Denim jeans, as we all know them today, were invented in 1871 by a man named Jacob W. Davis in a partnership with San Francsico based firm, Levi Strauss & Co. Patented in 1873, these garments were originally intended primarily for the working man, with a lean especially toward cowboys and miners. The chief difference between these “blue jeans” and their lesser denim predecessors is that these ones are reinforced with metal rivets – a characteristic that gave them a well-earned reputation for being incredibly tough by comparison. And they’ve maintained that reputation ever since.
People seem to forget that these staples of style and fashionable utility were born out of American hard work and ingenuity. And many brands have not maintained the garments’ USA DNA, taking much of their manufacturing business overseas for cheaper prices – and, by proxy, inferior quality. But there are a handful of brands across this great nation that continue to craft jeans with the same attention to detail and pioneer spirit out of which they were originally born. To be clear: there are a few American made brands who source their denim from across the pond but, though there isn’t anything inherently wrong with Japanese denim (in fact, we’re big fans), we wanted to make sure our list only included jeans whose denim comes from somewhere in the 50 states. The following 12 pairs of jeans are what we believe to be the best examples of American made denim pants on the market today.
Buck Mason Standard Fit Jean
Founded by Erik Schnakenberg and Sasha Koehn in Los Angeles in 2013, Buck Mason is a brand not born out of a love for fashion or style, but rather a respect for heritage, honesty, and timelessness – all traits that are exemplified in their clothing. They’ve endeavored to create garments free of unnecessary bells and whistles, instead imbuing their products with the kind of simplicity and functionality that will last for generations. These 5-pocket true-to-size jeans, which are constructed of 12 ounce Cone Mills raw denim, are made entirely in the USA and sewn in Los Angeles.
Whiskey Grade Flatfront Traveler Jean
With brick and mortar retail shops in both Los Angeles, California and Cleveland, Ohio, Whiskey Grade is a brand heavily influenced by and imbued with the DNA of the road-going, motorcycle riding, American traveler’s spirit. They seek to be a benchmark of quality, creating products that aren’t just stylish and functional, but will age beautifully and continue to grow better with time “[…] like a broken-in baseball glove […] or cast iron.” Their Flatfront Traveler Jeans were inspired by a pair of 1930s farmers pants and feature the same easily-accessible horizontal pocket, a removable “courtesy flap,” and a slight curve in the leg for seated comfort that make these jeans both uniquely functional and a stand-out garment.
Stovall & Young The Martin Copper Stitched
Lifelong best friends Sean Patrick Stovall and Chris Young started their brand, Stovall & Young, when the pair realized a tremendous void in the world of denim where there should have been American made and sourced products. Having felt duped and cheated when they discovered a pair of Chinese made jeans brandishing an American flag label, they took it upon themselves to start the company whose products they had wanted to find. Sourcing their denim from White Oak Cone Mills in Greensboro, North Carolina, Stovall & Young make their products out of San Francisco, California – like The Martin Copper Stitched jeans, which feature a zipper fly, a selvage belt loop, and a smart phone sized coin pocket.
Taylor Stitch The Democratic Jean
Another brand out of the birthplace of modern blue jeans, San Francisco, Taylor Stitch was created with the intention of producing well-made sophisticated clothing without the obscene price tags and pretentiousness of high-fashion designer brands and shops. They’re proud to say that their products are overbuilt, as they believe that regardless of what your day might include, you should be confident in the fact that your clothing can weather it. And their Democratic Jeans are an exemplification of those ideals. Made from 13.5 ounce Cone Mills ’68 custom selvage denim and featuring YKK copper shanks and rivets, a button fly, and a heavyweight Wicket and Craig leather patch, these California made jeans are perfectly suited to the American spirit from which they were born.
Bluer Denim M10 Classic Straight
Bluer is a stand-out company simply for the fact that every fabric and adornment they use on their clothing, from start to finish, is entirely sourced in the United States of America. They don’t just have a “USA made line,” nor are their American-crafted products built from overseas fabrics. Boasting parts and labor from Oregon, Georgia, North Carolina, and California, these jeans have seen more of the States than many natural-born citizens – and their character matches. These straight leg jeans fit like a Levi’s 501, but you never have to check to make sure that they are truly American.
Left Field NYC Chelsea Jean
Christian McCann, the founder of Left Field NYC, started his company back in 1998 – at perhaps the height of the time when American made products were a shocking rarity and most brands outsourced to China, India, and so forth. Inspired by the quality and craftsmanship of the past, the brand grew from “small shotgun apartments and lofts throughout Brooklyn” into the lauded garment creators they are today. And their quality has never been compromised. Named for the famed hotel of the same name, these Chelsea selvage denim jeans are built with American made Universal hardware, bandana pocket bags, and hidden rivets on the back pockets.
Tellason Ladbroke Grove
The company name a portmanteau of the surnames of founders Tony Patella and Pete Searson, Tellason is a San Francisco based clothing brand so loyal to their city that they are willing to make the claim that they’ll make jeans there and only there, “forever.” Having begun in 2008/09, these folks have been making uncompromisingly high quality denim products for a little shy of a decade, but the heirloom quality of their garments is unmistakable. Such is the case with their Cone Mills Ladbroke Grove Jeans – which feature a Tanner Goods patch, extra heavy pocket bags, and a button fly.
Freenote Rio Slim Straight
At the most southwestern end of Orange County, California, in the small seaside town of San Juan Capistrano, The Brodrick brothers (Matt and Andrew) started Freenote – a menswear brand intended to embrace and embody the America’s rich heritage in both the quality and style of their products. And, if we do say so ourselves, they have succeeded. Their jeans, like the Rio Slim Straights, are tough enough to wear in a machine shop, but stylish enough for everyday wear. Sporting a Red Wing Heritage Oro leather patch, custom rivets and button tacks, and a copper button fly, these are the kind of jeans your Grandpa would have worn with pride.
Imogene + Willie The Willie Rigid
Matt and Carrie Eddmenson, the husband and wife team behind Imogene + Willie, built their brand on a very basic idea: they wanted to sew a good jean that fit perfectly. And they wanted to follow through with four basic tenets on top of that: community, longevity, sharing, and American craftsmanship. These jeans, named for Carrie’s grandfather, are the culmination of their endeavors. Comfortable and classic, these Cone Mills denim jeans feature a just-wide-enough boot cut, pockets deep enough for a small notebook, and a button fly.
The Rising Sun MFG Co. Bloke
Harkening back to a bygone era, The Rising Sun Manufacturing Company likes to think of themselves as 21st century thinkers working like 1900s craftsmen. They strive to create garments that are of a quality seemingly long forgotten, when a pair of jeans were built to last through years of heavy use and weren’t just a thoughtless department store purchase. Their Bloke jeans, which are made from 100% cotton selvage American denim, feature a classic fit, 5-pocket layout, and their signature twill lined back pocket. Just like the clothing they have modeled theirs after, no detail has gone unnoticed.
Raleigh Denim Workshop Jones
Named for their hometown in North Carolina, Victor Lytvinenko and Sarah Yarborough opened up Raleigh Denim Workshop in 2007. Learning their craft through a “series of informal apprenticeships” from actual former industry workers, they sought out to build a brand that respected and mirrored the techniques and history of American jean making. Now, in conjunction with their hometown Workshop & Curatory, they also have a brick and mortar flagship store in New York City. And you can purchase any of their high quality garments in person or online, like their Jones jeans. Handmade with a button fly, gold stitching, a hand-stamped numbered leather patch, and the brand’s signature red chainstitch hem, these cone mills denim jeans are truly one of a kind.
Jean Shop Rocker Slim
The cream of the crop when it comes to quality american-made denim products, Jean Shop’s pants might seem a bit on the outrageously priced end of the spectrum, but the trade-off is that you’ll end up with a pair of jeans that might actually outlast you through whatever adventures on which you take them. And each of them are made with a wash and distressing created in-house and done one at a time. Their retail shop sits in the heart of New York City’s meatpacking district, but you can find their jeans at retailers around the world – or on their online shop. Their Rocker slim fit jeans are made from 13.5 ounce, 100% cotton selvage, American sourced denim, feature a three-year wash, and conform to the classic 5-pocket design.