The denim market has been flooded in the last 10 years. While Levi's still holds its role as mascot of the denim industry and luxury designers continue to produce overpriced denim offerings, "Premium jean" (jeans priced at above $100) startups, such as 7 For All Mankind, Citizens of Humanity, and Ernest Sewn to name a few, have infiltrated the market with niche styles and high fashion connections, and emerged with huge profits and expansion in the way of additional categories beyond denim that have allowed them to become powerful lifestyle brands.
7 For All Mankind is a great example. Started in 2002 in Los Angeles, their sales quickly climbed to $13 million dollars in their first year through both celebrity and media endorsements. Over the years, they have seen their offerings expand to product categories including women's, men's, and kid's sportswear, handbags, and footwear. A trip to Bloomingdales' No. 59 Metro is sure to convince you of both their denim domination as well as their growing sportswear and accessory presence.
For more aspirational brands like Gucci, Prada, and Armani, jeans have become an introductory item that serve to allow the consumer to feel a part of a larger luxury world while giving the brand the opportunity to splash their label and logo all over the behinds of their customers, effectively making them walking advertisements.
There has also been a demand for better quality, design, and materials in denim, prompting an increase in prices. While there are those denim devotees out there that are willing to spend upwards of $800 on a pair of jeans (coughBALMAINcough), I believe that it is entirely possible to find a great pair with an excellent fit and superior dye for anywhere from $40.
Below, I have assembled a collection of my four favorite pairs (dark and slim, just how I like em'). Personally, I would never spend more than $250 on denim, so you won't see any of those "hand ripped" or "limited edition dye" pairs here. That said, I am fully aware that $250 is a large sum to spend on a garment that has its roots in durable workwear, so I have a range. In addition, I follow a strict "no branding" policy (the less labels and logos the better), so all pairs depicted have little to none of it.
Of course, if you guys have an horror stories, suggestions, comments, or questions, let me know. I own a pair of each of these, so I would be happy to address any concerns.
Pro: Super comfortable, excellent fit, and no branding whatsoever
Con: Doesn't take wear too well (rips and holes will ensure with a few weeks of wear), and the price...
Pro: Comfort and durability
Con: Branding and minimal fading
Pro: Cheap, great fit, and no branding
Con: A little uncomfortable, but I'm sure they will break in with time
Pro: SUPER cheap and great fit
Con: Comfort is an issue and there is the classic Levi's swoosh and red tab on the back pockets