Give or take a wash here or a rip there, jeans tend to look suspiciously similar on first take. Jeans are just jeans, right? They go with everything, whatever the price tag. Can’t go wrong.
Unlike a bad piece of knitwear, which instantly looks alien if it doesn’t suit you, a bad pair of jeans has the sinister ability to sartorially cockblock you, rendering all your outfits unsuccessful – but they do it on the down low. The same pair that looked promising on the shelf can instantly bestow bow legs on their wearer the moment the zip’s drawn up and the button fastened. Sneaky.
But that doesn’t mean you have to spend $500 on Japanese raw selvedge jeans to avoid dodgy denim. Budget retailers have enough fits, washes and styles at their disposal to make sure the trousers you live in on the weekend don’t sabotage your style.
In a hurry? Here are our top picks for affordable jean brands that combine style with unbeatable value.
What To Look For In A Pair Of Jeans
It’s hard to pin down specifically what makes the perfect pair of jeans, given that there are a lot of body variables at play. Carl Malmgren, creative director at Swedish denim brand Cheap Monday, has some universal advice that applies in all cases though. He says: “The fit should come before everything else. When you try on jeans, you instantly feel that they fit or they don’t.”
If you’re shopping the old-fashioned bricks-and-mortar way you’ve got no excuse, and if you’re shopping online, order multiple options and send the bad ones back. In overused reality TV cliche catchphrase speak: go with your gut. Are they just right at the waist or are they mercilessly cutting into your hips? Are their hems kissing the tongues of your shoes or are puddles of fabric where your feet once were? You know best.
Once you’ve got the perfect jeans for your body type, look for hallmarks of quality, starting with those metallic rivets, which aren’t just for decoration. They’ll increase the strength of your denim’s wear, so make sure the pointy stubs are on all of your front pockets. Check the care label too. The fabric composition should be as close to 100 per cent cotton as possible, allowing for a small percentage of elastane for stretch varieties. An increase in non-natural fibres usually means a decrease in lifespan.
The weight of your denim (how much each yard of fabric used for the jeans weighs) is key for a long and happy life, too. Lightweight denim is around 12oz whereas heavyweight denim clocks in at 16oz (or more). Heavier denim won’t wear as easily and is less likely to lose its shape – provided you’re not attempting Tough Mudder in your jeans.
For our money, these are the places where you’ll find cheap jeans that require low spending power but offer plenty of staying power. So there’s absolutely no excuse for leg twinning with your dad.
The Best Brands For Affordable Jeans
Marks & Spencer
High-street stalwart Marks & Spencer may not be best known for its jeans, but once you get past the sturdy outerwear and soft knits you’ll find classic denim with a few mod-cons under the hood (water repellent, stretch-fit) which are ideal for laid-back, low-fuss style. There’s a good selvedge selection, too.
Gap made its name on denim, chinos and hoodies, so it stands to reason that those jean-etics are still the lifeblood of this stateside store’s offering. Divided into five shape blocks and multiple washes, the budget-friendly brand has got its sights set on the denim gap in your wardrobe, and produces selvedge for the most discerning legs.
Asket forgoes the traditional retail mark-up on their products and provides full transparency when it comes to their pricing. Because of this model, their Japanese raw denim is a fraction of the market price, as are the rest of their affordable jeans. Talk about a sound investment.
Japan and denim go together like cheese and wine, but if your budget doesn’t stretch to artisanal brands, head to Japanese retailer Uniqlo for high-quality jeans under $50. The brand’s precisely cut, hardy denim (raw and selvedge included) will quickly form the backbone of your weekend wardrobe, and leave you with enough spare cash to actually spend on the weekend, too.
BoohooMan has long had the affordable, trend-led menswear niche nailed, but now the e-tailer nipping at the heels of high-street competitors with a premium range that ups the quality but keeps the price low. Case in point is its designer distressed denim: looks spenny, really isn’t.
For much of the past decade Topman was the undisputed king of super-skinny denim, which may have been eye-watering to wear but didn’t carry an eye-watering price tag. You’ll still find reasonably priced slimline shapes in its roster, but now there’s a lot more diverse denim trends to dig into, too, including wider legs.
Any man who’s a fan of non-boring, accessibly priced menswear will be familiar with River Island. While the retailer’s trend-led pieces may catch the eye, don’t overlook its sturdy denim collection, which punches well above its price tag thanks to its diverse design and reliable quality.
Stating the obvious klaxon: you can find just about anything to wear in H&M and none of it will require a diet of beans and toast to afford. The Swedish juggernaut’s cheap jeans offering is no exception, clocking up a dizzying array of designs which offer that fabled mix of quality, affordability and style. Look out for innovative stretch fabrics and real selvedge denim for less than $50.
We’re continually surprised at just how huge (and financially friendly) ASOS’ inventory is, so if you don’t know where to start, we’d suggest having a look at the e-tailer’s ever-evolving jeans edit. In typical ASOS fashion, there’s no style missing; if you can see a blind spot, we’ll eat our raw denim jeans.
Yes, we appreciate a strategically placed zip and a perfect enzyme wash as much as the next denimhead, but first and foremost we’re always on the lookout for jeans made from tougher stuff. In keeping with its reputation for producing durable, functional clothing, Carhartt’s collection of robust jeans is our first port of call for styles that will stand up to some rough and tumble.
Style-conscious but cash-strapped? New Look’s got your legs covered with its denim range, which ticks off pretty much every taste, fit and colour. So whether you’re looking to rock pared-back or pumped-up jeans, you’ll still have enough change to stick in your five pockets.
Recognizing the fact that denim is the workhorse of any modern wardrobe, the international brand Urban Outfitters set out to create jeans that are designed to be lived in through their in-house denim label BDG. The result is solid all-rounder styles that will quietly upgrade your everyday looks without requiring half a month’s rent upfront.