Your next go-to jeans won’t be hard to track down, nor will they break the bank. GQ's Best Stuff presents eight incredibly rad, impossibly cheap pairs, most of which you can pick up at your local mall.
For a few years there, trying to buy denim felt a lot like getting into fancy wines. Point of origin suddenly mattered: was the denim milled in Japan or America? There was confusing terminology to learn—raw, selvedge, ring spun—and a whole whack of weird rules to follow, like never washing your jeans for the first six months. Oh, yeah, and the price tags on these artisanal dungarees were not unlike what you’d find on a well-aged bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape: wallet-busting.
Thankfully, stylish dudes in the know have mostly moved on from that level of denim geekery. Jeans are back to just being jeans: knockabout, utilitarian, the kind of thing you can dress up on a dinner date or pull on for a hungover Sunday without a second thought. More corner store beer than fine wine. As long as they look good, who cares how much they cost? You think Dennis Hopper ever wondered if his jeans were chain-stitched by hand? Of course not!
These days, your chief considerations should be fit—look for pairs that are slim and slightly tapered through the leg—and the wash, which you’ll want to appear as natural as possible. That means no more Jersey Shore bleach-heavy fades, with all that uber-fake “whiskering” across the thighs. Instead, your jeans should look like you broke them in yourself—or be dark enough that you actually can break them in yourself. To give you a head start, we’ve tracked down five killer go-anywhere, do-anything pairs for under $100—nearly all of which you can pick up, right now, at your local shopping mall.
The Slim-But-Not-Too-Slim Pick
Gap slim fit jeans
Gap kicked off this whole “quality jeans at an inoffensive price” movement a decade ago, and they keep the party rolling with these medium-wash crowd pleasers. Worried you’ve got too much, ahem, “power” in your legs to squeeze into any of these slim-fit jeans? This pair was engineered to look great on the broadest range of body types: not too snug, not too loose. Not for nothing, there’s also a lived-in character to these jeans that’s hard to come by—they’ll feel like a familiar old fave right from the jump. That’s the denim equivalent of what NBA stat heads would call an “intangible.”
The Stretchy-But-Won't-Stretch-Out Pick
Everlane slim fit jeans
Jeans this uniformly dark are normally stiffer than moonshine and about as comfortable as a root canal. Thanks to a clever infusion of stretchy elastane, Everlane’s signature Japanese denim gives you that pristine indigo look—which cement these as the most office-appropriate pair of the bunch—without any of the sandpapery breaking-in period. By that same measure, they’re also surprisingly sag-resistant: you can wear them every day of the week, and they’ll never lose their flatteringly lean shape. Pair ‘em with a tweed blazer, knit tie and equally-crisp white sneakers for a fit that’ll take you from a meeting with your boss straight into happy hour.
The OG Pick
Levi’s 501 Taper
Would a denim roundup even be a denim roundup without a pair of Levi’s in the mix? The first name in jeans have taken their iconic 501s and modernized them juuuust a pinch—think less “painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa,” and more “putting free wifi in the Louvre.” The straight-leg silhouette has been brought in ever so slightly, hitting that ideal tailored middle ground between old-timey railroad worker and calf-circulation-averse emo frontman. Beyond that, you pretty much know what to expect here: five pockets, hardy denim (with a hint of stretch for comfort), au naturel wash that’ll look damn good with everything you own. Classic American jeans served up at a classic American price.
The Soft-But-Sturdy Pick
Abercrombe & Fitch "Langdon" slim jeans
Last summer, we were super stoked on Abercrombie’s signature white jeans, and with good reason: the denim was robust yet soft to the touch, the cut was trim but not tight, and the sub-$80 cost was all kinds of right. But you can’t wear white jeans all the time (unless, of course, you’re Andrew W.K.), which is where these come in. They’re the exact same jeans, only darker. Sub ‘em in for their alabaster cousins, and you’ll feel an instant rush of relief—no more splash-related anxiety every time you order soup.
The (Stealth) Budget Pick
Uniqlo slim fit selvedge jeans
Remember all those highfalutin denim details we mentioned up top? These guys actually come fully loaded with a bunch of them. Flip up the cuffs, and you’ll find selvedge—that’s the white-and-red striping running up the seams—and chain stitching, AKA those tiny loops of yellow thread along the circumference. Both are hallmarks of high quality (read: more expensive) jeans. Coupled with a convincing worn-in wash and perfect hip-hugging fit, they help to create the illusion of a jealousy-inducing vintage find. Only you have to know you got them brand new for less than 50 bucks.
3 More Jeans Under $100 We Love
Unbranded Brand UB201 Tapered Fit Indigo Selvedge Denim
The "Unbranded Brand" sinks all the savings they rack up from eschewing typical marketing campaigns into weighty, impenetrable Japanese denim that’s perfect for blocking out the wind on chilly days.
$82, The Unbranded BrandBuy Now
Cheap Monday Audiac Regular Taper Jeans
Overcome by a fit of Scandinavian minimalism? Sounds like it's time you copped some slim, black, Swedish-designed jeans.
$80, AsosBuy Now
BDG Hailstone Baggy Jean
A touch roomier than the rest, for those days you decide you deserve an extra-large pizza all to yourself.
$54, Urban OutfittersBuy Now
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