how i found the most perfect pair of jeans (for me) for under $25 smackers


(images via

in the past month or two, my jeans collection took a major hit: three pairs of my most favorite jeans passed away. my miss sixty skinny jeans from circa 2004 (VERY early skinny jeans, skinnies were really hard to find back then, now they are ubiquitous!) got a huge bleach stain on them. my greyish-black UO skinny jeans that i wore almost every single day with everything for a couple years split apart near the waistband, and a favorite pair of j crew jeans i bought in ’06 split on the ass. the grey ones are probably mendable, but the miss sixty’s and the j crew pair are probably goners. i’ve been in major denial…i haven’t been able to bear looking at them since to assess if any of them are salvageable. the thought that any of them might be goners makes my stomach churn.

so recently i found myself desperately looking around for a couple pairs of new jeans, jeans that might take the place of those old, dearly loved jeans. not necessarily exact replacements, but pairs that might eventually become go-to, staple jeans in my wardrobe in the way that their predecessors had in the past.

i’m finding myself repelled by the majority of jeans out in (mass market) stores of late: so many are ruined by cut-rate fabric (so thin and worthless!), or hacky, fakey distressing (i.e.: ugly “faux” creases and wear on the crotch/thigh area). i’m sorry; i just can’t do it. if i am gonna do any distressing it either better be authentic or at least look like it. otherwise, i’m all about the rigid/dark denim; it’s not trying to “be” anything but what it initially was/is, for the most part. boyfriend styles do nothing for me. they are comfortable but with my figure, i don’t need the ease they offer. i like skinny styles and they flatter my shape, but i am sort of tiring of them (though i’ll likely keep wearing them anyway because of the former).

in the midst of looking around, i got a flash vision of what might be my perfect jean right now: rigid (no stretch), dark denim, a little relaxed through the thigh and definitely through the calf.

and then i started musing about a favorite pair of thrifted jeans in my collection that are awesome but just a hair too small (especially after having had a baby; my figure is close to what it was pre-poppy but *not exactly*, if you know what i mean, mommas!): a pair of 70s bellbottom navy-style bleach spot jeans. they are nicely high-wasted, the perfect length, and they fit like a million bucks (at one time anyway!). i love them but it has to be a good body day for me to squeeze back into them comfortably. i am pretty sure they were originally navy issue. if not, they were awfully close.

a quick spin around the webs looking at the major jeans brands didn’t turn up any reasonable facsimile. so on a whim, i googled around for army-navy surplus sites, to see if anything turned up…

and voila, the jeans you see above.

$22 and some change. almost non-existent shipping. (less than a dollar??)

they came today. (i ordered them the end of last week.)

they fit like they were made for me.

no fakey distressing. cheap as chips.

and exactly what i had in mind. i love how they have a very classic, but also very 70s look. (my favorite decade, in case you didn’t know.) they even look a little 40s. they so aren’t “in” right now, shape-wise or looks-wise (when 90s grunge crap is reigning), but i don’t give a whit.

they just need some hemming, and they are basically good to go.

i’m excited about them…i think they will be a nice change of pace in my jeans wardrobe, and i love how they are exactly what i was looking for and sort of unassuming and under the radar. yay!


i’ll ask you, because i so like to ask you!:

have any of your jeans ever bit the dust in an untimely, sad manner? what did you do? did you find a suitable replacement?
what’s your idea of the perfect pair of jeans? right now, in the past or for all time?


  1. kim

    I used to have a pair of J Crew jeans that started out super dark and rigid and were a great score at Buffalo Exchange for $15 or so. I wore them for years, even though they were bootcut (which is not the best look on me, but they were barely bootcut and more closely resembled straight leg jeans). I wore them for a couple of years until the seat pretty much disintegrated. I still miss them, even though I have a couple of cute pairs circulating in my closet right now.

    I totally relate to your skinny jeans quandary. I love them for winter with boots and layers, but now I’m pretty tired of them and have been leaning more heavily on a recently thrifted trouser cut pair.

  2. PepperReed

    “cut-rate fabric (so thin and worthless!), or hacky, fakey distressing (i.e.: ugly “faux” creases and wear on the crotch/thigh area). i’m sorry; i just can’t do it. if i am gonna do any distressing it either better be authentic or at least look like it.”


    I’m tall and full figured, and I. Can’t. Stand. the majority of jeans out there. If they’re even remotely ‘non-faux’ then they’re cheaply made and horridly cut. I USE my jeans at work most everyday, so I need something thats well made; nice enough to go to a meeting, sturdy enough to handle full-contact gardening and fashionable enough so I don’t feel like a complete frump. Hello jeans-wear manufacturers: are you listening? :^)

  3. a.

    oh, i get so sad when my favorite jeans give up the ghost. for me, it’s almost always due to wear/fraying in the inner thigh area. I’ve found that once the fibers weaken enough in one area to rip, that means they’re too weak in the surrounding areas to respond to patching or mending. it’s sad, but I force myself to say goodbye to them at that point.

    i wear jeans to work every day; they are the only pants that I feel look good on me. jeans aren’t just clothing to me; they are a way I define myself. They play probably too large a role in how I feel about my image and body on any given day. And, I’m extremely hard to fit for a combination of reasons, so I constantly feel precarious about where my next jeans will come from.

    I get it.

  4. dreamecho

    I was thinking of doing a post on my favorite type of jeans too! I share some of the same quirks in taste that you do regarding wash and details. My ideal jean is high-waisted (at least a 10″ rise if not higher), super skinny all the way through, with no embroidery on the bum pockets or any sort of frivolity. Just clean and classic. The wash would be a raw indigo or a naturally faded looking medium blue.

    How was the sizing on your new jeans? The XS-M designation is pretty misleading; it’s not clear if this is modern/”fashion” sizing or more standard sizing. Thanks in advance. 🙂

  5. Kristina

    I just had two pairs die, a wear three times a week straight leg, and a wear the other days skinny pair. I’ve not found a replacement.

  6. Katie Mahoney

    hmmm…the bleachspot jeans are worth a try at resurrecting. If they’re not threadbare, bleach them all in one fell swoop and then indigo dye them over again, or blackwash them.

    And I know the post-baby body change issue. I’ve finally accepted that I simply cannot wear things that fit pre-baby and have them feel the same (even seven years down the road). I actually warned one of my pregnant friends that her body would be different after. Not bad, not necessarily more weighty, but different because our bones shift in pregnancy. I’m sure most of my current ‘best loved’ collection would have fit me much differently in my pre-baby body, but that’s okay. I like what I have now.

  7. Jessica

    Wow, what a find! How did you dare order them online, I couldn’t find any sizing info at all!
    My biggest complaint is stretch denim; the whole (wonderful!) point of denim, in my book, is that it works without stretch, however tight – or not – you want it to be. But in th shops it all seems to be stretch, even the expensive ones.
    I have had some amazing pairs over the years, but it was mostly pure luck; handmedowns from aunts an uncles (an ancient pair of calvin kleins ruled the roost for may years) and since then I have come across one favourite pair on a free table in the uni housing where i used to live (pre-stretch skinny from Gap), and a couple of pairs in charity shops. right now I’m three months after giving birth to my third, so fitting back into my favourites will take a little longer 😉

  8. Izzy

    I actually have a pair of vintage 70s jeans that fit on a good body day. I hear you on that! I always have a problem with jeans not fitting right and that distressed stuff and thin denim really don’t match up too good old vintage Levis. Some of my favorite cuts are Levis 646’s because they are a little high waisted but not to much and hide your little tum tum if you have and have a slight flare at the bottom. My other favorite is the 517’s by Levis they are about the same fit in the waist but these are a boot cut and more strait legged. Those are my two favorite and not to hard to find online. I was lucky to find a pair of 646’s while thrifting but they are one size to small. I hope to fit in them soon!

  9. Stephanie

    I have 2 pairs of pants that I wear religiously and they both came from American Eagle…which is strange because I never shop there. But I needed some Khakis one day and happened to find a pair of cords on sale for like $8. I wore them unless the ass fell out…then I stalked eBay for a few months and finally found the same pair which is lucky because they are several years old. The dark denim ones that I have came from TJMaxx and fit like no others. Unfortunately it was before AE changed their sizes…and then I guess they changed them again. I haven’t been able to find another pair that fit there since.

  10. Ilka

    My favourite pair of jeans ever was a pair of Calvin Kleins. They were just the right cut and colour, and I wore them for years until they started falling apart. I still have them and look at them longingly, wishing them back to life again. Sometimes I wear them at home, just because I can! I have never loved another pair of jeans as much and I’m always looking for a replacement pair. I find that they are all too low rise for me because I have hips and a long torso. I also hate the fake distressing that is ubiquitous and ugly. My ideal jeans are dark, with a narrow straight leg, not low rise, not necessarily high waisted, just the archetypal pair of jeans. I wish I could find them!

  11. eireann

    Ohhhh I had a favorite pair of very well-softened (by wear) wide-leg jeans I loved that split right across both knees. I loved those.

    But I am very picky about jeans (and I don’t like the super tight ones that are de rigeur in the UK right now…like skin-tight! eesh) and rarely find the right ones. I like them very dark indigo and a bit flared or wide-legged below the knee (but not dramatically).

    The ones you link to are pretty good-looking!

  12. renr

    I don’t wear jeans that often so none have ever died on me so far, but I suppose that’s because I’ve yet to find a pair of skinny jeans that fits perfectly on my hips and is made of the right elasticity :S

  13. cheryl

    thank you for the jeans link! i just got some. 🙂 they’re an incentive for me to lose the rest of this baby weight (my 2nd babe really added an inner tube around my middle! ugh.). i can’t even fit into my favorite fat jeans at this point, which are straight leg Marc Jacobs, btw. my absolute faves of all time were a pair of GAP skinny jeans with a slight bell at the bottom — the most flattering i’ve ever owned.

  14. Jenny

    I hardly wear jeans these days but I guess it’s because I have the same problem as everyone else of not being able to find the perfect pair. I used to wear jeans all the time though. In college, I had a pair of Levis 501 that were perfect and I wore them to death. I disassembled them and traced the pieces on new fabric and made myself a new pair. I loved them even more because the denim I used was just a little thinner, just a little darker, just a little softer, and I used red top stitching. Loved them. They eventually died too.

    The pair I am on the hunt for now would be just slightly less tight than skinny jeans and have the waist right at the belly button. They’d be very dark but not so that they are the kind that you have to worry about the dye wiping off. No crazy stuff on the pockets. No distressing at all! I’ll break them in myself, thank you very much. Did I just describe mom jeans? Haha!

    I am curious to know how those pants turn out for you. I would be very scared to order with that kind of sizing!

  15. Ilka

    Hello…I’m back! Your post inspired me to look again and I decided to look in places that I would never usually go to. Today I bought a pair of Tommy Hilfigers that are almost what I was looking for (apart from the waistband being just not high enough for my liking, but they’ll do – the rise is called Modern Rise, incidentally). They are dark denim, no fading or distressing, nothing flashy on the back pockets, with a straight leg. As previous poster Jenny said, they are probably mom jeans! The style is called London if anyone is interested in having a look at them, and the colour is Night Blue. I’m really pleased I found them, so thanks for making me focus on jeans!

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  17. bestie

    THOSE are frickin awesome. Seriously. My all-time favorite pair of jeans (from a Topshop 50%-off sale!) look pretty much like those! They are so comfortable and fit me wonderfully. I haven’t really had jeans that died on me… I either grow tired of them or they grow tired of me (if that even makes any sense). I think it’s because I try to balance my jean-days and dress-days so that my clothes get equal amount of wear.

  18. Rachael

    My 2 best pairs were a wide leg jean from Banana Republic (which I scored at Goodwill for 5 bucks brand new), and a bootcut jean by Lucky. Both absolutely PERFECT…until my dog chewed a gigantic hole in both crotches. Now I’m trying to replace them. Hopefully I’ll have the same luck you did!

  19. Susan

    I don’t wear jeans a lot (can’t even wear them on Fridays at work) but I will let another person’s jeans experience stand in for me. One of my best buddies who I met in university back in 1989 wore some straight-leg plain Jane Levis, all the time. Move up to today, 2010, and at 46 years old, she still wears them! They look 21+ years old, and that’s the point.