Denim shopping is an all-around nightmare: Each brand fits differently, there are so many washes and cuts, and trends like J-NCOs come back for seemingly no reason. But the single most frequent gripe among denim-laden ladies is this: Why does a good pair of jeans cost so dang much?!
“Premium denim costs more because you’re paying for the quality of the craftsmanship and the superior construction,” says designer Sarah Ahmed of DL1961 Premium Denim. That means you’re getting higher-quality denim fabrics, technological innovations, and a better overall fit. But is it really worth paying more than double what it would cost to snag a pair of jeans at someplace like Target or H&M?
Ahmed is, of course, biased, but she says it is. “You want denim that isn’t going to lose its shape and stretch out after a few wears,” she says. “Great premium denim will retain the same shape and feel as the first day you bought them.”
So how do you know if the jeans you’re eyeing are up to snuff? “Be sure to check the fabrication when buying any denim, especially premium denim,” says Ahmed. You can do this by looking at the care tags on your jeans. Look for mostly cotton (95 to 98 percent) with a little Spandex or elastane for that comfortable, forgiving fit.
Amri Kibbler, a former fashion editor and the founder Heymama, a community for creative mothers, many of whom live in their denim, estimates her jeans collection at almost 30 pairs. She agrees with Ahmed, saying that, “premium denim costs more simply because the fabrics used cost more, as do some of the more innovative washes. It can add up.”
Kibbler says that most cheap denim stretches out easily, so it has a shorter lifespan. And with some inexpensive dark washes, they’ll rinse out and fade a little quicker. “But there are great options in the market for trendy, seasonal denim, such as distressed and ripped jeans or overalls,” says Kibbler. “There are a lot under-$80 options that look great from brands like ASOS, Zara, and GAP.”
The takeaway? Buy inexpensive jeans when they’re a trendy wash or cut that you don’t think you’ll wear more than one or two seasons—but don’t be scared to invest in a designer pair that fits you perfectly. If you wear a $200 pair of jeans more than 200 times over the years they last you, you’re spending less than $1 per wear—so worth it.