Why I Stopped Paying More Than $100 for Jeans


(Image credit: Collage Vintage)

I remember my first pair of designer jeans really well. This was back in high school, and I couldn’t have been more excited to walk into one of the coolest boutiques in Arizona to try them on. They had signature stitching across the back pockets, a worn-in wash, and straight-leg cut—and I’d never felt better slipping on a pair of jeans. I can’t remember the exact price, but it was enough to make my Dad scratch his head and wonder why I had just paid good money for jeans that were purposely distressed and looked like they’d already been worn. But I wore those jeans until they were threadbare and certainly got my money’s worth. And as a huge fan of jeans, I was constantly on the hunt for cool new pairs of designer denim for the years that followed.

It’s funny though because lately my designer jeans have been sitting in a neatly folded pile at the top of my closet—completely untouched. Instead, more affordable denim has been in constant rotation in my wardrobe. Unworn are my skinny jeans with high-tech stretch. Replacing them have been more rigid, high-rise jeans in vintage washes like Levi’s 501s. While today these might seem like a throwback to the ’90s, Levi’s iconic 501 style has been around since 1890 and is still a classic today.

Now, I don’t have anything against designer denim—quite the opposite. But it’s been interesting to discover that well-made jeans are available at any price, and sometimes the less expensive options can end up being your favorites. Classics are classics for a reason and deserve a place in your wardrobe.

Read on to see how I'm styling affordable denim and shop for jeans under $100.

Associate Director, Special Projects

Kristen Nichols is the Associate Director, Special Projects at Who What Wear with over a decade of experience in fashion, editorial, and publishing. She oversees luxury content and wedding features, and covers fashion within the luxury market, runway reporting, shopping features, trends, and interviews with leading industry experts. She also contributes to podcast recordings, social media, and branded content initiatives. Kristen has worked with brands including Prada, Chanel, MyTheresa, and Luisa Via Roma, and rising designers such as Refine and Tove, and her style has been featured in publications including Vogue.com, Vogue France, WWD, and the CFDA. Before Who What Wear, Kristen began her career at Rodarte, where she worked on assistant styling, photo shoots, and runway shows, and at Allure, where she moved into print and digital editorial. She graduated from the University of Southern California, where she studied art history and business, and currently lives in New York.