Review: My New Favorite Jeans Come Complete With an ’80s-Era Surprise

Hint: it's not shoulder pads

A pair of jeans on a orange background
Buck Mason

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There is a video that, as the kids say, lives “rent-free” in my brain. The clip in question is actually from a vintage television ad for the 1986 Levi’s 501 Button Fly Jean. In said advertisement, actors dance and meander around in catty fashion, thrilled by the prospect of foregoing a zipper in favor of a much cooler, albeit dexterously demanding option. And what’s this? One of the gleeful denim-wearers is non-other than a sexy-as-hell, tank-top sporting Stanley Tucci himself, with hair, no less.

Since witnessing that cinematic masterpiece, I’ve been thoroughly curious about what a pair of big ol’ button-flys might look, feel, be like. The style certainly still exists, but it’s harder to come by than you’d think these days, and few look as good as the ’80s Levi’s did. So imagine my surprise (and subsequent glee) when Buck Mason announced their Japanese Selvedge Full Saddle Denim Jean, already ticking 3 of my denim retirements — high rise, straight-leg fit, and selvedge finish — would boast a swanky button fly.

This isn’t my first rodeo with Buck Mason. The California-based brand bills itself as a retailer of “modern American classics for daily wear” and, thought sometimes hit-or-miss, they do indeed excel when it comes to well-designed basics. Their cashmere turtleneck is one of my go-to business-casual looks, and the InsideHook office openly raves about the retailer’s suede jackets.

Still, I was determined to put the Full Saddle Jean through its paces — as someone quite, uh, particular about fit and cursed with funky proportions, I’ve long since shed the “I guess this works, kinda” mentality. If the fit is crappy, I send it back.

a reverse image of a moedel in buck mason jeans
They don’t make them like they used to — unless, of course, you’re talking about the Buck Mason Full Saddle Jean
Buck Mason

After the prerequisite waiting like a small child for the mailman to deliver my Christmas presents, my denim digs finally arrive in the mail, and oh, are they glorious. It’s hard to explain how much impact the minutia of something like three metal fasteners instead of a zipper has on an article of clothing, but it just feels… better. There’s surprisingly little fumbling with the buttoning, no tight pinch of a zipper.

The Full Saddle Jeans are milled from premium rinsed 14 oz Japanese selvedge denim, which retains a fair bit of the coveted “crunch” without the associated stiffness. My pair has worn in beautifully, maintaining the chromatic integrity with zero signs of wear and tear.

In particular, the fit of the jean is excellent — hitting below the belly button but above the natural waist, they’re all but built for the tapered tee or oversized Oxford tuck, and feature a straight, off-the-leg cut that perfectly threads the needle between fitted and relaxed. You can wear them with boots (I certainly do), but they wouldn’t look odd with sneakers. I’ve used them on dates, at the office, even as my travel jeans. There are places these jeans shouldn’t go — no button-flys at the wedding, please — but there’s a hell of a lot more places that they should.

One admitted qualm I had was with the length. The jeans runs by waist size only, and I found the length, a uniform 33.5″ inseam, far too long for me. It’s a simple fix — a hem or a cut-off or even just a little roll — but if you think these are going to break perfectly for every single fellow who snags a pair, you’ve got another thing coming.

I’ll be the first to point out that $175 for a pair of jeans will be steep for some, but think of it this way: they can do everything your current pair can and more, plus you’ll have them for years.

The final verdict? Buck Mason’s Full Saddle Jeans are elite, if you know what you’re getting into. For those deterred by button fly, I say good riddance.

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