Non Stretch Jeans or Stretch Jeans. Which Is Better?

Both stretch jeans and non stretch jeans have advantages. Which is better is determined by what you personally prioritize with your jeans.

Non stretch jeans by Todd Shelton
Photo credit: Todd Shelton

Contents

What are stretch jeans

Stretch jeans look like regular jeans, but they stretch.

There is 2-way and 4-way stretch. 2-way means the denim will either stretch left to right or top to bottom and 4-way means the denim will stretch in all directions, left to right and top to bottom.

Stretch jeans.
Photo credit: Mugsy Jeans

Stretch from left to right allows jeans to expand to body size; think big thighs. Stretch from top-to-bottom enables jeans to stretch with movement; think easing at the knees when kneeling.

Most commonly, men’s stretch denim jeans are made of 98% cotton and 2% stretch. The 2% stretch is made up of elastic-type fibers mixed in the cotton fibers, which enable the denim to stretch.

Why are all jeans stretch now?

It seems most jeans in stores today are stretch jeans. Stretch jeans seem to be taking advantage of two trends happening in America:

1) The American body type is changing
2) American style is becoming comfort-focused

First, the American body type is changing. Stretch jeans are more forgiving than 100% cotton jeans, and stretch jeans have the flexibility to fit more body types and accommodate for fluctuations in body size.

Graph of American weight increasig.
Credit: Gallup

American style is changing too, and it’s prioritizing comfort. As people choose comfort over all else, stretch jeans provide the comfort of sweatpants while looking like jeans.

Another trend worth mentioning (although less popular than a few years ago) is skinny jeans. Stretch denim allowed men to wear their jeans skin-tight. Without stretch denim, the skinny jeans trend would’ve never happened.

Businesses benefit from stretch jeans

Not only do comfort-minded people like stretch jeans, businesses like them too, and they’re putting more stretch jeans in their stores than 100% cotton jeans.

When a customer takes a stretch jean into the fitting room or buys a stretch jean online, it’s going to be more flexible than a 100% cotton jean. Because of the flexibility, the odds of it fitting are probably higher.

So businesses are betting that more people will find an acceptable fit with stretch jeans over non-stretch jeans. With the hope that more people will buy and fewer people will exchange or return.

Our recommended non-stretch jean

At Todd Shelton, our best-selling product is a 100% cotton jean. It’s a sturdy weight denim that looks and feels like a classic jean.

Shop Pro Original Dark jeans

But there are negatives to stretch jeans

Stretch jeans have two negatives that even stretch jean fans will confirm:

1) They lose their shape faster than non-stretch jeans
2) They don’t last as long as non-stretch jeans

The biggest complaint with stretch jeans is that they lose their shape (how they fit) and have to be washed to get them back into shape. The denim is designed to stretch, but once it’s stretched, it struggles to recover to its original shape.

Many people refer to the loss of recovery as “bagging out,” for example: “The knees always bag out.”

Photo credit: The Ruffled Purse

The other complaint to stretch jeans is that they’re less durable than all-cotton jeans. People complain that they develop holes in the thigh crotch area or on the back pockets faster than all-cotton jeans.

Why people prefer 100% cotton jeans

America fell in love with non-stretch jeans, and they’re as iconic as any product in history.

100% cotton jeans look a certain way, feel a certain way, move a certain way, and break in a certain way. Stretch jeans cannot replicate the iconic style of 100% cotton jeans. Stretch jeans look like a lab-created version of 100% cotton jeans because that’s what they are, literally.

The people who still prefer 100% cotton jeans prefer the classic. They want to feel like they’re wearing jeans and look like they’re wearing jeans. They prefer to break in their jeans with the hopes that they will last for years.

Which is better?

Or more democratically, which is better for you?

Stretch jeans are better if you prioritize comfort over style.

Stretch jeans are better if you want your jean to hug your leg, think skinny jeans.

Non-stretch jeans are better if you prioritize style over comfort (and maybe you never thought of all-cotton jeans as uncomfortable anyway).

Non-stretch jeans are better if you want your jeans to last longer.

Why we prefer 100% cotton denim

At Todd Shelton, our priority is consistency of fit. Our customers expect our fits to be consistent order-to-order, year-after-year. And across jeans, khakis, and trousers. 

Todd Shelton 100% cotton non-stretch jeans
Todd Shelton 100% cotton jeans.

After years of working with stretch denim, we determined that stretch jeans are too unstable or unpredictable. All-cotton jeans provide the structure necessary to deliver consistent fits. 

We understand the value of stretch denim. But for fit purposes and for the style we endorse, we believe 100% cotton jeans provide the best results for our customers.


If you have thoughts on stretch denim vs cotton denim, we’d love to hear from you – regardless of which you’ve chosen and why. Please reach out to us at support@toddshelton.com.

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Todd Shelton is men’s clothing brand based in New Jersey. Founded by Tennessee native Todd Shelton, the brand’s collections offer industry-leading fits that are manufactured in the company’s NJ factory and sold exclusively online.

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