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 Best Slim-But-Not-Too-Slim Jeans
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 Best Stretchy-But-Won't-Stretch-Out Jeans
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 Best OG Jeans
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 Best Soft-But-Sturdy Jeans
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 Best (Stealth) Budget Jeans
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.
5 More Jeans Under $100 We Love
J.Crew Mercantile "Driggs" slim fit jean
There's no frills to the 'Crew's wildly affordable "Driggs" jeans. In a sea of over-washed, shredded-up, and bleached jeans, these are refreshingly straightforward. From the brand's more affordable Mercantile line, these offer a slim-straight fit, 100% cotton body, and a sub-$40 price tag.
$35, J.Crew Mercantile "Driggs" slim fit jeanBuy Now
Polo Ralph Lauren "Sullivan" slim-fit jean
Ralph Lauren's slim cut Sullivan model is neither thigh-crushingly skinny nor baggy where you don't want them to be. They're available in a slew of washes and colors, but RL's black version is the best option, especially guys who don't usually wear black jeans. There's nothing punk about 'em, but they're edgier than basic blue.
$98, Ralph LaurenBuy Now
BDG side stripe "Dad" jean
Side-stripe jeans are all over the place right now, from the runways of Milan to your local mall. This pair hits on the trend in a subtler way (see the tonal stripes running down each leg) that ensures you can wear these tight now—and six months later when menswear changes direction once again.
$59, Urban OutfittersBuy Now
H&M Straight Slim Selvedge Jeans
With a light-but-not-too-light wash, a slightly slimmer cut, and a hint of stretch (just 1% elastane), this is the perfect easy-to-pull-off gateway dad jean for guys who are new to the trend.
$60, H&MBuy Now
Muji organic cotton stretch skinny jeans
On top of Muji's signature uncomplicated design, these pants come with some real-deal denim innovation: the brand added a sixth pocket designed specifically for your phone just above the back right pocket (just high enough so you won't sit on your expensive pocket computer).
$42, MujiBuy Now
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