This article is part of the Bespoke Guide to Denim.
There's no shortage of options out there for denim. If you want good stuff, though -- quality fabric, thought-through details, and precision fits -- only a select few deserve your hard-earned cash.
For the lower end, we put together several options that look great and won't break the bank. Keep in mind, though, that there's a reason so many of these labels charge so damn much for a pair of jeans: selvedge and raw denim (head to our denim encyclopedia if you're not sure what that means) ain't cheap. It's made in much smaller runs from higher quality cotton compared to mass-market stuff, so the resulting jeans look inky and sharp but cost a bit more.
That said, you can score great quality without emptying your wallet from several of the below labels, all of whom make good stuff. Find one that resonates with you, pick up a new pair, and get to breaking them in.
The OG of the denim world with a huge selection of affordable options.
A great entry point for newcomers to the raw selvedge game with simple, relatively inexpensive offerings.
The Japanese retail giant that's swept the US with sharp, simple, and dirt cheap wardrobe basics. Their denim is affordable and the slimmer fits look stylish, but the quality isn't on par with pricier labels.
A Kickstarter project that developed into a brilliant, low-cost denim operation. Gustin chooses selvedge fabric samples of all kinds and colors, some of them with seriously cool details that you won't find anywhere else. You pick the one you like and order your fit of choice: straight, slim, or skinny. Once there are enough orders for a given fabric, the jeans go into production and you get a pair of low-cost, high-quality selvedge denim in a couple months.
Affordable and easy to find, with surprisingly modern slim fits. They've even got some pricier selvedge offerings.
The label's other high-end line that reproduces designs from their extensive archive with modern-day premium denim.
The king of minimalist raw selvedge denim, with iconic slim and skinny fits called the New Standard and Petit Standards, respectively.
They're known for their attention-grabbing options, like absurdly heavy 32 ounce jeans and glow in the dark fabrics, along with a wide range of simpler selvedge fabric options.
Their denim is just like the rest of their men's line: impressively fashion-forward options for the American everyman. The 484 fit is universally flattering, and they stock premium pairs of raw and/or selvedge denim in addition to a rotating lineup of both classic and on-trend washes. However, the quality isn't as high as the price may lead you to believe: they're a bit light and prone to frustrating levels of stretch, so size down or be prepared to spend a few bucks tailoring the waist back down to size after a few weeks of wear.
An Americana-driven label with carefully sourced denim from both Japan and the U.S., and '50s-era fits for a vintage appeal.
A swedish label whose high-end jeans helped ignite the premium denim obsession back in the mid-2000's.
Pure badass style for downtown types. Their denim isn't selvedge, but it does have a soft, quality feel.
A homegrown Kansas City operation and favorite of the men's fashion world with spot-on fits and classic washes.
A higher-end Levi's line with higher quality materials and production plus a trendier aesthetic.
Quality American manufacturing and a simple lineup of classic raw selvedge options.
Their raw denim comes in two simple fits and a range of weights, in addition to a strong lineup of other jeans with interesting tweaks.
A very strong menswear newcomer with lightweight selvedge options in a beautiful range of washes.
A Manhattan shop where you can build your own pair from the ground up. If you've got the cash, that is -- a bespoke pair starts at a jaw-dropping $1,200. They've also got ready-made and meticulously sourced raw selvedge options, but they're still far from cheap.
Under the helm of Hedi Slimane, the fashion designer who almost single-handedly started the skinny jean trend while at Dior, Saint Laurent makes super slim jeans with serious rock 'n' roll swagger along with the rest of their ultra luxe fashion line. Unfortunately for those of us who aren't rock stars, their take will run you $450… and up.
A cult favorite Japanese label that puts an obsessive level of detail into their cotton yarns and all the finer points of sewing 'em up.