The Complete Guide To Jeans

Jeans. We have all worn a pair at some point in our lives, just as we have all loved, outgrown, torn, regretted, scuffed, and on the rare occasion even possibly fallen out with a non co-operating pair, so there need be no long introductions today. There isn’t a modern male alive – that I know of anyway – who hasn’t owned a pair of jeans at some point in their lives, and further more, there isn’t a human being alive that I know of who hasn’t had some form of dilemma when trying to find a pair to fit exactly as they should. Working as a Menswear Personal Stylist I am repeatedly confronted by men who hold a variety of on-going wardrobe issues, from never being able to find shirts with the correct sleeve length, to simply having an inability to refrain from buying ALL clothes in some form of navy blue. But hands down, the dreaded Jeans Shopping tops the list.

Now, truth be told I like to consider myself a very open minded individual, especially when anything fashion is involved. I believe that fashion has no boundaries, that we should be free to experiment within our personal style however we may wish without prejudice and that our age should have very little control over what we choose to wear. For the most part, I completely stand by and actively preach these rules. However, for the every day man – who also happens to be the man that I spend 90% of my time working with – these rules are somewhat completely void when it comes to finding that perfect jean.

What Jeans Are Right For Me?

As much as we love to think that it is only women who need to worry about body shapes, age and suitability, unfortunately they are just as relevant to us blokes. Here are a few key factors for you to bear in mind…

Age + Cut = ?

A sensitive subject for some, but a realistic one for all. Up until our late teens/early twenties, we can get away with most. However – as a general rule – the extent of the rips, studs, logos, bleach, paint, stitching and those god-awful elasticated bottoms gracing your denim should gradually decrease as the years to your age increase. Nor can we get away with the saggy bum or ill-fitting waists I’m afraid lads. When you first try your jeans on in the store you want them to feel slightly too tight – obviously not so tight that you have to severely reduce the amount of breaths you take, I really don’t need that hanging over my head.

However, too many men mistake the jeans fitting correctly for the jeans being too small and are often all too quick to jump up a size… 3 months down the line they are ‘that guy’ wearing their jeans tackily bunched up around the waist by an overworked and underpaid belt. You should NEVER need a belt to hold up your trousers; they should be there purely for decoration. As far as the rise of the jean is concerned, mid/regular rise seems to work best for all. The waistband should never need to be sitting any higher than the top of your pelvis bone – regardless of stereotypes around age – so unless you have an exceptionally long crotch-to-belly button ration, high waisted is a definite no go. Low rise are the choice for many and work for many, however much like the rips and G Star logos, there will come an age where it will no longer suit. How long you prefer the leg length is completely up to you, however, scuffed, torn jeans on the hem? Not acceptable pal.

Wash

When thinking about what sort of colour or wash to opt for, there are two major areas that you need to identify:

  1. Where will you be predominantly wearing the jeans?
  2. What colours/washes do you already own?

Today is the day to break that rut of buying your jeans in the same washed out shade of blue my good man and add these simple staple colours to the forefront of your wardrobe: black, indigo (a dark blue) and a mid blue. If you want to add a lighter or a different coloured jean to your wardrobe then great, but these are the key shades you have to have covered. The reason why all of these styles are great staple pieces for your wardrobe is the fact that they will all double up as both a casual and a smart/casual jean (particularly the black and indigo), they will work with almost any style/colour of footwear, and with being such a classic wash they are highly unlikely to ever date. Yes, you may very well have your eye on making those £200 studded Diesel Jeans your new wardrobe focal piece, but come next season they could be barely covering their EBay listing fee. Shop smart.

Honour Thy Tailor

I feel that this part is so important that I just had to credit it with its own sub-title. A huge amount of men appear extremely uncertain whenever I suggest getting their jeans tailored in any way. However, when it comes to suiting they are reeling off a list of things that will need to be altered quicker than they have even tried the suit on. There is absolutely no difference between the two. Well yes, of course there are the obvious differences but any item of clothing that needs to be tailored to YOUR body shape, a simple visit to the tailor will very often be the answer. Just think of it like this, any particular clothing that you struggle to find to fit you properly, tailoring/alterations will 90% of the time be able to help you out.

Another issue a lot of men raise – and one that I think is completely understandable – is that the finish of the denim never looks quite the same. Now, this will be down to the quality of the tailor that you use. Denim is a completely different ball game to suit tailoring. A thicker thread needs to be used, the tailor will need to hold a vast range of colours in order to match particular threads, more heavy duty needles will need to be used, the tailor should have a range of specialist sanding instruments in order to imitate any distressing on the denim, and of course, a great amount of experience never goes amiss. So do your research, ask around and find a reputable tailor – quality matters.

So, what cut do I need?
The Skinny Boy

Does exactly what is says on the tin. For those guys with the more slender of frames, you are much more suited to the ever so controversial skinny/slim legged jean. A straight leg jean will also work for you but approach with caution, too wide of a leg and you run the risk of throwing your body proportions off, especially if the apparel gracing your torso is slim fitting. A tapered leg/carrot fit can also work extremely well for you, especially if you want to add a bit more bulk to your upper leg.

The Skinny Look:

Skinny Jeans Examples

Mr Average

If you boast a 32 – 34 inch waist and narrowly escape any of the other categories mentioned, you are one of those lucky few that can get away with most – if not all – style of jeans. Of course, if you have a slightly broader torso don’t go too slim with your jeans, just as if you have a more slender torso don’t opt for too wide of a leg as you will then appear out of proportion. The classic straight leg/regular fit tends to be the perfect cut for the every day 34/32 gentleman and the fact that it is the most vastly produced cut of jean, you should be left with no troubles at all finding your perfect partner.

Perfect Straights:

Straight Leg Jeans Examples

Short Legs

Avoid any form drop crotch like the plague; all they will do is swallow up valuable inches from your legs. As a general rule, the slimmer the leg of the jeans you opt for, the longer your legs will appear. Wearing black on black is also very good for leg lengthening, i.e. black jeans and black shoes.

Leg Lengthening:

Short Leg Jeans Examples

Mr Rugby Thighs

A lot of men that come to me for help have the exact same re-occurring issue. They love the image of a slim/skinny leg jean, but very often their thighs are just too big for how narrow some of them are cut. So without further a-due, I present to you – the tapered leg jean. Now by tapered, I don’t mean a carrot fit with a full on drop crotch (although that style will also suit your build providing you have the height), I am talking about a classic, straight leg style jean that will fit comfortably on your thighs – just as a straight leg/loose fit would – and end up as somewhat of a slim leg by the time it reaches your ankles.

Having said this, I am fully aware that it is sometimes extremely hard to get a good quality pair of jeans in this style of tapered fit – and so cue – the tailor! Find yourself a pair of jeans that fit perfectly on the waist and thighs, depending on the actual size of your legs this could be anything from an already slim pair to a loose fit. Take a trip to your nearest reputable tailor and decide together where you would like them to taper in from – it will usually be from the knee/mid-thigh area – and also decide how wide you would like them to finish up at the bottom.

Little tip: Always try clothes on and physically show the tailor what you want done, we can’t always rely on pins and a brief explanation.

The Tapered Look:

Tapered Jeans Examples

The Apple

For the man with slightly wider hips, skinny jeans are unfortunately a no go. That doesn’t however mean to say that you can’t get away with jeans that are slimmer fitting to your leg. Again, a classic straight leg jean in dark denim will do your silhouette wonders and if there is any man who can pull off a nice relaxed/loose fit jean, it is you. Make sure the rise is no lower than a mid and steer clear of tapered and carrot fit styles as these will only accentuate the width of the waist.

The Wider Leg Look:

Wide Leg Jeans Examples

Current Examples

Here are some of my top picks available online today:

Carrot/Drop Crotch
The most recent style of jean to take the high street by storm. Much more suited to our casual outfits.

  • ASOS Skinny Carrot Fit Jeans
  • Light Blue Washed Carrot Jeans
  • bassike Low Slung Jeans

Skinny/Slim
Love them or hate them, they are here to stay.

  • HUGO Slim Fit Jean
  • Selected Fabios Slim Jeans
  • Maison Martin Margiela 10 Slim 5 Pocket Pants

Straight
If in doubt, a classic straight leg is the way to go. A timeless cut that will suit practically all shapes, sizes and ages. Perfect.

  • Edwin ED39 Red Selvage Straight Jeans
  • Levi's 504 Straight Jeans
  • Average Joe Dry Dirt Org Raw Straight Jeans Nudie Jeans

Loose/Relaxed fit
Definitely a jean for the more casual of occasions, more suited to gentlemen with slightly more up top than the slender torso.

  • Three Over One Herbert Denim Jeans
  • Edwin ED35 Double Listed Selvage Loose Jeans
  • Straight Relaxed Rescue Jean APC

Tapered
Great for those guys with a larger thigh that still want the neatness of a slimmer leg sitting over the shoe.

  • Paul Smith Jeans Pima Washed Tapered Leg Jean
  • Wrangler Ben Antifit Tapered Jeans
  • Levi's 519® Tapered Slim Stretch Rinse Jean

Bootcut
Only really justified unless you are in fact wearing boots, and even then it’s debatable.

  • Wrangler Sharkey Loose Bootcut Jeans
  • Diesel Zatiny 73P Bootcut Jeans
  • ASOS Dark Bootcut Jeans

Post any specific questions in the comments below, or follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ashleycover to put across any style related questions or queries.