For most of my life I've worn mostly Levis, Lee, and Calvin Klein jeans. They've always held up pretty well, as I don't torch them on high in the dryer. But then after the 3rd article I'd read about denim heads and the whole "selvedge" denim thing (it has really kicked up quite a bit over the last 10 years), I had to find out first hand. The only thing is, the price. Yikes, some jeans cost over $300! There are pretty much 3 different classes -- entry, mid-grade, and high end. There are real denim snobs out there, who've made it not just a life style but an art as well.
So I didn't want to go too far in over my head on my first try. Entry level is about $75 to $150. Even $75 seems like a lot... but there are some brands where very decent quality can be had, if you know where to look and are patient. The other thing is fitment. There's low, medium, and high rise styles. Straight leg, slim, and skinny. Of course there's the color (how much indigo they start with). The loom quality of the denim (cone, selvedge, kaihara, etc.). And last but not least, the weight of the denim (9oz to 23oz). Most weights fall into certain averages, like 10~11oz, 13~14oz, and 16oz being the most common.
The latest "trend" is to get jeans made of selvedge denim (it's where the edges are nicely finished off), which lends a really sharp look when you roll up to cuff your jeans. Naturally, you'd buy longer than you actually need (e.g. 36" and then cuffed to 34", 32", etc.). While distressed and "damaged" jeans are still a bit trendy, the "clean" and deep dark indigo with cuffs is more the rage.
Being a bit of a bargain hunter at heart, I managed to find a certain little "window" of opportunity. Used jeans from eBay. Now I know what you're thinking -- ewww, someone else's clothes? Well, of course you've heard of vintage clothing and thrift shops that sell used clothing. As long as the seller is stand-up, you'll get clothes that aren't smelly. But the real draw is the discount. You can often find people who had excess inventory that they needed to shed (jeans that weren't even worn yet, or seldom worn), or they bought at bad timing where they had some weight gain or loss and their jeans just didn't fit right any longer. Depending upon your size, you can at times find some seriously great bargains. We're talking like $59.95 for jeans that went for $230 brand new.
So, my first "entry level" into higher quality jeans (staring this trip in March 2019) was a pair of J.Crew 770, Kaihara denim (Japan). Bought 'em from a reputable seller where lots of good photos were provided. Fit turned out to be great, with the only exception of the rear rise being a little shorter than I'm used to. They were only $30 shipped (originally $128) and wow, are they NICE!
With that first "success" under my belt (no pun intended), I kept a little wish list of what I'd like to get next. One of the higher end brands is Tellason, made in USA. They've got about 6 different styles. I figured one particular style, the Ankara, was suitable for me. Low and behold, someone listed a pair for just $65. These sell for $250 new! Guy wore them just a few times, and he'd been losing weight... enough that they just ended up too baggy. I got 'em and... I have to say, they're even better than the J.Crew 770's. We're talking top quality selvedge denim and excellent craftsmanship. Jeans that are sure to last a couple decades.
My next brand to test out was Gustin. Now, they're an unusual brand in that they operate on a crowd sourcing model. They lock in a limited supply of very high quality denim, then list the jeans to be made from them and solicit backing. If they get enough, the make the jeans. if they don't your money is refunded. They've been doing this for over 8 years and are quite popular. While they do have a range of different styles, you can get an "entry level" selvedge jean at about 14oz weight for $68, and many people say they're on part with jeans costing nearly $200. I have bought 2 pre-owned pairs that I'm waiting to get delivered.
I have to say that I'm very happy I took a chance on exploring this higher end denim jeans world and picked up a few pairs. If you love a good quality pair of jeans on your body, I recommend taking the plunge--you won't regret it! The only caveat is that you have to care for these jeans like you're washing a fine merino wool sweater. Always cold water, preferably hand washed, and hung to dry. And... you don't wash 'em for quite a while. Some people go a few months without washing... yeah, I know--sounds pretty peculiar. But have to say, a really nice fitting pair of high quality jeans is quite a treat!