From mud-dyed Japanese raw denim to single-stitch construction or silver rivets, it's often blink-and-you'll-miss-it details that set a pair of jeans apart. When you're shopping, keep an eye out for the following features:
Rivets: Smooth metal fasteners placed at the corners of pockets and other high-tension points on jeans can have a character all their own. Most commonly in brass, rivets can also be in copper, nickel, silver, or other metals and feature custom designs. Japanese denim maker Strike Gold, for example, uses iron and copper rivets designed to rust and flake over time and age the jean differently than a modern rivet might.
Bartacks: The heavy stitching you'll find along tension points such as the corners of pockets and belt loops, bartacks are utilitarian, but often provide stylish touches. Stitch variations run from lines to X shapes and sometimes utilize colored threads.
Arcuate: Otherwise known as the stitching arcing over the back pocket of your jeans, this is a detail that can spark intense debate. From subtle, single-stitched lines to bold curves in high-contrast threads, what's at play on your pockets can create a look that's variously classic, vintage or decorative – depending on your style. We recommend keeping it simple.
Pocket lining: While it's not a standard feature on raw denim jeans, styles with lined back pockets hold up much longer than the unlined alternative, especially if you're a habitual wallet-in-the-back-pocket kind of guy. "Having a lined pocket doubles the life of the pocket, and it doesn't add much more to the cost," says Babzani.
Zipper versus button fly: Which you choose may depend on personal preference, but be forewarned that you won't find a zip fly on unsanforized jeans. Why? The shrinking that occurs when you soak or wash them for the first time would buckle the zipper. If you opt for a sanforized raw denim pair or a more mainstream pair of washed jeans, the choice is yours, though Babzani finds buttons to be sturdier and more long-lasting than zippers.
Weft: Traditionally the white thread that creates the contrasting hue on the inside of a pair of jeans, the weft can be woven with colored thread or it can incorporate special dye techniques. The mud-dyed weft thread of Strike Gold's Pure Gold jeans creates a contrasting beige cuff when rolled, while the Stanton jean's tinted weft delivers an underside with a slightly olive tone.