It’s hard to believe that after originally launching in 2011, the Levi’s Commuter Jean has been around for almost three years.

Having lovingly clad hipsters in cycle-worthy denim for years now, it’s safe to say the Levi’s Commuter Jean has come into it’s own. There aren’t many brands that can drive mainstream adoption of a niche market like this, but Levi’s has proven to be one of them. Perhaps the ‘hipster-esque’ culture was seeking skinny jeans with function, or perhaps existing riders were looking for viable alternatives to cladding themselves in lycra. Regardless, it appears that the Levi’s Commuter Jean is here to stay.

Being recently in the market for some form fitting denim to properly hug my curves, I sought out a freshly cut pair for myself. After a few weeks of field testing, I’ve concluded that generally, I’m impressed — though room for improvement exists.

Levis Commuter Lookbook

THE HITS

  • Very comfortable – There weren’t any seams, gussets or ‘nubbins’ anywhere that really caught me while riding, and for general wear the small amount of elastane ensured the jeans were comfortable no matter what position I was in.
  • U-lock loop – Despite my initial indifference (ie. I don’t have a u-lock), I actually found this useful. It’s always a pain finding a place to put your lock – Mine isn’t long enough to sling around my shoulder and I don’t like it rattling around on my bike — this loop worked fine and dandy.
  • Soft to the touch – The ladies like that.
  • Odor-resistant – The Sanitized® (anti-microbial) coating is a nice touch and I definitely didn’t notice any odour (though I didn’t really go for any epic randonneuring or stress test this in any meaningful way)
  • Water/dirt-resistant – Believe it or not, the NanoSphere® protective finish actually works… Dirt/mud doesn’t really slide off, but a wet rag will easily remove splatters and/or even larger pieces of dirt, and though I didn’t ride through any torrential downpours, when in light rain, the water beaded off the jeans. Pretty slick.
  • Higher back rise – Though my shirt usually covers my rear-end, I didn’t notice any “crack” while riding. Always a good thing.
  • Reinforced seat/crotch – I imagine this is more for wear than for extra comfort, and although you can see the extra stitching/layering when you inspect the jeans, you don’t notice it visibly or otherwise while you’re wearing them.
  • Deep pockets – Thankfully the pockets in these jeans are nice and deep so you can bury your cell phone in there and not fear it flying out while riding. This is especially reassuring considering the useless cell phone pocket (see below).

THE MISSES

  • Reflective  – While the 3M™ Scotchlite™ tape on the interior cuffs is cool, and a nice nod to cycling, it’s not really wide enough to be useful… I’d almost like to see it twice as thick and make more of a statement.
  • Bleeding – The tag (and sales associate) indicated that the jeans would bleed, and they didn’t lie. For the first few wears my hands had a definite bluish tinge, white shirts also picked up on the blue, so be aware… There’s a price to pay for those nice deep blues.
  • Stretch – The inclusion of elastane definitely helps with comfort and at no point do you feel restricted, but after a couple wears (without wash, as recommended) they start to feel/look kind of dumpy… This may be an acceptable look for some, but my wife prefers jeans to hug my chiselled buttocks.
  • Breathability – Despite the hype, this isn’t athletic gear… While likely more breathable than regular jeans, you’re not going to find yourself blissfully cool on a hot day.
  • Phone pocket – A nice thought, but poorly executed… It doesn’t really fit my iPhone (1/3 of it sticks out the top), and my phone dug into my hip when riding.
  • Men’s only – Oddly, the Levi’s Commuter range is only available for men. I would imagine that this approach honours their target demographic, but to not offer any commuter jeans for women seems like a miss.

With brands like Rapha and Creux relieving you of $225+, the Levi’s Commuter Jean is certainly one of the more budget conscious varieties out there (~$89). I can only speculate that there’s likely to be some very nice tailoring and finishing from the more cycling-centric brands… Their’s would be a jean constructed explicitly for cyclists, whereas I feel that this is a regular jean, with some nice nods to commuting… It just works out that I’m not looking for much more out of my “cycling denim.”

Levis Commuter

Regardless of the whole “cycling” approach, I appreciate the premise of these jeans on two fronts:

  • The fit – I’m active. I like to be active and do things regardless of what I’m wearing. I don’t always want to have to change into “activewear” to run around, play with my kids, or hop on my bike. I also don’t want to be tied to something that looks decidedly goofy. Unless closely scrutinized, you’re hard pressed to see a difference between the Levi’s Commuter Jean and any another nicely cut jean. This is probably the biggest win. It’s just a pair of pants that looks good and works well.
  • The function – For everyday wear it’s about practicality. Technologies like NanoSphere® or the inclusion of elastane simply enhance these jeans. Is it raining out? No worries… Spilt your coffee on your lap? Not as huge a deal as it could be. Need to actually bend your legs, or do something functional in your hipster skinny jeans? These can make it happen.

As a note – I purchased the 505 Straight Leg jeans rather than the 511 Slim Fit since for everyday wear I found them to be a good fit. With that said, if I were to purchase another pair, I would certainly consider the 511’s as I didn’t find them alarmingly ‘skinny’. Also, it appears as though the 505 commuter’s are being discontinued.

If you’re into riding in denim, Levi’s likely isn’t the only brand you should be checking out, there are a number of other worthy purveyors out there: