Want Selvedge With Lots of Bang for the Buck? Start With Our Best Budget Jeans Guide!
When I first heard about raw denim more than a decade ago, I quickly located the only place in town that was selling the stuff and grabbed a pair in my size (Nudies).
I was hooked, and quickly purchased a second pair (Naked & Famous this time, pictured below). Both pairs gave me that full raw denim experience for not a lot of money.
If your first experience of raw denim was similar, your first pair was probably from one of the popular gateway brands like Brave Star, Naked & Famous, A.P.C., Gustin, Nudie, Uniqlo, or Lee 101, which are all excellent starter brands!
Looking for the Biggest Bang for Your Buck?
New To Denim? On a Budget? No Problem!
While some leapfrog into top-shelf brands like Iron Heart, Samurai, and Pure Blue Japan, most of us dip our toe in the pool with a starter pair before diving in headfirst. If nothing but the best will do, check out our Selvedge Masterlist.
We’ve made this list for all of those who, for whatever reason, want to keep their per-pair spend down to a minimum but still want to wear selvedge. All prices listed are full retail, and they start as low as $85!
We’ve looked for pairs that have some of the hallmarks of craftsmanship, including raised belt loops, peekaboo selvedge, and branded buttons. And while the details are usually pared back at this price point, the jeans on this list might surprise you with their level of craftsmanship.
We’ve excluded non-selvedge jeans, though, including some great starter pairs from brands like Tellason and Levi’s that are raw but not selvedge. We stand firm in our belief that selvedge denim is a worthy investment.
Our guides are reader-supported. We earn a small commission when you make a purchase, but it doesn’t cost you anything. Prices include local VAT and are subject to change.
Companion Denim Joel
Produced in collaboration with a Barcelona-based sewing factory, Companion’s budget selvedge line might just be the best-possible introduction to the world of European denim craftsmanship.
About half of the manufacturing is overseen by the garment factory, with the other half taking place in the Companion workshop.
Far from bare bones, Companion’s Joel line features exceptional details like this pair’s canvas-lined waistband. If there’s a pair with better bells and whistles out there for this price, we haven’t found it.
TCB 60s Regular Straight
A favourite among vintage denim enthusiasts since their first pairs crossed the Pacific, TCB make pairs that are as comfortable as they are affordable.
The key to their success is their lightweight denims, which dependably produce beautiful fades with soft edges.
Even deep-pocketed denimheads usually have a pair or two of TCBs in their collection. The thoroughly faded examples prove that they are one of the most wearable pairs around.
Benzak B-01 Slim
Forum regular turned jeansmaker Lennaert Nijgh was one of the first to stake a claim in the European heritage scene. He’s since produced some of the continent’s most stunning pairs, collaborating with Japanese brands like Samurai and Japan Blue to produce made-in-Japan jeans with distinctly European styling.
He hasn’t strayed too far from his roots, though. As he shows with his lighter weight offerings, he still produces some of the world’s best bang-for-buck pairs, and even his premium offerings are attractively priced.
SOSO Tailor Made
With an unsurpassed combination of value and selection, SOSO’s custom model is hard to beat in the world of selvedge.
Their primary draw card is the easy customization of pairs, but they also have a range of ready-made fits that will fit nearly every body type. Combine one of these fits with one of their mid-range denims and you’ve got one helluva pair for one helluva bargain.
The price will start to climb as you tweak the details or the fit, but if you’ve consistently struggled to find that pair that perfectly captures your personal style or fits your body to a tee, the extra spend will be more than worthwhile.
If you’re looking for exceptional fades, try their Overdyed Dirty Harry or their Green Cast Selvedge.
Japan Blue J301
Japan Blue is the parent company of Momotaro and Collect Mills. As one of the only Japanese denim houses that mills their own denim, they have a degree of supply chain control that few brands can match.
This allows them to produce a line of budget denim under the Japan Blue brand that offers an extremely attractive entry point for those who want to try Japanese denim.
The J301 is a straight fit made from American cotton. Part of the brand’s Circle line, it shows Japan Blue bringing their denim designs full circle. The circle begins in Kojima, loops through fashionable centres in Europe, and comes back to the birthplace of Japanese jeans.
The entire Circle line is brilliant, and it features a wide range of fits either just above or just below the $200 mark.
Left Field NYC Atlas
As one of the first American brands that reignited the heritage selvedge scene in America, Left Field entered the selvedge market as an upstart and helped put American denim manufacturing back on the map. All of their pairs are sewn in the United States, and they’re proud to be red, white, and blue through and through.
With this 14 oz. Vidalia selvedge (made with looms Vidalia purchased from the now defunct Cone Mills), they’ve tightened the knot connecting Left Field to the long legacy of American textiles.
A brand led by passionate enthusiasts that have been producing exceptional pairs for decades, Left Field deserve far more attention than they get.
Studio D’Artisan SD-101
~$180 at Hinoya (priced in Japanese yen)
You might be surprised to see the founding member of the Osaka Five on this list, but Studio D’Artisan have an entry-level pair that makes them one of the cheapest ways to break into the top tier of the made-in-Japan market.
The Studio D’Artisan badge carries a ton of weight, but the brand hasn’t cut any corners with this pair. The middleweight denim will fade slowly, making them a great pair for patient faders who want to begin a years-long project with an impeccable badge of authenticity.
Sugar Cane 2009 (12 oz.)
Owned by Japan’s Toyo Enterprise, the parent company of Buzz Rickson’s, Sugar Cane produces a stellar line of heritage goods and is frequently cited by denim connoisseurs as one of the best denim brands coming from the land of the rising sun.
Their 2009 is a no-frills version of the brand’s popular slim straight cut that will, for tentative newcomers, be a perfect introduction to the world of well-made denim. The lightest pair on this list, they’ll break in quickly, and they’ll produce beautiful all-over vintage fades when worn and washed often.
Edwin has recently returned all of their production to Japan, a move met with thunderous applause from fans of the OG made-in-Japan selvedge brand.
Only a small handful of Japanese brands can compete at this price point, and none of them can compete with Edwin’s legacy.
The ED-47 is as good a pair as you will find for the money. If the fit or the denim doesn’t suit you down to the ground, you can dig just a little deeper to get into one of their fan-favourite slim-tapered pairs made with Kurabo selvedge.
Oldblue Co. 8.25”
The reigning kings of the Indonesian scene, Oldblue Co. have achieved legendary status on the back of their 21 oz. Heavyweight Beasts, but the same low-slung cowboy cut is available in lighter-weight denims, including this slubby “over-slub” Atlantic Mills selvedge from Thailand.
The short staples mean that this light-heavyweight denim fades remarkably quickly, and the cut is one of the best off-the-rack fits we’ve tried. Perfect for those looking for fast-moving high-contrast fades.
Bar none the best choice for those who want absolute maximum value and selection, Indonesia’s Wingman Denim puts beautiful warp/weft combinations within reach for bargain hunters.
If you want ultra-heavy denims or double-indigo pairs for half the price of competitive offerings, Wingman should be on the top of your list.
Their Indibrown, which combines an indigo warp and a brown weft, produces exceptional fades. The brand’s popularity in the Indigo Invitational means that Jakarta’s best-kept denim secret won’t be a secret for long.
Unbranded 221 (21 oz.)
If this Naked & Famous sub-brand hasn’t popped up on your radar that’s because they spend next to nothing on marketing. They might have the leanest operation in the scene, and this allows them to keep prices very low.
If you’ve got a ceiling of $100 for your next pair, they’ve got a pair that fits the bill, but for not much more you can get into one of their 21 oz. pairs. If you’ve got a tight budget but want that full heavyweight denim experience, this is a great brand to get it from.
Léon Denim LD-1947 (16 oz.)
The Pride of Manila, Léon Denim (named after the soft-hearted hitman in The Professional) is the only selvedge brand to call The Philippines home.
With a careful eye for details and a slowly expanding lineup of heritage-inspired pieces, they’ve elbowed out a space for themselves in SE Asia and have been gaining acolytes in the West.
Their LD-001 has been their standard bearer for the last five years or so, but the new LD-1947 might be the brand’s new flagship. Made from a slubby Collect Mills denim, this pair can go toe to toe with most mid-tier made-in-Japan jeans for considerably less money.
Sage Eventide (14 oz.)
Saving the best (bargain) for last, Sage’s mountain range arcuates have graced the backsides of legions of Indonesian faders.
The maker has a strong foothold in fade-loving communities throughout SE Asia, and the exceptional fades produced by this community have brought Sage into the spotlight.
The locally milled denim has been engineered with fades in mind, and the price (the lowest on this list) makes them unmissable for bargain hunters. A great entry point into the Indonesian scene.
Got the Jeans? Join the Indigo Invitational!
The Indigo Invitational is the world’s largest and most-inclusive denim fading competition. Running for a full year, it allows you to test your fading might against more than 1,000 competitors from all over the world. There’s no better way to do justice to your jeans.