Compare these brands of jeans
November 23, 2009 5:03 AM   Subscribe

I'd like a comparison of CK, Levi's, Dickies and Lee jeans.

I've never bought a pair of jeans (for dull reasons), but I'm thinking about doing so. I know very little about the various brands and would appreciate some basic knowledge.

Obviously I need to see which fit me best, but aside from that, please tell me about the durability and other distinguishing characteristics of the following brands:
  • Calvin Klein
  • Levi's
  • Dickies
  • Lee
Any good or poor record of environmental friendliness or workers' rights would also be interesting.

Other brands (also for dull reasons) are not such a good choice for me, but if you strongly believe there is one that's head and shoulders above the four listed above, you can tell me too. Mostly, though, please compare the brands above.
posted by Busy Old Fool to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Lee jeans are quite comfortable, and last a decent amount of time, depending on how often you wear them. The only issue I've had is the seam at the bottom of the crotch (in the back, between the legs) wearing out faster than the rest of the pants. I think this might have to do with my reubenesque physique rather than outright structural failure. The fabric is pretty soft, and they have the benefit of being cheaper than the others on your list.

Not on your list, but worth a check, Eddie Bauer jeans. If you can find them on sale, maybe $30, and those and Lee are the only ones I wear.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:26 AM on November 23, 2009

I like Lee Jeans, I seem to get a lot of wear out of them. I've had pretty good look with Old Navy's brand too.
posted by COD at 5:47 AM on November 23, 2009

Best answer: CK jeans I love love love despite the price and icky marketing. For me they have always fit really nicely, are soft like sweatpants, and last forever. One other thing I like is that CK offers styles where the corners of the front pockets are tucked in and sewn, rather than riveted. I think rivets look kind of tacky, and hate the way they rub noisily when you lean on a wall or whatever.

Levi's don't soften up nearly as nicely as the CK jeans I have had, but they do last a long time. If you can find them on sale (sometimes $10 here in Japan...), this can be super-good-value.

Lee I have never liked because of the colors, cuts, weird embroidery on the pockets, and poor fit for my shape. (It never helped that I had particularly strong associations of them to specific people and general demographics that I didn't want to be wearing the same clothes as.)

Dickies for me were always too firm, but maybe I just couldn't wear them enough to wear them in.

Old Navy I haven't had much luck with in durability, but I don't expect it, because they are cheap. You might want to consider Gap, which is probably in your area and comes from the same family.

Seeing you are in South Korea, you probably have Uniqlo. It's a Japanese company of essentially no-name clothing. For me they hit an awesome combination of price, classic styles, comfort, and quality. But, also given that it's Japanese and you are in South Korea, you may find a size issue there. I'm suspecting that may be behind the brand limitations, too...?
posted by whatzit at 5:59 AM on November 23, 2009

Best answer: For durability, of those four, I think Dickies are the way to go. I think Carhartt and Arborwear, among others, are even better, though. (Note: I'm only talking about durability.)
posted by box at 6:06 AM on November 23, 2009

Best answer: Just to complicate things, I have a pair of Haggar jeans that I got at an outlet store and wore a lot for a number of years because they were very comfortable. In terms of snugness, they fell somewhere between Levi's (pretty snug) and Lees (pretty loose and comfortable).

I find Lee and Levi's jeans both to be pretty durable. Someone mentioned the crotch wearing out in a pair of Lee jeans, which I had happen once, but it did not happen with several other pairs that wore through on knee or thighs first. I sometimes wonder if premature wear in jeans might be connected to quirks in how they are treated - pre-faded or pre-worn, etc. I usually buy jeans dark and let them wear/fade naturally.

Personally, I have lost 10-15 pounds in the last year and am thinking about trying out a pair of Levi's again (my gf says Levi's "look better" which I presume means how they fit in a part I cannot see for myself without a mirror). Of course the other disadvantage of Levi's if you're getting on in years (I'm a 40-something) and have put on some belly weight is that the waist size is emblazoned on your hip for all to see.
posted by aught at 6:31 AM on November 23, 2009

Best answer: I've only owned one pair of CK jeans. I'm pretty tough on my jeans, but they were pretty flimsy and wore out way too quickly for me to consider them again.

I know you're not asking for other suggestions, but maybe someone else coming across this post is: I'm not that much of a denim nerd (I don't think), but I absolutely *love* Salt Works Jeans they look great, fit amazingly and are made of titanium (okay, so maybe not -- seems like it though). Pick them up at Loehmans or another discount outlet for an actually reasonable price -- not the silly retail price.
posted by wrok at 6:39 AM on November 23, 2009

Best answer: Lee normally uses a slightly different denim weave than the other mainstream manufacturers. Arguably this makes for a softer pair of jeans with blurrier fades. Have a couple of Lee's and they're pretty ok.

Levi's is something I would stay away from. They don't even have a consistent fit across models. Levi's copies made by other manufacturers are now much better than the originals imo. Many of these copies are made by Japanese companies so you can maybe find a good deal i Korea. Levi's does seem to have an affordable eco (organic cotton blah, blah) line though.

But really. Don't get hung on the brand name. Instead, go to a real store specialized in denim and pay a few extra bucks for a pair of jeans that will fit you really well.
posted by uandt at 6:47 AM on November 23, 2009

Best answer: Levi's used to be the gold standard, but I echo uandt's comment that they are notoriously unreliable. Sure, you had to drag a couple of baseball fields with them before they were wearable, but they did last forever once you got them right. Now, not so much.

If you are talking about denim pants as fashion, I have no answer. It is all about the fit of the individual pair against what you like and how you want them to look. Luck of the draw, really.

If you are talking something to wear for physical labor, I would choose Dickies or Carharrt.

If you are talking about a utility pant for everyday wear, that is more socially acceptable than sweat pants or zoobas, go with Wrangler. They look fine, they fit comfortably and they are cheap as dirt. They wear a bit more quickly than Levis, but their price more than makes up for it.

(Denim tip: wash them inside out if they are stiff feeling. That will wear the inside more than the outside, and you'll have more comfort, longer.)
posted by gjc at 6:57 AM on November 23, 2009

understanding that you asked about social responsibility and durability, I still have to say that the most important attribute is fit, fit fit. If you've never bought jeans before, you probably don't actually *need* to buy them now. Therefore if they don't fit your butt just righteous and look the way you want, you'll never wear them, and that contributes to the "waste" part of social consciousness.
also, brandwise, if they have discount or clearance department stores, you can get really nice jeans from major designers at a massive discount. I bought $80 Pepe and Lucky Jeans and $150 Sevens at TJMaxx/Marshalls/Ross for like $24, but IDK if you have such discounters where you are. Off the top of my head, I would say CK would have the most flattering fits for different body types because it is the most premium brand.
as far as durability, wash and dry your jeans inside out in cold water and the seams and finish will last much, much longer. Line dry them if possible, because the abrasion of machine washing/drying is one of the things that tears them up. So does letting them get too dirty - dirt molecules are abrasive to the fibers.
Also, when you try them, buy them with the tightness/looseness exactly as you like it, but with the length about 1/2 to 3/4 inch (1-1.5 cm) too long. Even preshrunk jeans shrink up, but never in.
Take your sig other or someone whose taste you trust when trying on. Make sure you're comfortable having them look at your butt.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:00 AM on November 23, 2009

Best answer: I usually do Levi's for my "going out jeans". They have more flattering fits and styles and come in a nice variety of darker more "formal" looking blue jean dye colors. Using them for this purpose, they last years. I can't really tell how many because I've only ever had to replace them if my size changed. The last time I replaced them was about 8 years ago. Like someone previously said, the fit will vary even within the same size for the same model (because two people can have the same waist measurement and inseam lengths and very different shape and sized butts). Just take a few sizes and a few pair of each size to the dressing room to try on.

For work durability I do Lee. Tehy are very soft and last a long time. I have been wearing the same single pair in a welding shop twice a week for a few months now and they were already about 5 years old going into that. The first place they wear for me is the seams around the anl;e hem, but I'm short and my jeans tend to drag on the ground. I get my previously mentioned going out jeans hemmed shorter for this reason.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:20 AM on November 23, 2009

Best answer: I wear jeans almost every day. I'm a Levi's guy; the wife likes the way they accentuate my "package". However, Levi's changed the material about three years ago.

I was working at a car wash, and the chemicals tore the shit out of my clothes. So I decided to write the date of purchase on the inside pocket of my jeans, to determine longevity. This was right before the company switched to cheaper material. Soon after I instituted this policy (purchase date), I took a different job. Short version is that I have jeans from four years ago that still look pretty good, and are outlasting jeans bought two years ago. I rotate through all my jeans. The material...hell you can feel the difference.
posted by notsnot at 9:18 AM on November 23, 2009

I think women and men might have different experiences with the brands. I find levis to be the coolest and best fitting men's jeans around.

Other brand recommendations would be Paper denim and cloth and the less pretentious styles of Lucky and 7s.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:22 AM on November 23, 2009

Best answer: I have found both the Lee, Levi's and Dickies's jeans to be equally durable. I haven't bought any Levi's in the past few years, so if they have changed their fabric, this may be different. I find the Lee jeans to be a much better fit than the other brands. I've tried on Old Navy jeans, but haven't bought any because the fit wasn't right. Go try some different brands on and see what you like.
posted by lawhound at 11:09 AM on November 23, 2009

Carhartts have a pretty good record on workers rights as well as durability -- at least over some of their line which are still made in union shops in the US (though they are apparently no longer selling these as a separate line). They are also the only jeans I've found that fit my very skinny frame properly.
posted by tallus at 11:30 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to wear Carhartts for the reasons tallus mentions above, but I got to searching around after the change from having a separate line and found Diamond Gusset Jeans. After trying a pair via mail order, I found they fit me (I'm 5'8", 210 lbs - burly) quite well and they have been the most durable jeans I've ever had. I've got a buzzsaw of a crotch and these jeans are the first ones to stand up to that for more than a year of wear.

I'm living in the UK now and doing a lot of outdoor work, and it was definitely worth the trouble for me to put an order though and get it delivered here when I wanted to get some more rugged jeans.
posted by ursus_comiter at 1:42 PM on November 23, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far.

I probably should have mentioned that I'm a man, in case that makes a difference. However, as I said in the question, I'm certainly going to focus on the fit when I buy the jeans (and thanks for the sizing etc. tips), so what I'm mostly looking for from this question are the aspects that aren't immediately visible in the shop, such as durability etc.

Thanks also for the suggestions of other brands, but since I have access to the four in the question at US prices (others at import prices only, long story), I'm starting with them. If none of them feel quite right, I'll move onto others.

In the meantime, more comparisons of CK, Levi's, Dickies and Lee are very welcome!
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:00 PM on November 23, 2009

Best answer: Oh! Sorry about the useless fit info ;-)
In that case, I would say Levi's, especially if you can get original shrink to fit 501s, which are incredibly coarse, heavy, unpreshrunk denim. these also have a time and pain in the ass factor in that you have to wash them, then put them on wet and wear them dry, in order to get them to fit perfectly. other than that, look for jeans that are dark, relatively coarse, and don't have fashionable washes like dirty-look, thigh-fade or bleach-splash.
Dirt, key rings and clips, and the contents of your pockets will play a major role in eroding your jeans, in addition to machine washing and drying. I would say, in equivalent washes, Levi's, then Lee, then CK, then Dickies.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:41 AM on November 24, 2009

Response by poster: Many thanks, all. There wasn't a great deal of consensus, but that fact was useful in itself.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:43 PM on February 27, 2010

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