Sliding Scale: Slim Black Jeans

Welcome to the fourth installment of Sliding Scale, a series in which we bring you a single product for every budget. This month we’re rounding up Slim Black Jeans. With a seemingly endless number of options out there, we’ve handpicked our eight favorite responsibly-made pairs, all of which boast quality construction, top-shelf materials, and a great fit.

Gustin Denim

At the lowest end of the price spectrum are the #167 Italy BlackxBlack Jeans from Gustin, which are made in the USA out of super-dark 14 oz black selvedge denim from Italy, have matching black stitching and hardware, and cost $99 a pop.

Wings + Horns

The slim-fit Black Denim 5 Pocket Pants from Wings + Horn are made in the USA out of an overdyded, non-selvedge black denim that will retain its inky color even after multiple washings. Acrimony has a handful of sizes on sale for $139, or you can buy direct from Wings + Horns, which is selling them for $185 CAD (around $148 USD).

Baldwin Denim

For about $10 more ($154), you can pick up a pair of Black Stretch 76 Jeans from Baldwin Denim. These are made in the USA and out of a matte-finish and very soft non-selvedge stretch denim, and have tonal black stitching and hardware throughout, except for the signature white Baldwin rivet on the back right pocket.


Clocking in at $170 are the Magnus Thure jeans from Svensson, which are made in Italy out of a non-selvedge stretch denim that has an almost-coated looking sheen to it, and have copper-toned hardware and a tan leather patch, giving them just a bit of contrast.

Rag & Bone

Rag & Bone has a handful of options, including a super slim non-selvedge stretch pair, a slightly less slim (but still very slim) non-selvedge brushed cotton pair, and another slightly less slim (but still very slim) raw selvedge pair. All of them are made in the USA, and prices ranges from $175 – $240.

Rogue Territory

Like Rag & Bone, Rogue Territory also has selvedge and non-selvedge options in both slim and super-slim fits. The non-selvedge, or Classic Black, are made from raw 13 oz denim from Kaihara Mills, and the selvedge, or Stealth, are made from a heavier raw 15 oz denim from Nihon Menpu Mills. As RGT fans already know, their jean’s details are just as noteworthy as the fabrics and construction, and include a hidden pen-pocket in the back back right pocket, button fly with contrast cotton lining, and hand-printed pocket bags. Prices range from $185 – $230.


Of course, no denim round-up would be complete without 3sixteen. The label’s $240 ST-220x Slim Tapered Jeans are made in the USA out of 14.5 oz selvedge denim that’s custom-milled exclusively for the brand by Kuroki Mills in Japan. The “double-black” fabric has a black warp and black weft, which makes it highly fade resistant, although some wear will eventually show in high stress areas. (image via)

Pure Blue Japan

And finally, rounding out our list at $315 is the NC-013 Slim Tapered No Fade Black Jean from Pure Blue Japan. Exclusive to Blue in Green in NYC, these are made in Japan out of 13.5 oz selvedge denim that’s dyed with Indanthrene, a non-fading colorant which is both acid- and bleach-resistant, so even as the jeans break-in over a time, their color will never change. Other details include non-branded black rivets and a sheepskin patch.

  • Watcho

    But at the end of the day, what really distinguishes a <$100 legacy mill selvedge pant from a $275+ one? I'm not insinuating there's no difference, and I understand various things like special enzymes and additives like we see in those NC-013's up there. But denims being fairly equal (let's say it's all Cone Mills), there's hardly a cost difference between leather patches, hardware, and some stray canvas lining. Certainly not $175 worth. I guess what I'm suggesting is that it sees to come down to desired profit margin. I never see any of these brands tout the skills of their workers as being superior to similar competitors, or that they have superior employee benefits packages, etc. I'd certainly spend more for some of that, but if it's just the same 14.5oz Kahaira in the same basic silhouettes, I'd have to go with a concept like Gustin's (Flint & Tinder, Lawless).

    • Dude Man

      You’re mostly right, but my issue with Gustin is that they do not provide any transparency into the actual mills and types of dyes used. Also, aesthetically speaking, they’re unimpressive. The ~$120-150 range is a reasonable price to pay for jeans that are produced with denim from reputable mills. I’m very suspicious of brands charging less than that, since I know exactly what it costs to make a high end pair.

      • Watcho

        Is suspicious the right word? I’m noticing that crowdfunding has introduced a no-middleman, non-traditional mark-up model, which I don’t really find suspicious, per se. It’s more like guys saying “100% markup is good enough for us.”

        • Centennial Trade Co

          It’s all relative. What matters to you? I guarantee 3sixteen makes the same margins as Gustin even though they have a higher price point. What Andrew and Johan do is actually rare in most of the denim brands making jeans in the USA today. To make a truly custom denim you usually have to make 10K + yards per fabric. Add up that you use around 2.5-3 yards per pair of selvedge because of the narrow weave and the insane shipping and import tax added to just the rolls of denim and that’s not even counting the cut and sew cost, all the trims and all the shipping involved. Gustin makes a good product but in reality the only thing similar is that they are made in the same city..maybe even the same factory in San Francisco. Also, I’m sure the bulk of the business that 3sixteen does is through their retail partners so factor the wholesale cost and the cost for selling(trade shows, account visits..etc) these are a amazing pair of jeans and a very reasonable price. Again, it’s all relative…non of this May matter to you and that’s totally fine.

      • Adam

        Part of Gustin’s lower pricing dictates that they not reveal where they get the denim from. That way they don’t have to pay for the advertising or other contractual issues that 3rd party distributors deal with.

        Believe me when I say they use the same fabric mills that all the other brands do. They even use the same sewing facility that other brands in San Francisco use.

    • Adam

      “But denims being fairly equal (let’s say it’s all Cone Mills)”

      And that’s what truly separates the $100 denim from the $300 denim. The hardware, patches, and pocket bags reach a diminishing return at some point north of $80 retail, but the fabric is what’s truly special. When you get into nep, slub, and hand-loomed selvedge…..that’s what separates the entry level from the artisanal.

      Handle a pair of jeans from the Gap and then handle some from 3Sixteen. There’s a significant difference in build quality, materials, and finishing. In my opinion, it’s worth the difference in price.

      • Watcho

        Unquestionably. But we’re not talking about comparing 3Sixteen to The Gap. I’m assuming the same thesis as the article. If you handed Gustin and 3Sixteen the same bolt of 14.5oz denim from the same mill, we’d still likely see the end results hit the marketplace with a $200 difference. I curious about what constitutes the difference. If 3Sixteen were to say it’s because their jeans are made by an 80yr old master denim sensai who gets free healthcare and a 100% Roth IRA match, then I understand. If they’re, as you say, using the same facilities as everyone else, then I’m back to wondering why I should spend the difference.

        • To be fair, there are certain corners that are cut by the no-middleman brands. Selling direct isn’t the only way they keep prices down.

          Comparing my consumer-direct clothes to my higher end stuff, there are myriad fabrication differences. Cheaper hardware, lighter-weight threads (and less stitching all-around), the list goes on.

          The consumer direct-stuff is still worlds better than anything from the fast fashion labels. But, there are absolutely quality differences between Gustin and 3sixteen, Lawless and Rogue Territory, Flint & Tinder and Rag & Bone, etc.

          • Watcho

            Sounds like an article I’d like to read someday.

          • David

            I would also like to read such an article. I’ve tried Gustin, Buck Mason, Naked and Famous, Rogue Territory, Taylor Stitch, and Dyer and Jenkins. Buck Mason favorite and Gustin by far least favorite. Curious if Brad thinks the justifications for the higher priced options goes all the way up to the $300+ denim you see on Self Edge, or if he bails around the 3Sixteen level.

          • Watcho

            If I were him I’d bail wherever the free samples stop.

          • Buck Mason are my favorite too. Hands down and by a long shot.

            A couple of years ago, I was a lot more willing to go the crazy expensive Japanese route, but I’ve since learned that no matter how much you pay, the crotch will ALWAYS blow out.

            So now, I buy more for fit (knowing that pretty much all raw denim breaks in the same, and lasts about as long). And Buck Mason makes the best fitting jeans I’ve ever owned.

          • Watcho

            Finally…FINALLY getting my Kickstarter Lawless this week (from August), so I’m excited to see/feel what their entry is like. The price point and customizations are attractive, I hafta say. But I’d probably go Buck Mason next just based on testimonials. I don’t know where I’d put the price point of diminishing returns for denim, but the crowdfunders are definitely lowering it.

  • Adam Rice

    I have a pair of Rogue Territory, 3Sixteen, and Norse Projects. The Norse are my favorite.

  • nametag

    There are a lot of good brands making slim black jeans.. a few others not listed here: Naked & Famous Weird Guy 14oz sulphur dyed, and Left Field Chelsea 14.5oz Black Maria.