hands-on with some of the best men’s jeans currently on the market and left our thoughts on each below.
We tested a range of styles and cuts – from slim to relaxed, stonewash to selvedge – while making sure to include the best possible options for every budget.
The criteria was simple: all of the jeans we tested had to look great, fit well, and balance quality and durability with value for money. In other words, if they were expensive, they had to be able to justify the price tag with their materials and craftsmanship. These were the jeans that ticked every box.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best men’s jeans for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Uniqlo selvedge regular fit jeans: £34.90, Uniqlo.com
- Best for your first pair of raw-denim jeans – A.P.C. petit standard: £145, Mrporter.com
- Best for balancing comfort and quality – Edwin ed-55 regular tapered jeans: £104, Edwin-europe.com
- Best for a high-quality, everyday option – Asket stone bleach washed jeans: £115, Asket.com
- Best for the original and best – Levi’s original 501: £100, Levi.com
- Best for the great outdoors – Patagonia performance twill jeans: £90, Patagonia.com
- Best for the environment – Mud extra easy fair selvedge jeans: £139, Mudjeans.eu
- Best for summer – Cos regular fit jeans: £59, Cosstores.com
Uniqlo selvedge regular fit jeans
These selvedge jeans from Uniqlo represent astounding value for money. They have a classic, regular cut that won’t date easily, and they look and feel far more expensive than they actually are. The fabric is left unwashed (or “raw”) too, which means it will fade in interesting and unique patterns the more it’s worn.
Selvedge is a type of denim woven on a special piece of machinery that leaves a crisp, neat edge to the fabric. It’s usually finished with a white and red line which is visible when the jeans are cuffed. Ordinarily, selvedge denim is something that tends to go hand in hand with premium price tags and is rarely found for under £100, let alone £50. That’s what makes these jeans such a steal.
A.P.C. petit standard
Best: For your first pair of raw-denim jeans
Parisian label A.P.C. is always a reliable option when it comes to stylish, premium wardrobe staples – it has a particularly good reputation for jeans. The brand is often talked about as a sort of gateway into the world of raw denim, working with high-quality Japanese fabric, but keeping prices more accessible than many of the specialist American and Japanese brands.
The petit standard is A.P.C.’s bestselling style, and for good reason. The cut is slim, straight and subtle, and the denim is relatively quick to break in. They’re extremely versatile too, and can be easily dressed up or down depending on the situation.
One thing to bear in mind is the lack of room in the upper legs. If your thighs are relatively wide, you might want to consider the more relaxed new standard model instead.
Edwin ed-55 regular tapered jeans
Best: For balancing comfort and quality
These jeans are one of the most popular styles from Edwin, a Japanese brand that has managed to infiltrate mainstream menswear while maintaining a devoted cult following of serious denim heads. They feature a regular tapered cut, which we found to be relaxed and comfortable without feeling baggy, and which makes the jeans extremely versatile. The 13.5oz denim is nice and soft too, so if you’re looking for some “proper denim” that won’t leave you feeling like you’re wearing cardboard, this could be a good option.
Asket stone bleach washed jeans
Best: For a high-quality, everyday option
At £115, these stone-washed jeans from Asket aren’t the cheapest out there, but we’d say they go above and beyond their price tag in terms of quality. We’ve tested jeans that were twice as expensive but not even half as well put together. They’re made in Italy from Italian ringspun denim and are surprisingly soft to the touch. We also loved the tapered fit, which is roomy and comfortable in the seat and thighs, but without being overly baggy around the leg opening.
Levi’s original 501
Best: For the original and best
If you want to buy a pair of jeans with confidence, where better to take your money than to the brand that invented them in the first place? Levi’s has been making its original 501 jeans for almost 150 years, in which time they’ve barely changed a stitch. We’re glad, because these are the original and best, and all these years later they still look great. We’re big fans of the straight-leg cut and classic shape and found that there was no casual outfit they wouldn’t gel with.
Patagonia performance twill jeans
Best: For the great outdoors
When you think of Patagonia, it’s probably fleeces, waterproofs and outdoor gear that comes to mind first – certainly not jeans. However, the Californian brand applies the same environmental and ethical standards to denim as it does to the rest of its offering.
Strictly speaking, these particular trousers aren’t actually jeans at all; they’re more like chinos in disguise. Still, opting to cut out the traditional indigo dyeing process involved in denim manufacture has allowed Patagonia to make these “jeans” much more eco-friendly than their denim counterparts. They’re also made with organic cotton and are Fairtrade-certified stitched, which means you can feel a little bit better about your purchase.
Mud extra easy fair selvedge jeans
Best: For the environment
As much as we all love jeans, it’s important to address the elephant in the room: this type of legwear is far from brilliant for the environment. Dyeing pollutes local waterways, the cotton used requires lots of nasty pesticides and producing a single pair uses up huge amounts of water and energy. That’s why we’re big fans of what Mud is doing.
Mud recycles old jeans, uses organic cotton and employs innovative dyeing techniques that use far less water. You can even lease these jeans instead of buying and exchange them for a new pair when they’re getting worn out. Mud then recycles your old pair, keeping the materials in a closed loop.
The jeans themselves come in a number of fits, but we love the extra easy model, which is loose-fitting and relaxed. We’re big fans of the “dusty dry” finish too, which gives the jeans a lived-in feel without resorting to exaggerated fade marks or rips. Plus, they’re made with selvedge denim, which gives them a premium look.
Cos regular fit jeans
Best: For summer
It’s always handy to have some light-coloured legwear on hand when the weather warms up. It’s better at deflecting the heat than traditional indigo denim and it’s great for styling with summer clothes.
This pair from Cos has a contemporary fit that boasts a roomy upper leg and a narrow-ish ankle. Cos calls it a regular fit but we’d say it’s more of an extreme taper. Whatever you want to call it, it looks great and lends itself nicely to loose-fitting summer shirts, oversized tees and slouchy overshirts. Perfect for summer weekends and beyond.
The verdict: Men’s jeans
It’s hard to find something bad to say about a pair of selvedge jeans for less than £35, which is why Uniqlo’s selvedge regular fit jeans are our best buy. They look great, fit great and outshine many pairs of jeans that are triple the price. If you can afford to spend a little more, we’d point you in the direction of Asket’s stone bleach washed jeans and A.P.C.’s A.P.C. petit standard jeans, both of which offer great mid-range options that are high quality and endlessly versatile.
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