My jeans absoutely, positively do the hardest work in my closet. When we’re not experiencing extreme temperatures, I wear them four or five—even seven—days a week. Usually I wear the same pair, day in and day out.
For me, I find it most helpful to have a pair or two of well-fitting skinny jeans in my dresser drawer. I prefer a mid-rise waist that’s not so high that I feel like I can’t breathe, but that’s high enough to complement a slightly cropped or tucked-in shirt. For length, I tend to opt for something that hits just around my ankle.
Writing about clothes always comes down to a matter of taste. And when it comes to finding a favorite pair of jeans, it’s clear that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. These days, my go-to is a pair of skinny jeans with enough stretch that I don’t spend the day hyperventilating or feeling like my thighs might soon go numb. Someone else might be perfectly at home poured into in a pair of stretch-free vintage Levi’s. And surely there are others for whom easy, breezy, flares or broken-in boyfriend jeans are their preferred look.
Particulars aside, I think there’s commonality to be found in the satisfaction of finding a truly great pair of blue jeans. When I find a favorite pair, I tend to wear them until they can’t be worn anymore. I had a pair of jeans in high school that I wore so thoroughly that the entire bottom fell out and had to be patched. When the patches also gave up, I resorted to wearing them with a pair of black spandex underneath.
I think the most helpful approach to jean shopping is to find out what generally works for me, and to put my energy toward finding something similar. If I cast too wide a net, I finish with a pile of jeans that are only so-so.
I appreciate that buying premium denim isn’t a choice that every can—or wants to—make. But I have found a distinct difference in quality, fit, and staying power of premium denim. And besides all of that, the shopping experience itself has often been more pleasant. Premium denim is usually sold according to waist size and not an obscure number system that can fall easy victim to vanity sizing and the whims of individual brands.
Most helpful, I’ve found that many of the premium denim brands offer consistent fit and quality. And the consistency means being able to search for discounted pairs on Ebay or in thrift stores and actually having success.
As always, I try to opt for jeans that have been made with workers and the environment in mind. I do my best to take good care of my jeans so that they last as long possible. There’s a lot of debate about how to best care for jeans. I typically opt for the wash infrequently/inside out/in cold water/hang dry approach and save a few pairs that got stretched beyond repair in pregnancy, I’ve had most of my jeans for years (and years, and years.)
Here are a few favorites and a few new-to-me folks who look like they’re doing things right:
J. Brand: I’ve been lucky to snag a few pairs of J. Brand jeans on deep discount over the years. Their 811 Skinny Stretch Jeans are my personal favorite, but I also have a pair of looser, less stretchy, selvage denim jeans of theirs (not sure what style!) that I really loved. Made in the USA.
Frame Denim: Their Le Skinny de Jeanne is the latest clothing purchase I’ve made (pictured!). I turned two pairs of jeans into shorts this summer when I reconciled with the fact that they just weren’t going to unstretch post-pregnancy, and these have felt like a solid, hardworking replacement. Made in the USA.
Paige Denim: I found a black pair of these on a whim during a frantic hunt for wedding-appropriate shoes at a discount store a few years ago and have loved them. I think the ones that I have are the Transcend Verdugo Ultra Skinny Jeans (or similar). (I’m wearing them here and here.) Made in the USA.
Imogene and Willie: I’ve never tried on a pair of these jeans, but I really admire their small-scale, their use of selvage denim, and the all-around attention to detail that the brand has committed itself to. If I’m ever in Nashville, I’d love to try on the Imogene Indigo for size. (Also available on Zady.) Made in the USA.
DSTLD Jeans: This company touts its high standards and relative low cost. I can’t vouch for the quality, but the price point is a little easier to swallow than some of the other jeans on this list. Made in the USA.
Good Society: These guys pride themselves on making carbon-neutral jeans from organic cotton. Their women’s line looks promising, but it only appears to be available overseas. On my radar! Made in Italy. Organic Cotton.
Nudie Jeans Co.: For an organic option, I’m intrigued by this company. The jeans are marketed as unisex but the website only uses male models, so I’m not positive what the fit might be like. Organic cotton. Check out their production guide.
In case you’re curious, here’s the 411 on selvage (AKA selvedge) denim. And here’s a nice little history of denim. If you have jeans that it’s time to reliquinsh, check out Blue Jeans Go Green. They turn blue jeans into housing insulation for communities in need.
The rest of the minimalist wardrobe posts are right HERE.