We’ve all been there – you’ve been playing in the school playground, tripped, tore your trousers to smithereens, went home with your head down only to get fiercely rebuked by your mother when she found out you ruined your ‘only pair’. “But you don’t understand, mum,” you plead, “ripped jeans are cool.”
Which is true to some extent. Not the blood-stained tears on your nylon pleats, but carefully, artistically placed rips in denim have had a place in fashion since the 1970s and those early associations with those ice cold punk rockers, The Ramones.
Ripped jeans dipped in and out of fashion in the years since but a revival this decade means you don’t have to be a whisky-soaked, leather-clad lip curler to pull them off either. In fact, nowadays it is better to pair it with a plainer look and just let the rips do the rock and roll warbling for you.
“The best way to wear your ripped jeans is with a plain tee or linen shirt and a pair of trainers,” says Rebecca Languish, a stylist at River Island Style Studio. “Or if your weekend day plans carry on into the evening swap into a pair of suede loafers for a smarter look. Be careful with accessories, less is more – a classic belt would be sufficient.”
Just because a plain white tee is the best way, doesn’t mean it’s the only one, but it’s best to follow it’s simple message. “Just remember not to over complicate things,” says Languish. “It’s a good idea to style your outfit around the denim so you don’t get it all wrong.”
It’s also worth remembering before adding ripped jeans to your look that not all rips are created equal. Scrapes are little scratches on the fabric surface barely an inch in size, shreds are where the fabric has been torn but there are still threads covering the gaps and finally you get holes which you can clearly see through.
The rule of thumb is to make sure the hole is not wider than the leg underneath as this will push your limbs out of the hole whenever you bend. Hairy legs trying to clamber out of their denim chamber is not a great look. To keep a ripped jeans outfit smart don’t go for more than two and a half rips (a scrape counts as a half) as going over can be distracting.
So, with all that cleared up, here are seven simple ripped jeans outfits to style yourself.
With A Leather Jacket
Leather and ripped denim has been the go-to pairing ever since The Ramones created the quintessential punk uniform with their ripped up Levi’s 501s worn with shoulder squeezing leather jackets way back in the mid-1970s.
The key is contrast so if you’re going tight with the jeans go for a looser fit on the jacket and vice versa for a wider leg. Take this contrast into the style of each piece as well. If the leather has a beat-up, vintage feel to it, look for jeans that only have two rips to smarten it up. Don’t mess the look around underneath the jacket – a plain white tee will work admirably, or even a vintage band shirt if you want to pay true homage.
With A Bomber Jacket
When the weather outside is sizzling and your biker will surely cook you alive, there is always the trusty bomber jacket, an iconic menswear piece that has stood as a key jacket style in every man’s wardrobe since the 1920s when it was used by derring-do military pilots.
However, in recent years, it has really taken off, surpassing its previous sky-scraping heights. Minimalist, sleek versions are easier to style than more statement options (think Ryan Gosling in Drive) with the simplicity working well with the ripped jeans more complex edge. If you do go for a statement satin option a la Gosling, pick one in a dark neutral – black, green and grey work well.
With A Shirt
Wearing ripped jeans will always make for a casual look but pair them with a shirt and things start to look smarter. An Oxford button-down shirt is a versatile weapon to have in your menswear arsenal and can work as a solid foil to the jeans’ edginess. Choose a bold colour up top to get the bottom rocking and remember the two-and-a-half-rip rule if you want to keep it smart.
Double denim is also an option and not the cardinal sin it once was. Light wash denim works best for ripped jeans as there is less of a jarring colour contrast between the fabric and the rips, so team upstairs in a different, darker wash to define the individual parts of the outfit and keep the fit loose and relaxed – you don’t want the denim clinging all over your skin like you’re made of the stuff. The same would apply to a cotton button-down – too tight and you risk looking like a Love Island reject.
With A Hoodie
Nothing moans ‘teenage rebel’ like a hoodie and ripped jeans, although the hoodie has come a long way in the last five years. Baggy, oversized, logo-emblazoned hoodies are a fashion no-no for anyone over the age of 16 (and maybe the Weeknd), so instead chose a slim fitting one in a toned down shade while zip-up options work better than pullovers in a layered look over a T-shirt.
If you’re going to look sharp and luxe with your zip-up, it’s best to follow that through with your choice of ripped jeans. Even the slimmest fitting hoodies by definition sit off the body so you can look like a bin bag if you follow that silhouette down with a wide leg. It’s much better to choose a slim taper or a straight leg.
With A T-Shirt
Say RIP to the snoring, boring nice T-Shirt and jeans combo, by ripping the look a new one with yep you’ve guessed it – some ripped jeans. It doesn’t get more simple than a plain white T-shirt, and as we said earlier, the key is not to overcomplicate things. The rips have enough attitude by themselves so you don’t really to have to go too jazzy with logos or patterns.
Also try and match the colour of your shirt with at least an accent on your sneakers below for menswear matching perfection, while Chelsea boots or loafers are a good shoe option if you’re looking to smarten the look up into the evening. Got to get past those bouncers after all.
After the 80s glam metal rockers of Sunset Strip took the ripped jeans mantle from the punks, torn denim was going through a free-fall in popularity. But Kurt Cobain and the rest of the grunge saved the rip, with its counterculture, screw-you-mum-and-dad spirit matching the scene’s inherent message. The other unofficial symbol of the movement was the plaid shirt, used in much the same counterculture manner that ripped jeans were, so if you pair them both, well that’s double trouble right there.
There are two sides to the look – a skinnier fit in the jeans is more rock and roll while a wider leg has the rough and ready lumberjack look to a tee. Wear a flannel shirt as an over-shirt with a contrasting plain tee underneath and some hardy retro sneakers (skater styles like Vans or Converse are best) to complete the look.
With A Winter Coat
When it comes to winter we’re all about cosying up in our turtlenecks and wool trousers but even though nothing can look grander in the harsh weather it does seem a bit ‘safe’. However, throw some ripped jeans into your winter wardrobe and you’ve got yourself some prime cut high-low stylings to wear with your winter coat.
When it comes to picking an overcoat, manmade fabrics don’t fare well in the rain so stick to 100 per cent wool or waxed cotton. Lighter wash denim works best for ripped jeans, but winter is a darker affair so feel free to update the denim accordingly. Also, avoid teaming your ripped jeans with a blazer, the torn denim can wreck the uniformity and, well, just look at Cristiano Ronaldo for proof of why it doesn’t work.
With A Jumper
Incorporating a jumper with your ripped jeans outfit can work in much the same way a plain tee does, although it does add a degree more formality to this casual look. When it comes to smart casual it’s not so much the clothes you wear than how you wear them. Yes push those shoulders back and stop slouching, but more importantly make sure the shoes, jumper and jeans are clean as can be and turn up the trouser hem if there are numerous breaks and folds building down at the bottom.
Also, the smarter look of a jumper compared to a T-shirt means you can play around more with texture and patterns. Chunky, oversized sweaters in bold and vibrant colours work well with slim fitting denim and heeled Chelsea boots, or alternatively, a slimline sweat with a punchy pattern or logo can work wonders paired with light wash denim in a relaxed fit and turned up with some sandals or Converse high tops below.