Denim for the athlete


There was an article published recently on the CrossFit Journal entitled “Fit for the Fittest”.  Said article took a few different (great) athletes from the SoCal region and had them go try on a bunch of different pairs of jeans.  The only problem about this article was that all the athletes were female!  What about the male athletes?  Another thing I observed while trolling the post on CrossFit’s Facebook page was that people complained about the prices of the jeans that were shown in the article.  I’m not one to skimp on a nice pair of denim, but I understand that most people aren’t going to spend north of $100 on a pair of jeans.  My last issue about the article was the type of jeans they picked!  Everything…washed…ugh.  I’m not an extreme denim junkie, but I do appreciate and try to buy only raw and selvedge denim; at least raw!  My girlfriend thinks I’m insane because I never wash my denim until about a year’s wear (unless something catastrophic happens to them, not even getting puked on has phased me); but it’s really a thing and it’s part of the process, I promise!

I’m no stylist, but at one point in my life I did own more “regular” clothes than gym clothes.  The first and most expensive pair of jeans I ever purchased was a pair of Rock & Republic’s for $230.  Since then, I’ve been addicted to jeans; some expensive, some not.  There were times where I was as small as a 28″ waist and there were times where I was as big as a 34″ waist.  Super skinny, skinny, tapered, slim straight, straight, and boot-cut…you name it.

Brands? Rock & Republic, True Religion, Joe’s, Monarchy, Seven for All Mankind, Citizens for Humanity, Levi’s, Express, G-Star, A.P.C., Naked & Famous, Cheap Monday, Evisu, Edwin…just to name a few.

Some years later, I got into raw, heavier, selvedge denim (see here for a guide on raw denim).  My favorite, most cherished pair of denim was my Naked & Famous SkinnyGuy jeans.  Of course this was before I got into CrossFit and leg day wasn’t even a day.  Since making leg day, every day, finding a well fitting pair of “skinny” jeans has become somewhat of a chore.  I know I’m not the only one that works out that isn’t a huge fan of “straight” fit.  I need some room in my jeans but I don’t like to be swimming in them either; nor do I like the leg openings dragging on the ground.  I had a pair of Levi’s 520’s and I LOVED them.  The cut was tapered with plenty of room in the thigh down to a 14″ opening at the ankle.  Sadly, they discontinued the 520’s a while back and I haven’t been able to find another solid pair of tapered jeans. (Levi’s newest tapered jeans are the 508’s.  I own a pair and they’re okay, but the fit is different than the 520’s.)

Gustin Straight Rise “The Heavy”

For this “guide”, I’ll be going over a few different styles and brands that I’m currently wearing and recommend for the male athlete, that gives a shit about what he looks like with clothes on.  Every body is different and I’m not the biggest guy out there, but I do have a 400lb backsquat and a 510lb deadlift; I’m not the littlest guy either.  Just for reference, I currently stand 5’8.5 on a good day and 175lbs soaking wet.  My preferred waist sizes are between 31 and 32, inseam 30-32.

20Jeans DSTLD Raw Premium Cigarette

Available in a bunch different washes, slim-straight, and straight fits.  The DSTLD brand is 20Jeans most “premium” pair of denim.  They’re raw, 12.5oz, not selvedge and are 97% cotton/3% spandex so there’s a little bit of stretch.  These jeans are the cheapest of the round-up coming in at $65 ($35 is what I paid with the coupon they’re currently offering).  These are a great, instantly comfortable pair of denim due to the stretch from the spandex; absolutely no problems here hitting full depth in a squat.  I bought a 32×30 and I probably could have gotten into a 31″ waist, not due to the stretch, just the sizing.  The “cigarette” style is the slim, tapered fit, but still has pretty ample room in the thigh and calf areas with a low rise.  I also ordered the “slim” fit and noticed that there wasn’t a huge difference between the two styles other than a little bit of extra room in the thigh and leg opening.  The midnight wash looks premium and could definitely get you into a club at night.

DSTLD Cigarette Back in Midnight

I really like and recommend these jeans to anyone, mainly for the price.  The only quibbles I have about these jeans are that there are a few loose stitches, they’re not selvedge, I’m not sure the denim will wear because of the spandex and that you can’t exchange, but only return jeans to 20Jeans.

DSTLD Cigarette in Midnight


If you want a high end pair of denim, but you don’t want to pay high end retail store prices, you’ll probably want to look towards Gustin.  They’re a company that works off of crowd sourcing; meaning every pair of denim they produce goes through a Kickstarter-ish campaign, and if funded, goes into production.  You’ll get quality denim at awesome prices and a little bit of a wait.  Gustin starts priced at what I’m going to say middle of the road – the cheapest pair they make is $81, to around $140 and all the way up to just south of $200.  Even the lowest price point is going to be raw, around middle weight (13oz), and selvedge denim; most of the time Japanese, but can sourced from anywhere (even Zimbabwe!).  Not to mention they have a plethora of interesting looking washes and weaves.  I own both straight and slim fits; at the moment these jeans in slim fit are my favorite pair of denim.  Both fit perfect in the waist sized at 32″, but I find that the slim has more than enough room in the thigh and calf areas without the leg opening of the straight. Although stiffer than the DSTLD jeans, both fits are initially squat-able, but as you wear, those are areas should also stretch out as well.  If you’ve got massive quads, then you might want to go with the straight cut, but most of us should be fine with slim.

Gustin Slim Light Lefthand

According to Gustin’s sizing method I was supposed to be a 30″, which I ordered originally and ended up being a miserable fail.  I sized up to a 32″ and it ended up being a perfect fit.  Luckily Gustin is good about returns and exchanges, but then you’re at the mercy of what they have in-stock.  That brings me back to the worst thing about Gustin, having to wait for your jeans to be made.  Both my pairs lagged a couple more weeks than they were supposed to.  Another thing is that the jeans only come in 34-36″ inseams, meaning you’re either going to have to cuff them or get them hemmed.

I think every guy with a kilo of style needs a good pair of raw and selvedge denim.  So, get on it.  Gustin is your best bet.

Gustin Slim Light Lefthand



High end denim, high end prices.  Honestly, the only reason I wear my A.P.C. Petit Standard jeans now that they don’t fit, is because they cost me $175 when I bought them and they did fit me.  I’m just trying to make it work, hoping to god they loosen up more.  At least I know the denim will wear nicely due to all the creases these jeans make from me squirming around in them.  14oz, sanforized, selvedge, dry/raw…the denim used here is one of the best I’ve ever put on.  Crisp is the best way to describe them.  Apparently A.P.C. has since come out with a new fit called the Petit New Standard which should fit a little looser while maintaining a slimmer profile, but I’m not about to drop another $185 on them; especially with brands like Gustin and RPMWest on the market.

Upcoming brands (Barbell Apparel & RPMWest)

A couple interesting looking new prospects in the crowd sourcing phase.

Barbell Apparel ($109 on Kickstarter) looks to change the game for functional clothing.  Designed with the athlete in mind, and looks that way.  I can appreciate the idea behind the denim, but the wash looks a little bit dated and the mens straight fit looks a little loose.  A dark, unwashed indigo should be an option from the get-go.  If you’re going to have a stretchy “hybrid” denim, why not have a slim/tapered fit for men too (not jeggins)?  I’ll keep my eye out on the brand because I really do like the idea and what they’re trying to do, but I don’t know if I can get behind them just yet because of those two factors.  Please – please – please listen to this word of suggestion:  Unwashed indigo and slim or tapered fit.

RPMWest ($95) has a nice home try-on (assuming you live in the U.S.A) feature in which they’ll send you one size smaller and bigger than the size you ordered.  This is a great idea, especially since the brand is strictly e-commerce.  They’ve got similar sizing and limited washes somewhat like Gustin.  All they do is jeans.

Gustin Straight Leg Opening

Crossfitters should be able to look as good as we do with clothes on, as we do naked.  With the right shopping and fashion sense, you can find denim that fits that isn’t Wrangler.  I’ll probably still spend the majority of my shopping on gym clothing, but  as long as high quality denim is produced, I’ll be there to buy it.

If you read this, then end up buying your first pair of raw, selvedge denim…please refrain from washing them!  Wear, live and squat in them for as long as possible before your first soak!  It might be more uncomfortable than what you’re used to, but I promise you the reward of a unique looking pair of jeans is far greater!

If you have any questions on styles, brands or fit…comment or e-mail me!

And remember


(And thanks for making it this far on a kind of weird CrossFit article!!!)

Gustin Straight “The Heavy”



    1. Im very excited to try out relentless jeans! Did you get my email?

Leave a ReplyCancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.