The Best Jeans for Men of 2020
The Levi's Men's 511 Slim are our tester's first choice for any situation. They have a remarkable range of motion and are incredibly comfortable to wear. The slim cut is professional and modern. Among all jeans with stretch fabric, the Levi's had the most durable material. While subjected to our abrasion test with sandpaper, neither the knee or hem developed significant wear. All of the components are of high quality, including the stitching and belt loops; the zipper also performed well. Our tester wore these to professional meetings and while instructing on an indoor rock wall and they looked and performed well in both settings.
Buyers looking for a classic or a boot cut to fit over work boots may not be satisfied with the slim, modern cut. The stretch fabric is remarkably durable, but it will not stand up to the durability of non-stretch denim. The material showed more wear than all other non-stretch options. These award winners are the best overall choice and meet the ideal compromise of style, function, and durability.
The Rustler Classic Regular 5 Pocket present a superb value. At nearly half the cost of others in our fleet, they are a classic cut, similar to the Levis Men's 505 Regular Fit. The fabric is quite stiff initially, but this translates to exceptional durability. The hem and knees had some color change during our abrasion testing but showed no signs of weakening. These pants become more and more comfortable the longer you wear them and are a lasting value.
The waist is quite narrow compared to other models; this creates some discomfort while sitting or squatting. While the fabric itself is strong, the components are not. The belt loops tore early in our durability testing, and the pockets are too small to be practical. The Rustler Classic is an excellent buy — great for folks looking for classic, no-frills options that are durable at an affordable price.
If you are looking for a pair of pants to wear on the job site or while working on home and garden projects, the Dickies Men's Relaxed Fit Straight-Leg Duck Carpenter is an exceptional choice. They feature a lightweight, duck fabric that is incredibly durable, showing almost no wear after abrasion testing and wear. The material is stiff but does not restrict motion while bending and squatting. The details make them well suited for work, and the utility pockets are sewn on sturdily — they are also large enough for tools or a carpenter's pencil. The hammer loop is sturdy and easily accessible.
For all the work-related details, some of the standard components are lacking. The zipper catches on almost every pull. The pants have very few belt loops, meaning that they tend to bunch up around and under a belt when sitting or bending over. The thick duck fabric will take some time to break in and be comfortable for everyday wear. The Dickies Carpenter are an excellent value for a pair of sturdy work pants that won't restrict your movement.
The Amazon Essentials Men's Slim-fit Stretch are incredibly comfortable and come in at a great price point. They feel like sweatpants when you first put them on, and the fabric is very soft. They do not have the incredible range of motion of the Levi's Men's 511s; however, they are very comfortable to move around in and are not restricting while squatting, sitting, bending, or walking. They have a modern, slim cut that can be worn in many settings.
The sizing on the Amazon Essentials is very different from other brands. The waist is very large for the listed size, while the length and thighs are both considerably smaller; this might create an issue is ordering and ensuring they will fit on your first try. The fabric is not the most durable in our fleet. During testing and wear, the knees began to show wear very quickly. The pants came with many loose threads on the hems and near the zipper, which may indicate some long-term durability issues. The belt loop stitching did tear during testing but did not completely fail. For a buyer looking for comfortable pants and not concerned with durability, these are a great buy.
The Levi's Men's 505 Regular Fit are an excellent buy for someone looking for a classic cut. These pants performed very well during our durability testing, barely showing any wear and tear during our tests or when subjected to sandpaper. The components are all high-quality. The zippers worked flawlessly, and the belt loops stood up to pull tests. The cut is perfect for anyone looking for a classic cut.
The only downside was the comfort level. The fabric is incredibly stiff, so during our range of motion testing, they began to chafe our testers. While wearing them to sit and work, we noted discomfort due to pinching on the waist (from the very stiff fabric); this did not change much as they were washed and worn. The 505 is perfect for anyone shopping for a classic look that will last.
The Carhartt Men's Relaxed Fit Tapered Leg are a decent option for folks looking for a long-lasting pair of pants that they can wear to do yard work and chores around the house. These Carhartt's stood up to the brand's hardworking reputation, showing limited wear during the durability testing. The zipper belt, loops, and color performed admirably during our hands-on testing.
These pants had a minimal range of motion. They were great for moving heavy, abrasive items around or some yard work, but were quite restrictive during squatting movements. The cut also leaves something to be desired, and style wise, were not our favorite of the bunch. The legs are tapered, making the silhouette a bit odd and challenging to get on and off. These pants will, however, be an optimal buy for anyone looking for a long-lasting workhorse for around the house.
Featuring a high waist and boot cut, the Wrangler Cowboy Cut Original Fit are immediately recognizable due to their distinctive western style. The material is high-quality, standing up to all of our durability testing. The high waist means that despite a tight fit, the pants are relatively comfortable to sit in and walk around in.
The components of these Wranglers, unlike the fabric, did not perform as well. The pockets are incredibly shallow, and the zipper frequently caught during testing; it also did not stay in place during wear. The belt loops began to tear, though they did not entirely fail during testing. The fabric did not seem to soften during wear or washing, which may lead to day in and day out discomfort; however, they may become more comfortable after an extended period. These jeans are a good buy for someone looking for durability and western flair.
The Wrangler Authentics Classic 5-Pocket Regular Fit Flex are incredibly comfortable to wear. The fabric is soft and almost reminiscent of the favorite pair of pants you've worn for years. The stretch fabric is not restrictive, and they performed very well in our range of motion testing.
The components were not very impressive, as the belt loops tore off with one tug. The zipper did not perform well, and the soft fabric had a downside. Holes developed quickly from abrasion. The flex fabric quickly stretched out. The stretch of the fabric and the cut made them look very casual, so these pants wouldn't be our first pick to wear to work, either at the office or a job site. These comfortable pants are a good pick for someone who values comfort and doesn't need to impress with fashionable looks.
The LEE Regular Fit Straight Leg are great pants to sit in. The cut and style make them appropriate for a casual Friday at the office or meeting up with friends. The cut and stretch fabric makes them exceedingly comfortable to sit in, and the material had the softest feel of any materials we tested.
These LEE did not do great in our range of motion testing, riding up at the thighs and down the back, making them fairly uncomfortable. While testing for abrasion, the fabric quickly developed holes. We wouldn't recommend these for someone who needs pants that can do hard work or constant motion. These are a good buy for the consumer looking for a comfortable style for the office environment.
Why You Should Trust Us
Bix Firer is a professional outdoor educator who has worked instructing rock climbing, backpacking, and facilitating outdoor experiences for over a decade. Bix directs a college outdoor program, training aspiring outdoor professionals and leading them, from the classroom, to the climbing wall, to the backcountry. Consequently, Bix needs clothes that can transition from professional to outdoors.
Our testing took place on the job and while tending to projects on Bix's small urban homestead. The jeans were exposed to significant testing and wear while in professional contexts, at work on a rock wall and hauling rafts, and in the garden.
Analysis and Test Results
We believe that jeans can best be assessed based on five key metrics: comfort, durability, range of motion, components, and sizing. Thus, we developed metrics and scoring associated with each of these critical metrics to objectively compare the nine pairs we tested. These metrics and their comparison give you, the consumer, the information you need to best meet your needs and budget.
We believe jeans are meant to be worn all day and for various occasions. To test comfort, we considered the weight of the fabric; we also took into account its stretch, how stiff it was, and how each pair felt while sitting and moving. We noted pinch spots and hot spots during motion and compared them to each other.
The Amazon Brand - Amazon Essentials Slim-Fit Stretch was easily the most comfortable option right out of the package. These pants felt soft and already broken in. There was no chafing or pinch points during our range of motion testing or while sitting for extended periods. The loose waisted cut made it easy to forget we were even wearing them. The Levi's 511 Slim were the runner up, asthe stretch fabric and quality materials were comfortable against the skin and easy to move in. The Wrangler Authentics Classic 5-Pocket Regular Fit Flex had excellent fabric and a loose fit, and the pre-worn feel made them very comfortable.
Jeans balance durability by increasing the stiffness and thickness of their fabric, and by balancing stretch. We tested durability through everyday wear and abrasion tests. Each pair was abraded 100 times on the inner seam and on the knee to see how well they stood up to wear and tear. After our testing concluded, it was clear that the Dickies Relaxed Fit Straight-Leg Duck Carpenter were the highest performer. In both wear for work and during our abrasion testing, the Dickies showed very little sign of wear and tear.
The Levi's 505 Regular Fit was the second-best in this category, standing up to our testing the best of any non-duck fabrics. The fabric showed little wear from abrasion testing, and the color stood up, with no obvious wear when doing work in the garden. The Carhartt Relaxed Fit Tapered Leg, Rustler Classic Regular 5 Pocket, and Wrangler Cowboy Cut Original Fit all tied in the durability metrics. These pants all showed a little wear, but not much, after 100 passes with sandpaper on the hem and knee.
Range of Motion
A decent range of motion is essential at work and for play. We tested their range of motion by doing a series of squats, lunges, and bends, noting any discomfort, pinching, or chafing. We then sat in each pair for two hours and wore them while working. The Levi's 511 Slim were the top performer in range of motion. The 511 jeans were so comfortable and allowed for an exceptional range of motion; in fact, our tester wore them rock climbing, and noted no restriction in motion.
The Amazon Essentials Slim Fit Stretch performed well in our range of motion testing, but due to their tighter slim cut, were more restrictive. For a more classic jean cut, the Wrangler Authentics Classic 5-Pocket Regular Fit Flex had excellent range of motion and tied with Dickies Relaxed Fit Straight-Leg Duck Carpenter, the only non-stretch jean to be a top scorer in range of motion tests.
A great variety in the quality of the components existed across the men's jeans we tested. We test zipper quality on each pair by rapidly using the zipper 100 times. We also tested belt loop quality by stressing the belt loops, tugging 100 times or until failure. The testers examined the stitching upon delivery, to determine if there was fraying or loose stitching. The Levis 505 Regular Fit had the best component parts; the YKK zipper worked flawlessly, the belt loops did not tear, and all stitching was high quality.
The runner up was Levi's 511 Slim, which showed excellent stitching, no wear on the belt loops, but did come with a slightly less robust Levi's brand zipper. Tied for runner up was the Carhartt Men's Relaxed Fit Tapered Leg.
Sizing jeans is key to making sure that you get the right fit each time. While a great variety exists due to cut and stretch fabrics, we tried to find consistency in sizing, using our preferred waist and inseam as the standard. We measured the waist and length of each pair, checking from variation from the advertised waist and inseam. We also checked for stretch during wear and looked for significant shrinking following washing.
The Levi's 511 Slim Jeans were one of our favorite pairs, as its stretch fabric stayed true to size throughout wear and washing. They also measured closest to the standard size. The Wrangler Cowboy Cut Original Fit measured true to size and did not stretch significantly during wear or shrink during washing. While they were a bit long in the inseam, this helped with the higher waisted western cut.
The Carhartt Relaxed Fit Tapered Leg Jean measured very close to standard sizing, but the waist made them feel a bit short. However, they were a close runner up in sizing.
Jeans are the do-everything pant. They can take us from the worksite to the office and from home projects to a casual hike. The variety of styles, cuts, and fabrics available means that the consumer is faced with many choices. Our comprehensive testing for comfort, durability, range of motion, components, and sizing provide you with the information to know which pair will fit your use and budget.
— Bix Firer