Denim 101: What (Not) To Wear

Since the modern riveted jean was first invented in the late 19th century, Denim has been a staple in wardrobes the world over.

No longer constrained to the realm of work attire for laborers, jeans are now the single most versatile article of clothing one can wear. You can dress them up with a blazer and boots. You can dress them down with sneakers and a tee. They can come in a myriad of colors, fits, washes, and grades, and almost anyone can rock them and look acceptable.

I’m fairly passionate about my denim, and I hope that I can help ignite a similar passion in you, my dear reader. There is much to learn, and I may shake your jean buying habits to their foundation, but when you finish reading this guide, you’ll feel compelled to burn your dresser full of Old Navy jeans and step into a glorious and bright new day.

What kind of jeans should I buy?

Slow down there, slugger. That’s a hell of a question. We’ve got to pick a fit, wash, size, and brand. The jeans you buy will be determined by two things: Your body and your budget.

While there are a ton of fits out there, I’m going to focus on the three most common: straight leg, boot cut, and tapered leg.

The Straight Leg – The most popular cut as of writing looks good on pretty much anyone. As the name implies, the leg and opening are more or less the same size through the pant. It looks exceptional on tall and slender builds.

The Boot Cut – Usually a more full cut throughout with a slight flare at the leg opening. This was a very popular cut a few years ago and has now taken a back seat to the straight leg. Looks best on shorter people and fuller-figured women. Consider the boot cut if you are under 5’6″ or have a large bust.

The Tapered Leg – Similar to the straight leg only with a slight taper at the leg opening. Best worn by those with more slender builds, but the recent surge of skinny jeans has made it acceptable for almost anyone to wear them.

The best thing to do is to go to the store and find a cut that looks good and that you feel comfortable in. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are comfortable, just that you feel good about how they look on you.

Ok, what washes should I wear?

It’s easier to talk about what washes you shouldn’t wear. Keep it simple. Stay away from overly distressed jeans lest you look like a teenager. Keep the fake wear patterns to a minimum. A darker jean is more versatile, but a lighter indigo or gray can work with the right ensemble.


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What brands should I buy?

Your economic situation will come into play here, but more expensive doesn’t always mean better. There are plenty of great designers that produce affordable denim.

Value Tier – These brands won’t last forever and they won’t fit quite as great as higher quality jeans, but they do offer a great value for the money. You’ll find them all under $100 dollars.

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Mid Tier – This is where a newborn denim-head should be. There are a lot of high quality and great fitting jeans to be had here. At under $200 dollars, they won’t break the bank.

Adriano Goldschmied
Earnest Sewn
Evisu x Puma
Levi’s Capital E
Sling and Stones

Premium Tier – You’re going to break the $200 dollar wall here and might even find yourself creeping past the $500 level. The denim here will look amazing and last many years if properly cared for. Don’t go through life without at least trying on a pair from one of these collections.

Dior Homme
Denim Birds (Women’s only)
Evisu Heritage
Levi’s Vintage
Sugar Cane

Waste of Money Tier – These brands are readily available at malls and might even be seen on your favorite celebrities. This doesn’t mean you should wear them! In fact, you should keep your thinking about them to a minimum. They are low quality, overpriced, and often gaudy. We all have our guilty pleasures, and I even own a pair of Diesel jeans, but be very careful when considering these brands. Unless you get them at greater than 50% off retail, you’re paying too much.

Joe’s Jeans
Rock and Republic
Seven for all Mankind
True Religion

Let that sink in for a bit and come back next week for part 2. We’ll talk about selvage, dry denim, caring for your jeans, and where to buy them. For now, check out the collections online and prepare yourself for your new obsession.

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