Finding the right pair of jeans is always a complicated task, but that’s especially true in the summer, when the heavy raw denim you wear during the winter is just uncomfortable, and it’s easier to opt for a lightweight pair of chinos than to pull on a pair of jeans in the morning. But, if you’re a diehard denim fan, you probably don’t want to change, even if you’re living in a state with hot temperatures and high humidity. Luckily for you, there’s an easy way to wear jeans all summer: summer-weight jeans.
Here’s the deal: a pair of 16-ounce rigid selvedge jeans may look great in the fall or the winter, but nobody should subject himself to that in 80 or 90-degree weather. It’s a much better idea to find a lighter weight pair of jeans for the summer — ones that still fit great and pair easily with everything in your wardrobe, but won’t leave you sweaty and pining for air conditioning (or winter) at the end of the day. As with any pair of jeans, you’ll want to opt for a slim, flattering cut. And no, that doesn’t mean you have to, or even should, make a beeline for the “skinny” cut.
What you’ll need to do a little differently than you would when buying a pair of jeans for the colder months is to carefully avoid denim that’s heavier than around 12 ounces, and to consider steering clear of cotton-blends. While it can get difficult to find when you’re shopping for something lightweight, the ideal is 100% cotton, since cotton will breathe better than synthetic fibers.
At one end of the spectrum, you’ll probably want to avoid a pair of jeans that you’ll have to break in extensively when the weather is hot, but you should also avoid going to the opposite extreme and buying a pair that’s so distressed and full of holes that a day at the beach (or an encounter with the washing machine) is going to shred them to pieces. If you’re ready to upgrade your wardrobe with something a little more summer-friendly, here are our top picks.
1. RRL lighter-weight selvedge jeans
RRL stops short of calling these summer-weight jeans, but if you’re dedicated to your workwear aesthetic, the brand’s dark-wash low straight jeans may be a good choice for the warmer days ahead. With a lean silhouette and hand-finished selvedge denim, these jeans are made of a lighter-weight denim that still has the character of a heavier material. They’re made in the USA, and are washed to replicate months of dedicated wear.
2. Frame Denim distressed cotton jeans
The last thing you want to do when it’s 90 degrees outside is to break in a pair of stiff jeans. Instead, opt for a soft and comfortable pair, like Frame Denim’s distressed jeans. While this isn’t a pair that you should wear to the office, it’s perfect for all the well-deserved down time you’re expecting this summer. These jeans are handmade of 100% cotton in Los Angeles, and are faded and distressed, but cut in a flattering slim fit.
3. Levi’s Vintage washed selvedge 501s
If you’re still a committed workwear devotee, even in the height of summer, you can’t go wrong with a classic pair of Levi’s 501s. We’d opt for this washed selvedge pair from Levi’s Vintage Clothing; they’re made from selvedge denim from North Carolina’s Cone Mills, and are distressed with paint splatters. Even better? They’re 100% cotton, so they’ll be soft and comfortable even on the hottest days of summer.
4. Citizens of Humanity American-made jeans
In the summer, many style-savvy guys opt for a much lighter wash than they’d wear in the winter, since a lighter wash will absorb less heat when you’re sitting outside at a baseball game or sipping a drink on the patio than a dark pair of jeans. This pair of slim-fit Citizens of Humanity jeans offers an interesting material — a lightweight, rayon-enhanced Japanese denim that’s 77% cotton, 23% rayon — and this pair is actually made in America.
5. 7 For All Mankind lightweight selvedge jeans
If you can’t give up your selvedge obsession for the summer, consider 7 For All Mankind’s slim-fit selvedge jeans. This particular pair is made of a soft, lightweight, and breathable selvedge denim. The material isn’t 100% cotton — it’s 81% cotton, 17% polyester, 2% spandex — but these jeans are tailor-made for denim fans who want to stay devoted to their selvedge jeans despite the hot weather.