1873 was a year that changed men’s wardrobes forever. It was the year that Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss patented and made their first pair of blue jeans. The garment is as storied as the suit, as iconic as they come and few things in the closet can call themselves a parallel. Scoffed at for a time as not fitting for a gentleman, the legwear of choice for a labourer, it’s safe to say the workwear staple has since been elevated to the hallowed pantheon of men’s style; part of the very DNA of menswear. Even the man who drinks at the stoup of the sartorial, Tom Ford, has since gotten into the world of denim alongside his evening wear offering.
Yet still, so many haven’t quite grasped it; jeans are a nuanced creature, one that once perfected are hard to beat. And I’m not alone, I’m sure, in having been victim of whiling away an entire afternoon in pursuit of the perfect pair – the pair that I think will see me channel Dean, Brando, McQueen and the other members of the male series that had a handle on the thing we call cool. The pinnacle of off-duty attire and even transcending the boundaries of convention tepidly into formalwear, jeans are versatile and essential. Here’s how to find the perfect pair.
KNOW YOUR TERMS
Don’t know your selvedge from your honeycombs? These are the key terms you need to know so that you’re not going in blind, buying a pair that won’t quite fit what you’re after.
Selvedge – The selvedge line is the edge of woven fabric running down the side. It’s constructed in a way that won’t tear through extensive use, therefore lasting longer than a regular seam-edged jean. It can only be achieved on a traditional shuttle loom and is usually more expensive, although the quality is typically higher.
Raw – As is inferred from the name, raw or dry denim hasn’t been pre-washed. It takes longer to break in due to the rigidity but will develop individual distinctions over time. Beware of the dye rubbing off on lighter fabrics.
Honeycombs and Whiskers – The faded creases behind your knees that occur over various wears are honeycombs, whilst those at the crotch are whiskers. Great for casual wear, will occur over time with that pair of raw denim – not so great for the smarter occasion though.
Weight – Often measured in ounces, many premium denim brands will often carry various weights, usually depending on the time of year. Anything under 12oz is lightweight and warm weather ready. Anything over 16oz is considered heavy and anything between is a medium, standard weight.
Here comes the tricky bit: getting that perfect fit for your body type. Unfortunately there’s no one style suits all and the differences between brand cuts, techniques and sizing means that there isn’t such a thing as hard and fast rules, more guidelines. There are three main fits that should be on your radar; and anything with the word’s relaxed, athletic or comfort as a prefix should not:
Classic Levi’s 501s epitomise a straight fit and the cut of choice for many a man. The style works well for most – it’s more or less the same all the way down, close but not tight in the thighs, but then looser in the knees and calves. It works for the majority because it has a balancing effect, skinny guys can make themselves a little less gangly with a wider leg, although it should be in proportion with your upper body. For the heavy set, it’ll draw attention away from the bulk and bring your legs in line with your torso.
The modern-gentleman’s go-to fit. It’s flattering on the average body, following the natural line of the lower half without asphyxiating any vital components in the process. The style works best on a medium or lighter frame, the bulkier gentleman risks throwing himself out of proportion by going too snug below the waist.
Before you rush to the Facebook comments with a strongly worded indictment of the skinny jean, hear me out. The skinny jean trend is regarded by plenty as one of the worst to hit men’s fashion, but that’s due to it being worn by everyone and their brother. The controversial skinny jean looks great on some, abhorrent on others. For the rake thin gentleman, it works – it adds a touch of louche styling, particularly when the denim is dark and paired with a white t-shirt and a leather jacket.
(Images: Body: Wikipedia)