Jeans: Just Liking the Basics


We talk a lot about brands on this site. What’s in or what’s out, what the new trend is and what you should give up. Brands and labels do matter; sometimes to others but more often to us. There is a certain cache to having an Etro suit as opposed to a mere Jos. A Bank; not only is the quality usually better but so is the “check me out” factor. But does the brand always have to be front and center?

When it comes to clothing, especially dress and tailored clothing, you do usually get what you pay for. Creating a well made odd jacket, for example, takes the time and effort of an experienced tailor and will involve more expensive materials. The amount of skill needed to construct a hand rolled lapel alone is prohibitively expensive for most average consumers.

For those of us who feel that the benefits of such craftsmanship are well worth the expense, arguing over the perceived value of a label is a rather moot point. But what about traditionally less glamorous articles of clothing – like jeans?

I know there has been a lot discussion of late about the benefits of raw, vintage, selvage, destroyed and every other sort of designer denim. The very design of the jean pant has evolved dramatically over the past few years. In fact, many see denim as the next big design movement for men.

Here is my problem: I like basic jeans. As I am now closer to 40 than 30, my need for a jean wardrobe has diminished. I simply don’t wear them as much as I used to. While I have flexibility when it comes to what I can wear to the office, I prefer tailored clothing. And when it comes to jeans, I happen to like a basic, functional and classic design.

I’ve decided that Levi’s classic 505 jeans are right for me. Nothing fancy; no hand sanding or customized distressing. I don’t want to break in my jeans for three months or dote over them like an expectant father. Though I have very high standards when it comes to most of the wardrobe, jeans are the exception. To me, they are supposed to be basic and casual. Jeans are iconic because of their lack of embellishment and fussiness. The very functionality of jeans is what makes them so archetypal.

Surprisingly, this opinion has left me with an odd feeling of not being too cool. Everywhere I look, I see a growing cadre of men’s designer jeans that can cost three to four times as much as the plain old five-pocket classics I prefer. Am I out of the loop; out of touch with current trends and the truly stylish? Shouldn’t I want to pull on APC or 7 For All Mankind? What about Rag and Bone? For more than $200, shouldn’t they be so much better than plain old Levis’ ring spun cotton?

I have fretted over my lack of designer jean obsession; I mean, I can talk for hours about the nuances of jacket venting (double), cashmere versus merino (merino), and the ideal grey flannel trouser (Incotex). So, why not jeans?

After considering this case from a number of angles, I have found an answer that works for me: I don’t care; it’s just what I like. When it comes to jeans, I go for the basics. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the creativity and unique quality that designers jeans offer; I do.

But, as is common in matters of fashion, I have likes and dislikes that are particular to me. And though I have no problem paying a premium for certain things, the jeans that work for me are just average Levis. That’s what makes life interesting.


Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice


  1. And I thought I was the only one who didn’t understand the appeal of jeans. I have 2 pairs of levi’s in my wardrobe that are at least 10 years old, and that’s about it as far as jeans go.

  2. I never understood the fuss over designer jeans until I spent a couple of weekends last year trying on all the major brands. What I learned was that there is a massive difference from one brand to the next and that most guys would do well to discover this for themselves.

    If you find the right pair, as I did, you practically hear an orchestral fanfare as you’re pulling them on for the first time. Plus, Levis simply aren’t “dressy” enough to wear to a nice restaurant. My D&Gs are.

    Just an opinion. 🙂

  3. Orchestral fanfare? Well, with that kind of motivation, maybe I’ll check out some D&Gs.