The Best Jeans Made in the USA

With this unfortunate downtime, we here at A to Z thought it would be fun to investigate one of America’s favorite & most classic fabrics—denim! 

It is after all,  just about denim jacket season (It goes without saying it’s always a good time to wear jeans) We’ll have those beautiful crisp spring evenings coming up, and hey—when is it not denim jacket season? Let’s be honest. So let’s get to detailing some of the best brands dealing in American sourced and manufactured denim out there!

But firstwe have some studying to do because there’s a lot of denim jargon out there.

Denim at a Glance

Denim has exploded in its versatility in recent years, meaning we’ve come a long way from your parents’ (or even grandparents’) Levi 700 series way back when. So it’s probably best to do a little categorizing before we get into the more technical terms.

TermsDefinition
Denim FabricDenim is a durable cotton or cotton-blend twill (woven) fabric typically used to make jeans, overalls and other clothing.
Raw DenimReal denim, also known as raw denim or dry denim, refers to denim that hasn’t gone through any pre-washing or shrinking processes in production. Most jeans in stores today have gone through some sort of pre-washing process to soften the fabric and reduce shrinkage post-wear and wash.
Washed DenimRefers to denim that is not raw, and that has been washed in one of the following ways: acid wash, rinse wash, mid wash, light wash, bleach wash, black/grey, all-over tinting, coated denim, vintage finishing. 
(Follow the link for a bunch of cool information about all of those processes in detail)
Selvedge DenimRefers to denim woven with old-fashioned denim-weaving techniques; most authentically woven on old looms. This denim is generally considered to be higher quality. It usually has a tighter, denser weave than non-selvedge.The term “selvedge” dates back to the 1430’s or so originally meaning “Self-edge.”
Sanforized DenimSanforized denim is made from cloth that has been stretched, fixed and shrunk in length at the mill. This is done in order to reduce the amount of shrinkage that can happen after your jeans’ first wash. The result of sanforization leads to 1-3% shrinkage, as opposed to 10% shrinkage with unsanforized (shrink to fit) denim.

Now that we have some basics out of the way, let’s get into some of our favorite brands. We have included some of the iconic pieces that these brands are known for at the end of each section, but here’s the skinny: We think it might be a good idea to check out these brands in more detail, because denim is such a broad category. And, it’s really impossible to make a recommendation for “best boot-cut jean” when you wouldn’t be caught dead in anything but your beloved “jorts” (no judgement here I promise!)

DISCLAIMER: As with our other fashion posts, it’s important to note that these products, as a general, rule tend to be on the expensive side. American labor is a premium product in it’s own right, so keep that in mind when considering price. Also keep in mind that because we selected companies that source USA materials as well, prices might be higher as a result.

Top American Denim Brands 

NOTE: The products in this list are what we consider to be the “Allstars” in terms of sourcing American cotton and mills for their denim; and generally utilizing thread, pocketing, rivets, and zippers from the US as well. 

Raleigh Denim Workshop:

Based in: Raleigh, North Carolina

Founded by: Sarah Yarborough and Victor Lytvienenko

For: Men and Women

Price Range: $268 – $180

It seems to make sense to start off with one of the very coolest ateliers of denim. This picture of their retail/manufacturing space speaks for itself:

Those are over 5000 paper airplanes adhered to the ceiling, and there’s a window where you can look in on the shop floor from the comfort of the retail space—talk about bringing manufacturing to the forefront!

Started as an “American enterprise / art project / romantic adventure” by Sarah Yarborough and Victor Lytvinenko, Raleigh Denim Workshop set out on the mission of making the “ideal pair of jeans.” Working in and amongst the community in Raleigh, North Carolina, a state known for quality cotton, these two denim artists began working out of a garage, refurbishing old machines and talking to communities of jean crafters about the history and importance of the industry in North Carolina and the greater USA. The denim is sourced locally and every element that goes into each pair is meticulously crafted by dedicated professional “jeansmiths.” 

This kind of appreciation for the history of the craft is impressive, yes, but also lends to a product of elite quality. Ren McKnight of GQ referred to their selvedge Raw denim outlined below as “the most well-crafted jean I’ve ever had on my body.” Yes…they do come at a premium price-tag, but they’re absolutely a fine piece of fashion and jeansmithing, and are well worth the price. 

Our favorite items:

For Men: The Martin: selvedge Raw Original — $268.00 

The original Raw line of jeans at Raleigh Denim Workshop was where Sarah and Victor felt like they really hit their stride in making the ideal pair of jeans. Denim is 100% cotton from the now-closed Cone Mills White Oak plant in Greensboro, North Carolina. This is some of the best denim ever made in the USA and is somewhat of a collector’s item at this point, so get it while it’s hot! 

For Women: The Surry: Raw Indigo — $156.00

Raw, stretch denim. These jeans start dark but soften and fade over time, leaving you with the perfect personally molded fit. Raw denim—100% made in the USA.

Ginew USA: 

Based in: Portland, Oregon 

Founded by: Erik Brodt and Amanda Bruegl

For: Men’s and Women’s Jeans and Workwear 

Price Range: $235.00

Speaking of cool and unique ateliers—Ginew (pronounced Gih-noo) is the only Native American-owned denim line—and as such they link a unique and proud provenance of the American story into their meticulously crafted clothing. Founded by husband and wife team Erik and Amanda, based in Portland, Oregon,  the name comes from part of Erik’s given Ojibwe name meaning “brown, or golden eagle.” 

As jeansmiths, their ethos has been linked with descriptors like “infectious enthusiasm” and “uncompromising perfectionism” by people in the industry. Ginew “incorporate[s] elements of their Ojibwe, Oneida, and Mohican heritage to express a contemporary Native American voice” and they use only the finest American-made materials in their jeansmithing. Their designs often incorporate family symbols that represent their heritage. 

Our favorite items:

Unisex: West Fork “Red” Jean – Black  — $235.00

Classic 5-pocket jean with a regular rise, tapered leg fit made with 13 oz. black selvedge denim.* The name refers to the west fork of the Red River in the heart of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Indian Reservation. This is a beautiful, durable, and wholly unique American product that celebrates the Native People of this great land. At A to Z, we can’t stress enough how important celebrating that heritage is!

*Disclaimer: This jean is made with Japanese denim, but all other components are made locally in Portland, OR. Ginew does have fully American-sourced items in their catalog.

For men: The Chore Jacket — $295.00 

The Chore Jacket is a take on the American classic known as the “chore coat”. It has a sleek, clean look that is hearty enough for work and fine enough for leisure. The fabric is woven by Pendleton in Pendleton, Oregon. It’s also just very cool. Just look at it.

NOTE: Ginew has some seriously cool coats, but they’re expensive, so we chose one we thought was more approachable (their heritage coat comes in at $500.00, for instance);  that being said, they partner with Pendleton for these coats for the woven blanket  liner. This is an exclusive product woven by hand, only for them, so these coats are durable, beautiful, and exceptionally unique pieces of American fashion. 

Bluer Denim: 

Based in: Portland, Oregon

Founded by: Rogier Ducloo 

For: Men and Women denim, jean jackets

Price Range: $95 – $145

Bluer Denim was founded by Rogier Ducloo in response to the abusive conditions workers were subject to in the factories he was visiting. From sweatshop conditions to carcinogenic chemicals, to chronic cyclical poverty amongst the workers, Ducloo had seen it all and decided that he wanted to put an ethical wrench in the gears and to start something new.

Bluer is commendable in many ways, but people have become increasingly taken with their commitment to minimizing environmental impact, and promoting ethical, egalitarian work practices. In fact, we noted when researching them, that their shops and factories were closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, in solidarity with workers’ health.  

Back to the new jeans though. Here’s what’s even cooler about Bluer—they source every component in their clothing, across the board, from the USA. Their zippers, buttons, thread, rivets, pocketing, are all woven, forged, and manufactured in the USA. They also do a “Denim Rescue” program, where you can send your old jeans in and receive a $10 credit toward your purchase at Bluer. Depending on the wear, they either deliver them to the homeless, or recycle them into environmentally friendly insulation materials. 

Our favorite items:

For Men: Men’s Modern Slim Raw Indigo Selvedge Jean — 178.00 

These jeans are capable of walking the two-fold path that so many of our lives exist within: Work vs. Leisure; The sophisticated cool person at the meeting vs. the cool sophisticated guy drinking bud on his couch, alone…or with friends (whatever is good for you, again no judgement here.) 

Bluer jeans are manufactured using American-made selvedge denim from Cone Mills White Oak (a legendary mill that made some of the best US denim ever.) Buttons, burrs, and rivets are forged in the USA by YKK. Thread is made in the USA by Coats, and the jeans are cut and sewn in LA.

They keep things pretty simple at Bluer so they have two styles of pants available for men as well as a tee-shirt. You can get a women’s tee too, but as of now, sorry ladies, no jeans are available yet, maybe coming soon though? I have no info to back that up, but hey we can hope!

Tellason: 

Based in: San Francisco, California

Founded by: Tony Patella and Pete Searson 

For: Huge selection of Raw selvedge Men’s Denim, Jean Jackets

Price Range: $95 – $230

Tony Patella and Pete Searson started Tellason out of a love for durable goods, and their love of San Francisco. They are outspoken in saying they will only make jeans in San Francisco. Starting in the economic downturn of 2008/09, their focus was outfitting America in the John Graham Mellor Slim Straight Jean. They have come a long way since then, but are still wholly dedicated to producing American made and American sourced denim and apparel. 

It should be said that they are slowly opening up to the Japanese denim market, but out of the sites on this list, they boast one of the largest selections of fine-grade American denim. All buttons, rivets, buffs, zippers, and leather components are produced and manufactured in the US as well. 

Our favorite items:

John Graham Mellor Slim Straight Selvedge Jeans  — $230.00

We had to go with the originals here. This is the product that really put Tellason on the map. We selected the 10 oz. denim because a lot of the other products were using either Japanese or Cone Mills White Oak raw denim, depending on size. This thickness of denim, however, was All-American cotton from our friends at the former CMWO plant in Greensboro, North Carolina. Again this denim is legendary and it might be worth it to check out the Tellason shop online, because they have a wide variety of thicknesses, and styles. 

NOTE: double-check that the denim supplier doesn’t switch when you’re shopping around for sizes, as certain sizes are only available in foreign-sources denim. They also advertise hemming services for customers upon receipt of their jeans, which is an added plus for the denim true connoisseur.

Jean Jacket Selvedge Denim — $260.00

This is a special one! It’s a raw denim jacket from Cone Mills White Oak. This is pre-stretched (sanforized) denim so the shape won’t change, but the fit will become more relaxed and the fabric will become softer over time. Enjoy it! 

Again, as with the Tellason Jeans, we selected the 12.5 oz. denim, because it was available in all sizes at that thickness. But with other thicknesses, Japanese denim was substituted for CMWO. Just make sure you get what you wanted to get in that cart.

American Giant: 

Based in: San Francisco, California

Founded by: Bayard Winthrop

For: Adult, Affordable All-American Denim, Jean Jackets

Price Range: $50 – $150

Here’s another excellent brand that we’ve listed before—American Giant. Founded by Bayard Winthrop in 2012 in San Francisco, their mission is to provide high-quality American-made and sourced goods for a reasonable price. They garnered a lot of attention with a hoodie designed by Phillipe Manoux, a former apple industrial engineer that Slate called “the best hoodie ever.” But how ‘bout that denim?  

American Giant sources their denim from Mount Vernon Mills in Trion, Georgia, and their denim manufacturing takes place in Los Angeles. They don’t source too much raw denim, but they excel in what they do with classic, washed denim. All components are American-sourced and manufactured as well.

NOTE: The coolest thing about American Giant from a design standpoint is that they have partnered with Mount Vernon Mills, to make a proprietary denim blend. That might sound boring, but if you consider how many companies on this list have utilized the “best denim ever” from a mill that is closed, and will run out of said denim soon, it invites the question: Is all denim going to be Japanese in ten years? Or will companies like American Giant pick up the slack where others are turning to easily sourced foreign denim? I for one hope that the future of denim and fabric in general goes toward the American Giant side, where demand for American fabric and textile work is driven by the companies themselves. I suppose only time will tell.

Our favorite items:

Granted, this was pretty easy; they offer one pair of jeans for men, and one for women.

For Men: Dakota Straight  — $148.00

This is the first denim offering from American Giant. A five-pocket, straight fit, classic wash, with a bit of stretch. These are finished with American-made, custom leather and metalwork in the shop. The blend is 80% cotton, 18% poly, 2% spandex. So…granted this is about as far away from the “real” denim experience that we’ve gotten thus far. But, American Giant’s Approach will absolutely be a part of the new wave. 

For Women: Sedona Skinny — $148.00 

These jeans are made out of 56% cotton, 21% Tencel, 21% poly, 2% Spandex. Once again, this is a bit out of left field compared to the rest of the products on this list, but we will say again: they are sourcing their textiles from American mills. Is this the wave of the future? We don’t think it would be a bad thing if companies like American Giant led the way, especially at their price points.

Honorable Mentions: Imported Denim With Transparent, Ethical, Environmentally Friendly Practices

There were a couple of companies that couldn’t be left out because they are so innovative and lead the charge in terms of one of the best American products: ingenuity.  These companies are industry leaders in many respects, from sustainability, ethical work practices, and game-changing manufacturing processes. These companies are all American-made—but not completely American-sourced products. We believe they deserve a shout.

Buck Mason: 

Based in: Los Angeles, California

Founded by: Erik Schnakenberg and Sasha Koehn

For: Men’s Denim

Price Range: $135 – $175

Buck Mason has been on our lists before. They’re a company making their name producing men’s modern classics, so why wouldn’t denim be in their wheelhouse too? According to them, each design is a riff on an American classic. They work closely with their factory in Venice, California, and meticulously source the best American materials available. There are a lot of sources out there stating their denim is sourced from mills in North Carolina, and it’s a possibility that they used to use Cone Mills White Oak Denim, or something along those lines. But it looks like right now they are primarily using Japanese denim for most styles. We have investigated their site and haven’t found any US-sourced denim on it so—we’re giving Buck Mason an honorable mention this time, but their stuff is still great!

Our Favorite:

Maverick Slim Jean — $145  

The denim here is imported from Japan but all other components are sourced from the USA. The jeans are of course, hand-made in Los Angeles. The denim is 14 oz. Japanese Denim (98% Cotton, 2% Spandex) and the denim has a medium wash.

Reformation: 

Based in: Los Angeles, California

Founded by: Yael Aflalo

For: Women’s Sustainable Clothing, and ethically sourced denim.

Price Range: $80 – $200

We have listed Reformation before and will likely continue to do so. Their commitment to sustainability is astounding, and if you’re feeling the oh-so-familiar urge to be impressed by an environmental health and safety plan, I’ll post this list of things they do to better the environment right here, once again. 

Reformation, under the guidance of the eminent Yael Aflalo—who should be everybody’s fashion icon—does everything the right way. Reformation can be your guiding light if you’re ever wondering what brand to buy. Make it sustainable, and make it carbon neutral if possible.

Our favorite item:

Trouser Jean – $148.00

I mean it’s an elevated canadian tuxedo…but at the same time,  it’s also one you can get away with maybe better than Justin and Britney (and that’s really saying something!) There are just…a bunch of fabrics in their jeans, but with this company you know they’re sourced sustainably.


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