When shopping for jeans, quality is key. Not only will deluxe denim feel better, but it will last longer too. And while designer brands are more likely to invest in premium materials and fabric, that doesn't necessarily mean that you can't find expertly crafted jeans with a more affordable price tag. The trick is being able to spot the good stuff from the stuff that will tear at the seams (literally).
So what makes jeans high-quality, exactly? And how can you tell when you've found the perfect pair? To help you out, we've compiled the ultimate jeans shopping checklist to take with you the next time you're itching for some new denim.
Keep reading for our five tips on how to buy grade-A denim jeans.
01 A Heavier Fabric
It's all in the touch. Quality jeans are made from a stronger, heavier weight of denim. They should not only look luxurious but feel luxurious, too. So get your hands on the fabric when shopping. Generally speaking, apart from summer jeans, lightweight denim (i.e. anything below 12-ounces) may equate to a lower quality. Ask a salesperson for a jeans' denim weight if you can't find it on the label. And if you're shopping online, check to see if the fabric weight ("light," "medium," or "heavy") is listed in the detailed product description.
FYI: Heavier denim jeans may feel a bit stiff at first, but they'll eventually soften after a few wears. However, in case patience isn't one of your virtues, you can speed up the break-in process by simply soaking your jeans in a bath of vinegar and hot water.
The stitching around a jeans' hems, pockets, and side seams are telling of its quality. You're looking for a good, heavy stitch that won't pull, split or unravel under stress. Double-stitching (two rows of stitches placed close together) and chain-stitching (a looped stitch resembling the links of a chain) are both good signs that some extra TLC went into making the jeans. Still, a single row of stitches is fine, too, as long as it's done with a thick and durable thread.
To see if a pair of jeans has what it takes, give it the ol' durability test: Gently stretch it at the seams. If you see or hear threads pulling apart, well, you guessed it: poor construction, my friends. And in case you're shopping online, the zoom feature (if available) comes in handy to inspect stitching details.
If form-fitting comfort is the name of your jeans game, then bring on the stretch denim. When shopping for stretch, check the jeans label for the percentage of Lycra or Spandex in the fabric. You're looking for 2 percent max. The thing is, even though stretch jeans are made from fabric that's designed to pull and give, they should only stretch so far (unless they're jeggings, that is). As a general rule, 1 percent will give you just a hint of stretch for comfort, while 2 percent means a more giving fabric. Any more than that and you can expect the jeans to wear out, or become baggy. And since stretch jeans are meant to fit snugly, if you're between jean sizes, size down since this fabric may become looser after multiple wears.
Sometimes certain design features and materials on a pair of jeans can help you figure out if they're made to last. Take copper buttons and rivets, for instance. Seeing these little guys on a pair of jeans tells you that the brand has invested in making a well-constructed product.
A warning though: Don't get fooled by the fakers. Some knock-off labels have become experts in mimicking the styling of designer jeans. The very best denim brands and their imitators can both have jeans with contoured back pockets, for example, so it's always best to check a clothing's material rather than rely on design details alone. If you can't find this info on the jeans' label or website, proceed with caution. Typically, when a brand uses high-quality materials for its jeans, they will make it known.
Despite all of our wishing and prayers to the retail gods, designer jeans still don't come cheap. Sure, they may be the crème de la crème of denim, but does that really justify having to eat Cup O'Noodles for the next month in order to afford a pair? As an alternative, let designer denim be your quality compass.
Go ahead and have fun trying on a few pairs of designer jeans. Even if you don't intend on buying them, they will allow you to get an idea of what higher-quality denim feels like. Not gonna lie, this can be dangerous because, well, who walks away from perfect-fitting jeans? But if you've got the willpower, then you can take what you've learned in the fitting room and apply it to shopping quality mid-range labels. Iconic Levi's and eco-conscious Everlane are two of our all-time faves.