There’s a prevailing attitude amongst men that all jeans are built equal. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Nowadays there’s a whole host of different styles and fits to be had, each with its own defining attributes and nuances.
Allow me to help you with your selection process using this simple guide to aid you in identifying your favourite cuts, and what you should ideally be avoiding when looking around the stores for quality denim.
What is Denim
Denim is a specially spun cotton blend created with a strong, dual-pass weave for its trademark look. Denim has been in production for several hundred years, and yet its manufacturing and processing quality has continued to improve even to this day; denim experts are still finding new, interesting ways to spin the fibers to create an ever expanding arsenal of fits and textures.
Types of Fit
Each designer insists on giving his/her range its own special spin; typically, this means creating a whole swathe of new buzzwords to describe a timeless look. In fact, this naming convention is so out of control that there are now several hundred names for, essentially, half a dozen types of fit!
The traditional style that everyone knows and loves; classic men’s jeans sit around the waist and have a square-shaped construction, sitting parallel from hips to knees to ankles. Good for a timeless look with minimum fuss, and particularly flattering for tall, thin gents.
A modern fit that sits just below the waist; this cut is so named due to its roomy construction around the ankle, allowing for riding/cowboy boots to fit comfortably when worn. Great for athletic builds that want to show off their definition without ‘bulging’.
Sits low-slung around the waist, feels snug around the seat and thighs, and becomes slimmer around the ankle. Although slender guys look great in skinny jeans, be careful not to go too tight with them; there’s a fine line between ‘indie rocker chic’ and ‘ridiculous flamingo legs’.
With more room around the seat, thighs and ankles, the loose fit is great for those who want a roomier, more casual pair of men’s jeans. However, don’t ever confuse relaxed with baggy; be sure to exercise caution when picking out the correct size, especially if you’re carrying a little extra weight.
The rise is defined as the distance between the waistband and the crotch; the traditional distance is roughly 11 inches, while low-rise jeans are approximately three inches shorter. As low-rise jeans sit lower down on the body, it will help out those guys who typically encounter a ‘saggy rear’ with regularly shaped jeans.
Ten years ago, king of the jeans manufacturers, Levi, came up with a brand new design concept whereby the inseam would contour around the body rather than simply laying flat against the inside leg.
This design allows for a natural fit that sits more comfortably on the lower body. Although you pay a premium for the look, many love the increased definition they give around the lower thighs and leg.
Fading dye and frayed edges are to be expected with aging denim, so many companies manufacture their jeans to look artificially aged. Although ‘pre-worn’ jeans will do in a pinch, I personally recommend avoiding them…
Even to the untrained eye, it’s pretty easy to see an artificial aging job – dye appears faded too uniformly, fraying appears mechanical and a lack of natural pulling, stretching and warping gives the game away. Instead you should invest your cash in a good pair of jeans you love the look, style and feel of; they’re bound to age far more gracefully than any abnormally ‘distressed’ pair would.
Big No-Nos: Warnings When Buying Jeans
Wide Leg Jeans
They’re fine for hip-hop artistes and professional skateboarders under the age of twenty-five, but for everyone else they’re a big no-no. They’re too baggy and shapeless to be of practical use on a daily basis.
Sadly, there’s a tendency to recommend wide-legged jeans to larger men (the thought being they need extra room around the thighs). Don’t fall into this trap – you’ll simply end up looking needlessly puffy and swollen; a well-fitted loose pair will work far, far better.
Always check out your rear when trying on your jeans. Yes, you need to make sure that denim is giving you the perfect ass! Too loose and your legwear will never feel good; too tight and you’ll give the illusion you’re wearing women’s jeans.
Don’t be suckered in; a good pair of jeans can last years, but ‘chic’ jeans last a season or two at most! Do you honestly believe those black, low-rise, skinny jeans are going to be on trend Spring 2011?
Only a snob of the highest caliber would ignore the allure of unbranded jeans. While those cheap denims won’t last you half as long, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with spending a fraction of the cost if they give you a perfect fit. Remember, even the most expensive dior denim will look horrendous if it doesn’t sit on your frame correctly!