Just Good Jeans: 5 Things You Must Know
I have a confession: I’ve been wearing the same pair of jeans for about 9 years now. I know, I know— I really should be hanging my head in shame, as the label from which they came is actually no longer even considered “cool” by most New Yorkers’ standards. They have holes in the inseam and are wearing out at the bottoms of the pockets. Hell, they used to be a near black indigo and are nearing the tone that would have been all the rage back in 1992. Why can’t I give them up?
That’s easy: They make my ass look A-W-E-S-O-M-E. Fit is everything.
I used to work at at the John Varvatos menswear boutique. Now, I’m a tiny girl with what one would consider having “very little junk in my trunk.” One day, I caught a guy rubber-necking in the fitting-room mirror when I walked by in this, perfectly beautiful, worn in pair of decade old denim.
It was that moment when I realized they weren’t headed for the trash, which was my initial instinct, and that my new mission was to purchase a new pair that did the exact same thing for my bottom as well as my confidence . Let’s be honest, guys. A good pair of jeans: male or female, they make you feel good.
Now, I don’t work for John Varvatos any longer as the denim specialist— I design menswear. Designer aside, jeans shopping is stressful for everyone, and my own recent shopping experience searching for the perfect fit inspired me to put together this shopping checklist.
Find your Fabric
Now, let me speak another truth: Dudes, your denim is FAR better than what we girls have to choose from right now. It’s strong, it’s raw, and it’s meant to get dirty. It even has some stretch for a flattering posterior. And now for a quick crash course to denim fabrication… here we go:
Denim is labeled in ounces. It goes from 5oz to 20oz. The higher the number, the stiffer the denim. Most jeans are made from 12-14oz denim. That gives you your rigidity. Denim shirts are probably somewhere around the 5 oz range.
Selvedge denim is pretty old school and if you can find it, snap it up. Selvedge refers to the fabric “self-edge” where the garment is cut up to the natural finished edge of the goods it’s coming from. This not only is a hallmark of quality dungarees to aficionados, but from a technical standpoint, it ensures your jeans are cut properly. The only downside to this guy: no stretch. It’s an old school form of denim because it’s made from one continual cotton thread on a shuttle-and-pass style loom (think grandma-style weaving loom).
In the 50’s these looms were replaced with projectile looms, which produce goods faster and allowed for thread blends such as cotton/elastane (there’s your “stretch”) to exist. A good rule of thumb for stretch denim is the 2% stretch ratio. Anything more than that, and you’ll risk leaving the store with a “jegging.”
Raw denim is simply denim that’s been dyed but not washed. So, make sure they’ve got a little extra length on them when you get them. They’re gonna shrink.
Find your wash
There are two types of dying: indigo dye and sulfur dye. Indigo, all depending on how many dips are involved, gives you a light to intense blue-black. Sulfur dying gives you your colors. Be careful when you wash an indigo dyed garment, it will stain your clothing. Be sure to separate when you do your laundry.
Side note: White jeans are totally acceptable in summer. Pair them with a denim or chambray shirt in the hot months.
Devil’s in the details
Whiskers are for kitties. Not dudes. Keep the busy-ness to a minimum. Whiskers are the lines across the lap of your jeans, kind of near the fly. Unless they’re naturally worn in, they’ll make your crotch look weird. Just pass, and if it’s not an option, make sure they’re slight. This goes for bold top-stitching, excessive paint splattering, or enzyme-involved treatments that make jeans look “muddy and blasted.” If you’re an artist, I dig the paint splatter, but if you want those suckers to last 8 years or more: go with something that’s tried and true. You’ll get more use out of that $200 pair of denim if you can throw on some kicks and play Frisbee in the park, though when the sun goes down, you can throw on a sport coat for dinner. Your girlfriend will think you’re effortlessly chic. Just do everyone a favor, and shower in between.
Find your fit
If you’re a bigger guy, just because you’re bigger doesn’t necessarily mean you need wide jeans. Don’t be afraid to wear a slimmer jean. Reducing some of the fabric bulk with a well-tailored trouser, even if it’s a jean, produces a longer, leaner silhouette. More chic, less frumpy. And take note, slim dudes: wider jeans only make you look skinnier. Complement your frame with something that fits you well, and consider less of a break (the amount of pant that hits your shoes) to give you some height.
All shapes and sizes remember: too much break causes the eye to stop harshly, and can stump off your legs, even with jeans. Also, narrow jean, means a narrow shoe; a fuller jean means a fuller shoe. Wide legs + pointy toes = Big no-no.
The slim-speak aside for a minute, a huge trend surfacing right now is a slightly fuller more “trouser cut” jean. If you want to give a little breathing room to your overstuffed closet full of rock star-worthy skinny jeans, this is a great look when the rest of the look is kept in the same vein. Think, a comfy tee that’s clingy in all the right places and an unstructured sport coat, and maybe some desert boots.
Take care of your jeans
The way to take care of your denim is to not take care of your denim. For the love of all that is good in this world, DO NOT let your girlfriend (or your cleaning lady, or whomever else you trust to wash your unmentionables) put your jeans in the washer and dryer on a regular basis. The best way to take care of your denim is to let it just hang out. Water and agitation of detergent abrasives deteriorate the fiber, even though the twill weave is a pretty hearty one. Air them out if they need it. There’s a myth about sticking jeans in the freezer overnight to diminish any odor that’s going on. I haven’t tried that, personally (all things being equal, I’m still a girl and it’s a little rogue for me) but maybe one of the DS guys can give it a shot, and talk about that experience. I do my jeans maybe twice a month, and for denim purists, that’s seriously pushing it. Let ‘em get dirty. And when you absolutely have to, turn them inside out, gentle cycle, hang ‘em dry. You’ll have them longer.
That’s it, y’all! Take a deep breath, stick the bullet-points in your phone, and remember: It’s just jeans. If they make you feel good (and your butt look good), then that’s the pair for you. Let the rubber-necking begin!