8 Denim Brands You Need to Know

From dark and raw to bleached and faded, we can all agree that a great-fitting pair of jeans is a menswear essential that will never go out of style. With more new and unique denim brands entering our Men’s Shop lineup than ever before, we asked our buying team to name a few whose stories (and, of course, jeans) they thought you, our valued reader, would like to know. Keep reading for the low-down on eight cutting-edge denim brands—from zany Canadian start-ups to 125-year-old American icons.

1. 3×1 NYC. Based in Manhattan’s SoHo district, 3×1 NYC began as part retail store and part manufacturing space, with a glass-enclosed denim factory at its center. Never before had the production process been infused into the shopping environment in this way, with customers able to watch their jeans come to life in the hands of skilled pattern-makers, cutters and sewers who were immersed in their work behind the glass walls. Today, 3×1’s high-quality wares are available from the comfort of your living room.

3×1 NYC Editor’s Picks (L-R): ‘M3’ Slim Fit in ‘Houston’ Wash
‘M4’ Straight Leg in ‘Walker’ Wash | ‘M3’ Slim Fit in ‘XX 70’ Raw Denim


2. NAKED & FAMOUS DENIM. This Canadian brand uses only the most unique and rare denim fabrics from prestigious mills in Japan. Keeping their jeans raw and simple (no broken-in washes or fancy embroidery here), the focus is on the fabric and the fit. Above, watch founder Brandon Svarc showcase some of his more peculiar fabric experiments—from scratch-and-sniff to glow-in-the-dark—and below, check out a few of his more straightforward (though no less stylish) creations. Check out our previous Canada/Japan cultural study with Svarc here.

Naked & Famous Editor’s Picks (L-R): ‘Skinny Guy’ Skinny Fit in ‘Indigo Duck’
‘Skinny Guy’ Skinny Fit in ‘Vintage Broken Twill’ | ‘Weird Guy’ Slim Fit in ‘Lightweight Indigo’


3. G-STAR RAW. For more than 20 years, G-Star Raw has been a denim pioneer, originating the concept of luxury denim for the streets and popularizing raw, untreated denim as a wearable and desirable material for its unmatched functionality, beauty and unique signs of wear. Check out G-Star’s current campaign video above; the latest in a long series of experimental films, this one pits the world’s foremost (and youngest) chess champion against an activist/model in a denim-fueled duel.

G-Star Raw Editor’s Picks (L-R): 3301 Lexicon Slim Fit in ‘Medium Age’ Wash
3301 Lexicon Slim Fit in ‘Dark Aged’ Wash | 5620 Tapered Fit in ‘Dark Aged’ Wash


4. RALEIGH DENIM. Self-described “non-automated jeansmiths” who craft denim using traditional methods and machinery, the Raleigh team takes great pride in making some of the best jeans in the USA. Husband-and-wife duo Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko founded Raleigh Denim in their hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, after learning the history and techniques of American jeans-making through a series of informal apprenticeships with former factory workers, pattern-makers and mechanics. See their craft up close in the video above.

Raleigh Editor’s Picks (L-R): ‘Martin’ Slim Fit in Broken Twill Raw Denim
‘Jones’ Slim Fit in ‘Cash’ Wash | ‘Martin’ Skinny Fit in Raw Denim


5. PRPS. Shorthand for “purpose,” PRPS is a collection of meticulously distressed denim whose every rip, fade and stain is there for a reason. In the mini-documentary above, founder Donwan Harrell waxes poetic about custom hot rods, handwritten résumés and how disheveled gold miners in the 1800s inspire his line of “bruised, never broken” Japanese (by way of Zimbabwe) jeans.

PRPS Editor’s Picks (L-R): ‘Rambler’ Slim Fit in ‘Wayne’ Wash
‘Rambler’ Slim Fit in ‘Blue Vein’ Wash | ‘Barracuda’ Straight Leg in ‘5-Year’ Wash


6. LEE 101 USA. Henry David Lee founded Lee Mercantile in 1889 in Salina, Kansas. The company began manufacturing denim when jeans were called dungarees and there were only 42 states in the Union. Early success came thanks to perfecting functional garments for specific industries: ‘Union-Alls’ for mechanics, ‘Loco Jackets’ for railroad workers, ‘Cowboy Pants’ for rodeo riders. Today, 125 years later, Lee is still made in the USA—and has never lost sight of its blue-collar roots.

Lee 101 USA Editor’s Picks (L-R): ‘Lean’ Straight Leg in ‘Dry Dust’ Wash
‘Lean’ Straight Leg in ‘180 Days’ Wash | ‘Lean’ Straight Leg in ‘Black Wet’ Wash


7. NUDIE JEANS. Based out of Gothenburg, Sweden, since 2001, the denim disciples at Nudie believe that nothing ages more beautifully than a great pair of jeans. The longer you wear them, the more character and attitude they acquire. You shape them like your lifestyle, and they become a second skin. Rather than offer you a new pair when your old one blows out, they’d rather extend you a high five (and a complimentary repair kit, so you and your jeans can continue your journey together). Get a fascinating look at their organic manufacturing process above—and learn more about extending the life of your Nudies here.

Nudie Editor’s Picks (L-R): ‘Thin Finn’ Skinny Leg in Black
‘Alf’ Straight Leg in ‘Tonal Dry’ Wash | ‘Grim Tim’ Skinny Straight in ‘Dry Navy’ Wash


8. BALDWIN. Founder Matt Baldwin was named one of GQ’s best new American designers last year—proof positive that staying true to your vision can produce big results. Working out of Matt’s hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, Baldwin’s American-made denim adheres to an aesthetic of timeless modernism down to the last detail: from the Japanese selvedge fabrics to the authentic washes to the signature white rivet on the back of each pair. Consider them a perfect canvas for splashing the occasional KC barbecue sauce—and check out some of Matt Baldwin’s inspirations here.

Baldwin Editor’s Picks (L-R): ‘Henley’ Slim Fit in ‘Scott’ Wash
‘Henley’ Slim Fit in ‘Mark’ Wash | ‘Reed’ Straight Leg in ‘Classic No. 5’ Wash

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Lee March 21, 2014, 7:25 am

    Seriously? That’s your list? Haha never mind. Start by looking up Hiut Denim and then go from there…

  • HaterHater March 22, 2014, 4:15 pm

    Lee. Your label-wh_reness is showing (jk). But I’ve got no room to talk, as I’ve dropped hundreds of dollars on a pair of jeans not less than 50 times. Can’t wait to check out Huit. If you’re commenting here, then you likely know that jeans are personal and jean designers are plentiful. Nordstrom can’t carry all of them. Regardless, Nordstrom remains as one of the best retailers anywhere. Personally, the service I’ve always received made me a life-long customer a long time ago.

  • Emil March 27, 2014, 6:45 am

    So Diesel didn’t make the list? Interesting…..

  • closer March 29, 2014, 11:29 am

    If we’re rating denim, you left out a key player: AG. Let’s talk about American made from start to finish in South Gate California. I love the washes that are offered and my personal fav is the ag-ed denim with the iconic “49” railroad spike button at the waist- their newest fit is the Graduate which is a slim fit with some a little more room in the thigh which works great for a guy with muscular legs like me that wants that slim fit.

  • Proper Threads April 3, 2014, 11:26 pm

    No Diesel? Really? No matter how you try to twist it…you can’t leave out one of the best denim makers in the world…it’s just not right.

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