There will always be those style purists who say that dark, unsullied denim (preferably selvedge) is the only kind worth investing in for versatility and longevity. And this article is not for them. Besides, when did fashion ever concern itself with such practicalities?
For the rest of us, denim has moved on since tailor Jacob W. Davis and dry-goods salesman Levi Strauss patented the rivet in 1873. Indeed, the 20th century’s most iconic garment – the blue jean – is positively overripe for designers to experiment with and subvert.
And they’re doing it in their droves. These are the denim trends to buy into for this season and (slightly further) beyond.
We have some distressing news (at least for those purists): distressing is in for SS16.
“This season it’s all about sulphur washes and overdye treatments for that authentic, lived-in look,” says Gordon Richardson, Creative Director of Topman. “Rips are also becoming more and more extreme, with double-knee slashes and holes.” Some of the particularly well-ventilated results wouldn’t look out of place on Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler circa 1980.
The most extreme examples, though, come from new LA label Amiri, which channels the blown-up jeans of bands like Guns N’ Roses and Mötley Crüe. “Amiri takes distressing to a new level of authenticity,” says Ben Hurren, Denim Buyer at Selfridges, which is carrying the brand exclusively for this season. “Each piece is peppered by gunshot.” Seriously – they shoot them with a shotgun. Expect to shell out big bucks for the privilege.
- Cheap Monday Tight Slash Jeans Stretch New Black Extreme Rips
- Nudie Jeans Grim Tim 22 Months Ripped Slim Fit Jeans
- Topman Indigo Ripped Stretch Slim Jeans
- Topman Black Ripped Knee Stretch Skinny Fit Jeans
- J. Crew 484 Jean In Gorham Wash
- Amiri Slim-fit Distressed Stretch-denim Jeans
- River Island Light Wash Distressed Chester Tapered Jeans
- Nudie Jeans Brute Knut Slim-fit Organic Stretch-denim Jeans
- Dolce & Gabbana Slim-fit Distressed Denim Jeans
The warmer months are the time to take things easy. “A key style for SS16 is the more relaxed, straight or tapered fit,” says Robyn Ferris, Junior Buyer at MRPORTER.com, who buys the majority of the discerning e-tailer’s denim.
Slim, skinny and spray-on styles might continue to dominate the industry, but that’s precisely why the menswear pendulum is swinging in the other direction, with designers like Christopher Shannon and E. Tautz continuing to push wider leg cuts.
“This trend is particularly apparent from more niche denim labels such as RRL and Simon Miller, but is now also coming through from more mainstream brands such as Nudie and Levi’s,” adds Ferris.
The exclusive washes designed for MRPORTER.com by the latter in its tapered 501 CT style (which also features a slightly roomier than average waist) apparently went great guns (not shotguns) last summer. Indeed, more voluminous styles are filtering down from the runway to the high street in increasing volume – at least at the more fashion-forward end.
“Emerging styles we are currently investigating are the ‘Parallel Baggy Crop’, a straight fit, cropped with frayed hems and small turn-ups – like you bought a size up and then cropped accordingly,” says Will Anstee, Menswear Design Manager at Urban Outfitters. “And the ‘Hand Me Down’, with dropped hem styling – like your mum turned up your big brother’s jeans for you a few years ago and now you’ve grown.”
- Uniqlo Men Selvedge Regular Fit Jeans
- Levis Jeans 501 Selvedge Straight Fit Long Day Raw
- Edwin Red Listed Selvedge Burn Jeans
- Uniqlo Men Regular Fit Straight Selvedge Jeans
- Gap Original 1969 Straight Fit Jeans
- J. Crew 1040 Jean In Cheshire Wash
- He By Mango Straight-fit Dark Bob Jeans
- He By Mango Straight-fit Medium Wash Bob Jeans
- Levis Vintage Clothing 1947 501 Regular-fit Rinsed Selvedge Denim Jeans
In other words, denim with added interest. Not (necessarily) rhinestone butterflies. Maybe it’s the necessary corollary to the trend for extreme distressing, but patchwork is becoming more common. And not just to prevent your jeans from falling apart, but also as a means of making your jeans your own through badges and other decoration.
Looking ahead, there was a thread for embroidered denim running through the AW16 menswear shows – especially floral, as impish designers played with denim’s conventionally masculine workwear connotations.
As part of their spaghetti western-tinged collection, Italian duo Dolce & Gabbana sent out a couple of ‘Texas tuxedos’ – i.e. head-to-toe denim looks – with stitched-on full-body boutonnieres. Meanwhile Gucci, under the stewardship of newish Creative Director Alessandro Michele, showed an oversized shearling trucker overgrown with flowers – and a slightly more manly tiger (grrr).
Meanwhile DSquared2, which had a stronger Japanese flavour than wasabi (see below), jazzed up denim jackets with cherry blossoms and kanji on the back.
- Reclaimed Vintage Levis 501 Jeans With Knee Patches
- Levis 501 Original Moment Magnitude Ripped Jeans
- Medium Wash – Slim Fit Patchwork Jeans
- Remi Relief Patchwork-effect Denim Jacket
- Diesel Elshar Patch-detail Denim Jacket
- Gap Original 1969 Patchwork Straight Fit Jeans
- Remi Relief Slim-fit Patchwork-effect Denim Jeans
- Dsquared2 Classic Kenny Twist Jeans
- Orslow + Beams Ivy 107 Straight-leg Distressed Denim Jeans
For this summer, the forecast is bright. Again. “White denim is the one to watch,” says Gordon Richardson. “It works well with this season’s predominance of neutral colours as a clean alternative to a basic chino.”
Adding some white to your rotation also gives you another fail-safe option for pulling off a double-denim look without having to worry about shades of blue melting into one another JT-at-the-2001-AMAs-style. Or sweltering in black at the height of summer. Plus it’ll enhance that tan you’re trying to get.
White denim can still fill some men with trepidation, especially in the season of barbecues and sitting on grass. A jacket is a good way in if you’re nervous about jeans (and stains). And avoid bright colours in your outfit if you don’t want to look like an Ivy League prepster or Eurotrash banker – indeed, steering plain and simple with the rest of your ensemble is a sensible approach.
Finally, don’t be too precious. For AW16, Calvin Klein showed dirty white denim, which comes over distinctly less Backstreet Boys than dazzling jeans that would pass the Daz Doorstep Challenge. At the end of the day, they’re still jeans. Don’t sweat a few stains.
- Asos Skinny Jeans In White
- J. Crew 484 Jean In Rinsed White
- J. Crew 484 White Rinse Selvedge Jean
- Wood Wood Denim Jacket In White
- Topman White One Pocket Denim Jacket
- Ami Denim Jacket
- Nn.07 Three 1778 Slim-fit Stretch-denim Jeans
- Acne Studios Ace Slim-fit Stretch-denim Jeans
- He By Mango Slim-fit White Jan Jeans
In menswear circles, Japan is synonymous with selvedge – the country’s preoccupation with vintage Americana combined with legendary fastidiousness led them at the start of the 1970s to revive the old-fashioned form of weaving on shuttle looms that had been rendered obsolete by mass production.
For that reason, jeans from the Land of the Rising Sun will always be prized by denimheads. But traditional denim Japanese workwear or noragi is also enjoying its time in the fashion sun, shining on the runway at the likes of Craig Green and YMC. Think collarless shirts, kimono-style jackets and just generally the kind of stuff that Junya Watanabe has always done and everybody else is now cottoning onto (pun intended).
“The chore jacket has become a popular shape for SS16,” says Ferris. “Slightly oversized, it’s a classic workwear silhouette which goes with the more relaxed style jean.” Say sayonara to your trucker. Or rather, just give it a day off.
- Asos Denim Kimono With Frayed Hem
- Reclaimed Vintage Denim Karate Jacket
- Asos Military Denim Kimono With Tie Front
- Asos Denim Kimono In Black
- Sisley Denim Shacket
- Topman Curtis Kulig Denim Worker Jacket
- Freemans Sporting Club Indigo-dyed Dobby Denim Chore Jacket
- Craig Green Patch-pocket Denim Jacket
- Orslow + Beams Denim Jacket
Should jeans be taken out and shot? Are distressed, white and floral denim for real life or best left on the runway? Are you an indigo selvedge diehard?
Join in the comments below.