Are Cheap Jeans Good?

November 2022

Yes, cheap jeans are good. They tend to be more durable, cost you less (which is ideal if you’re working to a budget) and generally maintain their shape and colour. Which? agrees, Good Housekeeping agrees and so do we.

It’s possible you might be in the market for a pair of feather embellished jeans costing over a grand, but then again, if you’re curious if a pair of cheap jeans will suffice, we’re going to assume that’s not the case. Roberto Cavalli might not be for everyone. Actually, let’s face it, Roberto Cavalli is for hardly anyone at those prices and those that can afford it either have featured in a Money Heist level of wealth accumulation, worked incredibly hard or are simply fortunate enough to spend the value of a small car on something garish enough that can’t really be worn to Waitrose or feature in any light garden work. Unless you’re Lady Gaga of course. Carefully shaping shrubbery while dressed like a pheasant is likely something she’d do, let's face it.

Two pairs of cheap jeans Two pairs of cheap jeans

Which? did their own study comparing cheap and expensive jeans and covered areas of interest such as durability and appearance. Some cheap brands outperformed the more expensive ones and in some cases vice versa. Ultimately, Which? concluded that you don't need to pay lots for long-lasting jeans with, in one instance an £80 pair of jeans performing just as well as a £15 pair. Take a look at their video, it’s interesting stuff.

Do cheap jeans last?

Cheap jeans do last as long as you look after them. If you turn them inside out before washing, lay off the tumble dryer and actually make an effort to wash less often they will absolutely last according to Good Housekeeping.

Mad woman in a shopping trolley in a laundrette Mad woman in a shopping trolley in a laundrette

The above care advice is backed-up by denim heavyweight Levi’s who actually go one step further and suggest washing jeans in cold water to reduce the chance of fading or shrinkage. This is just general advice however and you should always consult individual garment's washing information.

Two pairs of Levi Strauss jeans Two pairs of Levi Strauss jeans

But what do the people think?

In a debate on cheap vs expensive jeans on Reddit, one thread touches on the discussion debating cost vs quality vs brand recognition. One user adds: "A lot of the time people use quality to justify costs and it does work until a point of diminishing returns. After that point (in my experience) it gets difficult to use quality as justification." Again, it seems to come back to this: It depends on what your needs, budget and expectations are.

What makes some jeans so expensive?

Remember Jeans don’t have to be expensive but here’s why in some instances you will pay more:

  • The price of cotton fluctuates, sometimes by huge leaps and massive drops meaning depending on global economics it can cost more to make jeans and sometimes it costs less. Might sound obvious but it’s true.
  • Supply and demand. When a brand creates a highly desirable product and people clamber to buy it there becomes less available and the price can pretty much be dictated which will likely still sell.
  • High-end jeans typically use finer weaves that will cost more to craft and create.
  • You pay for the brand name and not the actual garment.
Layers of different colour cheap jeans Layers of different colour cheap jeans

What does the research say?

There are loads of different brands of jeans in the world and this piece of original research as part of a dissertation from 2016 at the University of Kentucky looks at three types. High-end, mid-cost and low-price. Obviously, testing different types of denim from different sources under different circumstances may result in wildly different quality characteristics. However, it's an interesting insight and does provide some unique research into helping us answer the question - are cheap jeans any good?

Higher-priced jeans may typically use better quality rivets and boast a better-looking branding patch on the back for example, but if these are things that really don't matter to you, or are less important to you - why spend more for rivets on your jeans when you probably go through life not even realising they are there?

Lots of pairs of rolled jeans Lots of pairs of rolled jeans

Something that was concluded with the high-end jeans that were tested was that the effect of washing the more expensive jeans may lead to better retention of the shape but to the naked eye are you really going to notice such a minimal difference? To be fair, This was said to be caused by the higher number of yarns and resulted in restricted movement in the warp and filling directions. Essentially the more complex make-up of the fabric will allow the jeans to keep their shape better. We retort with this: are you really going to notice the slightest change in shape when it comes to cheaper jeans? Probably not.

The other interesting takeaways were the results from the performance characteristics. In testing over five wash cycles, the more expensive jeans did maintain their colour better, however, due to the use of the finer yarns resulting in lower fabric mass per unit area, the more expensive jeans simply will not last as long as cheaper and more durable jeans. The inseam and sideseam strength were lesser and the more expensive jeans suffered sewing thread rupture where mid and low price points did not.

Ghaani Farashahi, Behnoosh, "QUALITY EVALUATION OF JEANS AT THREE PRICE CATEGORIES" (2016). Theses and Dissertations--Retailing and Tourism Management. 10.

The word yes paved on a brick wall The word yes paved on a brick wall

So our conclusion is this: If you want to and can afford expensive jeans treat yourself. If you do buy cheap jeans, chances are they’ll last longer. Just buy fit for purpose and align your expectations accordingly. But ultimately yes, cheap jeans are good and there’s a chance you’ll get more wear out of them than their more expensive counterpart.

Don't just take our word for it. How about an expert's take? This is a bit of an old one, but, Perrie Samotin the glamour journalist wrote a piece back in 2015 that is still pertinent today. Forgive the American references in her article on Stylecaster but it still seems relevant questioning the quality of high-priced jeans and her ultimate conclusion of just spending less and being happy with how you look.

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