They may not be the most exciting thing in a closet, but a good pair of black skinny jeans is a wardrobe essential that I can’t imagine life without. This was made much more apparent to me recently when I got rid of my trusted pair of black skinnies that I’d worn for years and were definitely past their prime. Only once this key piece was missing from my closet did I realize just how important it was that I invest in a new pair. (You really don’t know a good thing until it’s gone, amirite?) I have L.A. style, after all, so I wear jeans pretty much every day, and a black, skinny option was very noticeably absent after only a few weeks.

So I set out on the most daunting quest of them all: denim shopping. Nothing gives me a headache quite like the glare of fluorescent dressing-room lighting, but I wanted to make sure I weighed all my options before deciding on a new pair. Since virtually every brand under the sun makes a basic black skinny, I had many options to choose from. To save all of you the same headache (and unflattering lighting), I’m here to share my tips on how to find the best black skinny jeans. I tried on a total of 19 pairs between in-store and online orders, but there were only seven true winners that I would feel 100% confident replacing my old pair with. The brands I didn’t like shall remain nameless, but the ones I did are going to get a huge shout-out momentarily. Below, my seven holy-grail pairs and why I feel so strongly about them. Plus, some poorly lit fitting-room selfies for your entertainment.

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