In one corner we’ve got American Eagle Next Level AirFlex jeans and in the other corner, Express Hyper Stretch jeans. Both are popular jean styles and are highly rated in the reviews department.
But how good are they really?
Introducing The Best Jeans Series, where I’ll be reviewing jeans from my own collection plus other popular and highly regarded jeans as well.
In this review I’ll go over a history of both brands and compare the AE AirFlex+ Slim Jean and Express Slim Hyper Stretch Jeans. I’ll breakdown how they fit, stretch factor, comfort, durability, style & color options and wrap things up with which is the better value.
Let’s get started.
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First let’s start things off with an abridged history of both brands.
An Abridged History Of American Eagle
American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) was founded in Pennsylvania by two brothers, Jerry and Mark Silverman in 1977. They’re a global fashion retailer that offers trendier men’s and women’s clothing at relatively affordable prices.
AEO is known for their Flex Design, an innovative idea that increases the amount of stretch in jeans. Clint Groom, a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science was the creator of Flex Design. And in 2002 the company hired Clint for the role of senior design director.
Presently he oversees the design of men’s denim, pants and shorts. As of 2020, American Eagle operates over 700 stores in the United States and Canada.
For a look at what they have to offer these days, check out this American Eagle Review.
An Abridged History Of Express, Inc.
Express, Inc. is a fashion retailer that falls under Limited Brands. It was founded back in 1980 where the first Express store opened as a women’s clothing shop under the name “Limited Express”. They’re currently headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.
Similar to the brand Banana Republic, Express offers business casual attire for men and women with a style and aesthetic that leans older than a brand like American Eagle, though still young (25-40).
Today, Express operates in over 600 stores in the US alone. On January 22, 2020 Express announced a restructuring plan where it will close approximately 100 of its stores nationwide to lower costs.
WHICH JEANS FIT BETTER?
And now let’s talk about the all important fit because FIT IS KING after all.
American Eagle Flex Jeans Fit
The American Eagle Next Level AirFlex jean is one of my favorite fitting pair of jeans, hands down. It’s a true slim fit with just the right amount of taper down towards the ankle with an ideal 6″ leg opening. I’m glad it doesn’t fit like a pair of leggings and gives my legs some room to breathe while still creating a slimming silhouette.
Furthermore, it’s a mid to high-rise with a decent amount of stretch at the waist for an all-around comfortable fit without the need for a belt to hold the pants up. These days I prefer forgoing a belt if at all possible, especially with more casual outfits. Finally, this pair is a 28″ inseam and measures 36″ from waist to leg opening.
Express Hyper Stretch Jeans Fit
Like AE jeans, the Express Hyper Stretch slim jeans fit me really well. They’re also a true slim fit and are comfortably snug at the waist (more on that later), fitted in the thighs and slim through the legs.
If I had a knock on them though, the jeans don’t taper quite as much below the knee as the AE jeans. It fits tight around the calves and they actually widen up towards the ankle at 6.75″, almost an inch more than the AirFlex jeans. Additionally, while you can wear them fine without a belt, I notice that the waist tends to slip a bit more than AE’s jeans.
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Minor criticisms aside, the Hyper Stretch slim jeans fit as well as any other slim jean in my wardrobe and shouldn’t be discounted. Plus they’re quite stylish too. Finally, this pair is a 28″ inseam and measures 36.5″ from waist to leg opening a half inch longer than American Eagle, hence the cuff.
FIT WINNER: American Eagle
It’s close, with both brand’s jeans offering a true slim fit that’s trendy and modern. However, the more streamlined silhouette of the AirFlex jeans gives American Eagle the edge here.
» Related: You might like this guide on the Best Jeans Brands for men.
WHICH JEANS HAVE BETTER STRETCH?
Both of these jeans have some of the best stretch out of all the pairs in my collection, and I have dozens. Not surprisingly since the stretch is boasted in their names (AirFlex and Hyper Stretch). The question is, which has the better stretch?
Let’s find out.
American Eagle AirFlex Jeans Stretch
The American Eagle AirFlex slim jeans have incredible stretch, some of the best I’ve worn. They’re not quite legging level stretch, but pretty damn close. For jeans, it truly is a next level stretch.
It’s made with 73% cotton, 25% poly and 2% elastane. The 2% spandex is pretty standard in jeans these days, but this 2% feels stretchier than other brands like Levi’s or Gap, although I’ve yet to try Gap’s new GapFlex.
The waistband has a decent stretch too, so if you’re packing on some extra pounds—no worries—there is a bit of give which is a bonus in my book. Waistbands without any stretch are tremendously uncomfortable.
Express Hyper Stretch Jeans Stretch
If the AE AirFlex jeans stretch is next level, the Express Hyper Stretch jean goes beyond that. It’s made with 84% cotton, 14% poly and 2% elastane. The jean fabric provides even more stretch in the thighs, through the legs and down towards the ankle than AirFlex.
Moreover, the waistband stretches almost like a pair of sweatpants it’s that elastic. I’ve never felt a pair of jeans with this much stretch in this area before. It takes some getting used to with jeans, but once you do, there’s no going back to non-stretch jeans.
STRETCH WINNER: Express
While both jeans offer incredible stretch, it’s the Express Hyper Stretch jean that really does live up to its name and some. I have to give best stretch to Express here.
» Related: You might like this The Perfect Jean vs Mugsy Jeans Review.
WHICH JEANS ARE MORE COMFORTABLE?
American Eagle Jeans Comfort
AE’s AirFlex slim jeans not only fit great, but they are ultra comfortable too. They are among some of the most comfortable jeans that I currently own. The jean fabric is soft to touch, not quite a luxe feel, but definitely not rough and rigid like a pair of selvedge jeans.
I also appreciate the mid to high-rise of the AirFlex jeans. Low rise jeans are some of the most uncomfortable pants to wear which is why I don’t really wear them anymore.
Express Jeans Comfort
Express’ Hyper Stretch slim jeans has so much stretch, so coincidentally the comfort level is high. Not that I would, but you can run around in these jeans all day and it’ll feel like you were wearing a pair of comfortable leggings.
It’s got a mid rise that’s not quite as high as the Next Level AirFlex jean, but it’s still comfortable to wear nonetheless.
COMFORT WINNER: Tie
I almost gave the edge to Express here because the stretch is insane, but remember how the Hyper Stretch jeans tend to slip down without a belt? That minor inconvenience and a slightly lower rise knocks it down a notch, thus I’m leaving comfort at a tie.
Quick note: If you’re enjoying this battle between American Eagle and Express jeans, then you’ll probably find my other writing on all things men’s style useful. Each week, I share updates, style tips and other things not shared on the blog through my free email newsletter.
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WHICH JEANS ARE MORE DURABLE?
American Eagle Jeans Durability
My experience with these AE jeans has been pretty good. Granted I haven’t had them for years, but I do wear them frequently, though I haven’t washed them yet so take that for what it’s worth.
They’re great for going out or just lounging around the apartment. The denim fabric hasn’t gotten ripped or torn from natural wear. They’re holding up like you would expect a quality pair of jeans to hold up.
Materials & Details
- 73% Cotton, 25% Polyester, 2% Elastane
- Standard 5-pocket styling
- Leg opening is 6″
- Minimal distressing
- Zipper Fly
Express Jeans Durability
I’ve had these Express jeans for over a year now and I’m happy to report that they’re going on strong. No rips or warping to speak of. They’re wearing in nicely. Any wear and tear is only going to add more character to the distressing and fading. The buttons are intact and zipper hasn’t snagged.
Materials & Details
- 84% Cotton, 14% Polyester, 2% Spandex
- Standard 5-pocket styling
- Leg opening is 6.75″
- Moderate distressing
- Zipper Fly
DURABILITY WINNER: Tie
Both the AE and Express jeans are holding up just fine. No damage or problem areas to report yet. But we’ll see how they continue to hold up over the years.
Related: You might like this definitive guide on how to wear Dark Wash Denim.
JEANS STYLE & COLOR OPTIONS
AE Jeans Style & Color Options
My AE AirFlex slim jeans are in a dark wash (although it does appear lighter) with modest whiskering and ultra-minimal distressing at the knees and around the right front pocket. It’s the perfect balance between trendy and classic in my opinion.
In addition to slim fit, AE offers skinny jeans, athletic jeans, straight jeans, bootcut jeans and relaxed jeans. They do a great job of catering to the many different body types from lean to muscular and everything in between.
Express Jeans Style & Color Options
My Express Hyper Stretch slim jeans are a blue medium wash with slight whiskering and subtle distressing throughout. It’s certainly more pronounced distressing than my AE jeans. And I say it’s subtle because you can’t see any skin because there’s a piece of jean fabric underneath which I actually appreciate as it creates a cleaner destroyed denim look.
Like AE, Express has a wide variety of color options. What’s interesting is that they have a myriad of different styles from Temp Control, Supersoft, Luxe Comfort Knit and 4-Way Hyper Stretch. The differences are confusing, there’s so many options that it’s hard to differentiate between them. But I suppose it’s better when you have more choices, particularly with jeans.
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Along with the standard skinny, slim and relaxed fits, Express offers a super skinny jean, athletic tapered slim, slim straight, relaxed and bootcut.
STYLE & COLORS WINNER: Tie
AE seems to be more consistent with their jeans offering. Express on the other hand often rotates designs that go in and out of stock. For example, the pair that I have has been out of stock for a while and I’m not sure if it’ll ever be restocked.
WHICH JEANS ARE BETTER VALUE?
American Eagle Jeans Price
Most of American Eagle jeans retail at $49.95 with some pairs as low as $39.95 and as high as $69.95. AE offers sales year round, sometimes up to 50% off or more, and so I recommend waiting for a sale before picking up a pair.
Express Jeans Price
Most of the Express jeans collection is priced at $88 retail with some pairs priced at $98. This is basically double the cost of American Eagle jeans, which is a lot. Like AE, Express often offers sales of up to 50% or more and so, I would never buy anything from Express retail. Wait for at least 40% to get the best bang for your buck.
BETTER VALUE WINNER: American Eagle
When you compare the fit and stretch factor where the 2 brands split, and comfort and durability where they tied, it’s pretty even. But when it comes down price, American Eagle has the clear edge.
All in all, I have to say that AE jeans have the better value. To me, fit and comfort are the most important areas I look at when it comes to jeans. While Express Hyper Stretch jeans are pretty great, American Eagle AirFlex are even better and more affordable.
Wrapping Things Up
And that wraps up this first edition of GW’s Best Jeans Series. I hope you got value out of this article and some insight on these two jeans brands. If you have any recommendations for future reviews, shoot me an email at khoi [at] gentlemanwithin [dot] com.
Have you tried AE or Express jeans, if so, what are your thoughts?
Let’s continue the discussion over in the Gentlemen Within Private Facebook Community.
Looking forward to seeing you in there.
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