Denim has become a permanent aspect of our lives. There’s hardly anything as classic, timeless, or tasteful as a great pair of jeans. As such, it makes sense that the style staple has persevered through generations of adversity, emerging victorious each and every time. Over its tenure, the denim jean has held true to its original design, committing itself to a life of rigid, durable wear. However, as times began to change, the need for a lighter, more mobile garment became increasingly clear.
Thanks to a handful of innovative improvements in textile technology within the past decade, companies have begun to incorporate stretchy, lightweight materials like elastane (and polyurethane) into their manufacturing practices. Naturally, classic denim pieces weren’t immune to this change. To complement the slimmer, more form-fitting styles that were emerging within the menswear space, brands began to imbue their all-cotton garments with small portions of stretchable material, eliminating the rough, rigid silhouette that had defined the genre for over 100 years. These days, “stretch denim” has become commonplace, branching out into virtuous realms. Below, we’ve aggregated a handful of our favorite offerings from around the space, giving you some insight into what it is that makes the genre’s best denim a bit more mobile.
Levi’s 501 Original Fit Stretch
Over the years, Levi’s has introduced a number of reputable jean styles. Because of this, each of the brand’s unique examples has been given its own demarcation. Among these, the 501 is recognized as the all-original offering, thanks to its generational style, iconic, straight-leg fit, and durable, long-lasting construction. Since 1873, the 501 has been at the forefront of contemporary denim, and now, it’s been imbued with elastane, giving it just enough stretch to compete with some of today’s most progressive legwear pieces. That being said, these All-American staples hold true to their lineage, augmenting their 99% cotton construction with a meager 1% elastane blend.
Uniqlo Men’s Ultra Stretch
Uniqlo’s Men’s Ultra Stretch is a perfect illustration of what a slim, stretchy jean is all about. Thanks to its special polyester-denim fabric, this stylish garment remains as form-fitting as the day you bought it. Boasting an expansion rate of around 40%, and a rebound rate of 80%, you’ll be able to move to your heart’s content, without having to worry about any unsightly areas, wrinkles, or irreparable damage to the jean’s exterior. To keep it as close (and comfortable) as possible, the Ultra Stretch has been given flatter seams than its counterparts, providing a light, non-abrasive feel. Plus, if you’re looking for a leg-lengthening effect, these are the jeans for you. They’ve been outfitted with a pair of elevated pack pockets, a 9.8-inch rise, and a tapered cuff to elongate your limbs for a more handsome demeanor.
Madewell’s Skinny is a classic denim offering that takes comfort to a new level. Utilizing their expertise in cutting-edge garment technology, the company’s designers have created an authentic, rigid jean, without the pinching, rubbing, and constriction that you might find in other models. This is achieved through the example’s unique cotton/polyester/elastane blend, which has been crafted in cahoots with the denim world’s legendary Cone mill. If that doesn’t convince you, then maybe the form-fitting silhouette will. It’s Madewell’s slimmest jean, meaning that you’ll be able to partake in a stylish, extra-lean look that’s built for movement. The only issue? You may never want to take them off.
Everlane Slim 4-Way Stretch
Everlane’s Slim 4-Way Stretch jean is an exercise in brilliant denim design. From its organically-farmed cotton fabric, all the way to its water-reducing Indigo Flow dying process, the company has taken adequate steps to ensure that almost every aspect of the manufacturing process has been revised for a better, more conscious jean. Each example boasts a handsome cotton and elastane blend, as well as a close-cropped, slim-fit that’s slightly tapered as it approaches the ankle. If you’re in the market for a legwear piece that’s consciously-crafted and fashionable, this Turkish-milled model is an attractive competitor.
Bonobos Stretch Lightweight
Bonobos have a knack for the creation of timeless menswear pieces, and the Stretch Lightweight jean is no exception. Built upon a super-stretchy, Turkish-milled lightweight cotton and elastane foundation, these unique legwear offerings are among the most malleable on our list, thanks to their generous blend. While most other models take on around 2-4% elastane, Bonobos’ Lightweight model introduces a hearty, 10% stretch mixture, giving it all the gumption it needs to move with its wearer. As a result, each example takes on an adventurous demeanor, complementing its thoughtfully-sourced metal hardware, OKEO-TEX certified materials, and comfortable signature waistband.
DU/ER Performance Denim
To say that DU/ER has built its entire catalog around comfortable mobility might be an understatement. We’re especially fond of the brand’s Performance Denim offering, which boasts a movement-approved cotton/polyester/LYCRA spandex blend, a classic, five-pocket layout, and an increased range of motion for unparalleled utility. Instead of the traditional cotton and polyester blend that you’ll find in most denim offerings, DU/ER’s unique example features a large helping of Coolmax All-Season polyester, allowing it to take on a more breathable role during the summer when full leg coverage might not seem so intriguing. As a result, these mid-rise must-haves are a great alternative to the heavier pieces of denim that rarely find their way into your arsenal during the warmer months.
Buck Mason Ford Standard
Buck Mason makes some of the finest heritage menswear in the industry, and that means that they’ve got a thing or two to say when it comes to our most iconic legwear pieces. For their own unique adaptation of the traditional jean, the brand’s Ford Standard example introduces a durable, 13-ounce Japanese Stretch denim, resulting in moderate give as you go about your day. Since they feature a 99% cotton/1% stretch blend, they’re not as forgiving as some of the other offerings on our list, but you can rest assured that they’ll stand up to whatever you throw their way. The sheer weight of the jean should tell you as much. To round things out, tonal stitching, a safety fly, and classic patches provide subtle visual accents that pay homage to the genre’s most iconic wares.
A.P.C. Petit New Standard
A.P.C. is always a contender for our style-focused roundups, but when it comes to denim, they’re hard to beat. Like the Buck Mason Ford, these robust offerings are heavyset, providing the illusion of a traditional rigid jean. However, they’re defined by a great-looking Japanese Stretch Denim, which pairs cotton and polyurethane for a subtle, but noticeable stretch. Since A.P.C. wanted to remain as close to the classic denim as possible, an iconic indigo dye has been utilized alongside the pant’s tried-and-true five-pocket layout and button fly.
Todd Snyder Slim Fit Japanese Stretch
Todd Snyder continues to enamor us with its tasteful menswear pieces. We’re especially enthused with the Slim Fit Japanese Stretch — yet another model that adopts the transcendental fabric. Unlike other offerings, Todd Snyder’s unique take on the stretchable legwear garment has been cut from a premium selvedge fabric before undergoing an authentic rinse and wash process, resulting in a “lived-in” feel straight from the rack. Because of this, it’s lauded as one of the softest denim offerings in the designer’s arsenal. Dive deeper, and you’ll find a classic, five-pocket architecture, a button fly, and a set of unique TS-stamped buttons for adherence to the genre’s trademark stylings.
Acne Studios Slim-Fit Stretch-Denim
When it comes to understated style, Acne Studios is second to none. To them, minimalism is more than a term; it’s something that defines and dictates the shape, feel, and aura of our clothing. The brand’s Slim-Fit Stretch-Denim is a testament to this understanding. Thanks to its smart, all-black silhouette, slim-fit persona, and stretch cotton/polyester/elastane blend, you’ll be able to take on any formal event without having to worry about feeling out of place. That’s not to say that the jean doesn’t shine in the casual setting, as well. Regardless of its application, the great-looking garment is sure to round out any outfit, thanks to its classic, five-pocket layout, subtle belt loops, and tasteful designer emblem.
KATO Pen Slim Stretch Selvedge
Out of all the offerings on our list, KATO’s Pen Slim Stretch Selvedge jean is voted most likely to spend an evening at the campsite. The need for stretchy, mobile denim isn’t exclusive to the urban environment, and thanks to the brand’s premium, 14-ounce Japanese selvedge fabric, you won’t have to worry about common inhibitors that might make mince-meat of lesser models. Each example features capable four-way stretch, 360-degree, multi-directional comfort, and a classic, five-pocket layout that provides ample storage space for your EDC essentials. The best part? Every KATO jean is made in Los Angeles, California under the watchful eye of some of the industry’s finest artisans, resulting in a premium, personalized product that’s become known for its attention to detail.
Rag & Bone Fit 2 Mid-Rise
Rag & Bone has been making waves within the style industry for quite a while, and over the past two years, we’ve seen the brand explode in popularity. They’ve certainly earned it, especially when you take garments like the Fit 2 Mid-Rise jean into account. This fashionable model boasts 12.5-ounce Italian stretch denim, an interesting two-thread color set up, and nickel hardware for its own unique appeal. When you aren’t swooning over the garment’s comfortable organic cotton/elastane construction, you’ll be acknowledging compliments on its light indigo wash, copper riveting, and classic five-pocket layout.
The 18 Best Men's Selvedge Denim Jeans
Interested in a more iconic take on legwear? Head over to our guide on the best men’s selvedge denim, where we provide you with an in-depth look at the companies (and models) you’ll need to know when picking out your next pair of classic jeans.
HiConsumption is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more