To provide marketing and managerial insights to western companies selling denim jeans in China, specifically in Shanghai. Understanding consumers' perceptions of Western-branded jeans in a cultural-specific marketplace is the primary focus. Design/methodology/approach - Combined methods included observation of shoppers wearing jeans in two malls in Shanghai and an anonymous survey. A total of 219 surveys were analyzed and consumer-perceived jeans attributes or related concepts were tabulated. Findings - About one third of the observed shoppers were wearing jeans, which signified a relatively high popularity of jeans as casual wear in Shanghai. The design and fashion of jeans were deemed highly critical but were superseded by comfort and fit. Shanghai consumers distinguished brand origins only between the West and the East instead of by specific countries. Dissatisfaction with price and fit were identified. Research limitations/implications - Questions were designed to screen out respondents who had not purchased and had no desire to purchase western denim jeans brands. Limiting the sample in this way offered some control for behavioral patterns, but conclusions are limited. Practical implications - Content analysis of an open-ended question about consumers' perceptions of western-branded jeans helped discern attributes of jeans that consumers deemed most important. Marketers of western jeans can develop effective marketing strategies in tune with consumer preferences. Originality/value - This paper researched consumers' perceptions of western denim jeans, a type of world dress, in a booming but foreign market in western eyes. The open-ended question solicited consumers' free responses, which in turn helped pin-point attributes of jeans that Chinese consumers value the most.