What defines a great pair of jeans?
The simple answer: they make your ass look fantastic (and for guys, how it frames and fits your junk).
But once this primary and very necessary factor is out of the way, the answer becomes slightly more complicated.
There are seasons to consider, color, stitching, fade, quality…enough categories to make shopping for the most basic of dungarees seem nearly impossible.
At some point I may dedicate myself to a PHD level thesis on the ultimate pair of jeans, but because it’s winter, and frankly, because black is going to rule absolutely next fall/winter, I decided to compile a list of the very best black jeans available for guys. After searching far and wide, on four continents (fine, I didn’t go to Japan or Australia, but I looked at their offerings), I’ve narrowed it down to four finalists.
To be considered for this contest, jeans had to fit four criteria: There had to be little to no branding (bye bye Diesel, Obey, Evisu); the jeans had to be totally black, e.g. no fade, semi-fade, sheen, wash, or other terrible color scheme; they had to be 100 % denim—no blends or synthetics whether it be Lycra, spandex, polyester, or what have you; they had to be black.
So what’s so special about the brands below? Well, nothing exactly. With jeans less is more. The rewards come from what they’re lacking, leaving behind just perfect black jeans.
Filippa K, M. Samuel Black Denim ($140) – If I had to pick a winner out of these four, it would be Filippa K. If these jeans were people, they would be Russel Brand: confident, smart, and cheeky, if a little short on material. My one critique is that they’re a tad thin. They may need to be replaced before the others, but the nice side of this is that they wear in fairly quickly. They have tough, black stitching, zero branding anywhere (except a nearly invisible “Filippa K” on the rivets and buttons). They’re slim but not skinny, tight without strangling in the right places, and while low rise, business enough to tuck a shirt into without it looking silly.
By Robert James, Jet Black Wester Jean ($225) – with the heritage trend having reached its apex, I didn’t think a brand like By Robert James would make it into consideration, but these are some of the best jeans I’ve ever seen (and at this price they better be). Their only weakness is also their greatest strength: they are tough as a horse’s hide. It will take you weeks to break these buggers in, but once you do, you’ll have a friend for life. They’re made of Japanese raw stretch denim, which is sewn clean, then finished with chain stitch and reinforced with tough bar tacks and dome rivets at every stress point. Turn these inside out and you’ll see how much fuss can go into interior details.
Acne, Mic Ravens ($190) – Nominating Acne is an obvious choice, I know. They’re like a Michelle Williams nomination for Best Actress, or a James Cameron movie for Best Special Effects; it’s a no brainer. But did you see Blue Valentine? Those are some chops, and these are some jeans. They’re stronger than the Filippa K’s, without giving up much of the “give.” The only problem is the branding. They’ve stuck a leather patch with announcing themselves over the back pocket, which is unnecessary for the Swedish minimalists, as are the awkward clumps of grey stitching where the pockets attach. Not a huge deal, but noticeable.
Levi's, 501 Original Jeans ($60) – I cheated with these, in that I had them tailored. I hate “skinny” jeans, of which Levis makes several lines; I like normal jeans that fit slim guys. While Levi's doesn’t offer these, 501s, with a little tailoring, become exactly that. They have a near-perfect design (yes, there’s that patch above the pocket, but it comes off easily), are durable, and $60, or $80 with tailoring. They’re also classics, and you really can’t go wrong with a classic.