Aside from politics, blue cheese and the latest Star Wars film, there are few things that can provoke the same furious levels of debate that white jeans can. To some, they’re the epitome of Riviera chic, to others they’re the kind of tacky piece that – along with deep V-necks and rhinestoned hoodies – are best consigned to a large bin.
There’s something quite ’80s fashion about white jeans, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Channel your inner George Michael in most sartorial matters and you’ll be onto a winner. But how do you avoid looking like you’re on the way to a fancy dress party? “Keep it simple,” says Mr Porter style director Olie Arnold. “Avoid ripped or overly-stressed styles and instead look for a washed denim in a slim-leg fit. Pair your jeans with shirts or T-shirts in warmer tones to avoid harsh colour blocking, or try a short-sleeved print shirt for a fresh summer look. Consider footwear that will complement the rest of your outfit too – loafers, boat shoes and or tennis sneakers will keep the look grounded.”
As well as wondering how to wear white jeans, those reading this on the US side of the pond might also be worried about style rules that dictate what can and cannot be worn after Labor Day or before Memorial Day. But while light-coloured trews are best saved for a dry day, they’re also the trouser most beloved by OG American Rebel Steve McQueen. And you can probably guess what he would say about rules.
“Summer offers the perfect opportunity for men to incorporate this style into their wardrobe,” says Arnold. “White jeans are a versatile alternative to classic denim and can be easily dressed up or adapted into nine to five wear.”
Of course, there are some practical matters to take into consideration when buying or wearing white jeans. If your idea of a good date is slurping on spaghetti rather than order a steak, for example, then we suggest swerving them altogether. Otherwise, it’s a case of accepting that they do come with a sense of mild peril. You’ll have to pass on the extra sauce on your hot dog, and if you’re down the pub it’s probably wise to swap that glass of red for a G&T, but beyond that there’s no reason that you can’t embrace the trend for pale pins with a few bits of buying advice.
White Jeans Buying Considerations
Unless your aim is to be arrested for indecent exposure, spray-on skinny jeans are best given a wide berth. There’s just something unspeakably seedy about tight, white trousers. Instead, go with a classic cut. “A straight or slim leg works best for this style,” says Arnold.
Like a well-cared for bathroom, keep the finish of your white jeans fresh and clean. The look that you’re aiming for should be more Talented Mr Ripley than untalented Mr Ripped Jeans. The main benefit of this is that they’ll be in your wardrobe or seasons to come. “Don’t be afraid to wear white jeans all year-round,” says Arnold. “Choose a classic wash that will work for each season.”
To avoid looking like a third division football player or reality TV reject, quality should be high on your list of requirements. “Lighter coloured jeans can be high maintenance, so invest in quality denim that will keep its shape and colour,” says Arnold. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go designer, just take time to feel the weight of the fabric.
The word ‘white’ represents, paradoxically, a pretty broad spectrum of colours. So while a stark shade might not be the one for you, there’s no reason to suppose that you wouldn’t kill it in ivory or bone. “Remember that white jeans won’t work for everyone,” says Arnold. “Try other neutral shades and find the colour that best suits.”
The Best Brands For White Jeans
One of the forefathers of the modern denim movement, heritage workwear brand Lee Jeans offers high-quality denim at a reasonable price. And what does that mean for you and your white jeans? Styles cut from weighty fabrics that you’re unlikely to see your stripy Y-front underwear through.
Since upping its denim offering a few seasons ago, Topman has established itself as one of the main ports-of-call on the high-street for pieces that are pretty much fresh from the catwalk. It’s also renowned for keeping its denim clean and simple – which is just the way we like it.
There was a time when the menswear from Spanish fast fashion giant Zara was all loud prints and brash embellishment. Fortunately, these days the retailer’s offering is comprised of pleasingly pared-back and heavily catwalk influenced pieces, and that includes a selection of white jeans to sit beneath everything from a sports jacket to a sweatshirt.
Not a brand, per se, but the menswear maestros at Mr Porter certainly know how to put quality and style at the forefront of their buys. The etailer offers only the most premium labels, and that means, aside from the fact you’ll want to stuff your wardrobe full of its wares, it has one seriously handsome selection of classic white jeans.
Using exclusively organic cotton to create its crisp line of denim, H&M-owned brand Weekday is a go-to if green matters are high on your priority list when picking out white jeans. Its impressive selection of cuts also manages the dual feat of being directional as well as classic. Colour us impressed.
High street hero River Island seems to get better every season, with an increasingly excellent offering of marvellous menswear. Clean, crisp and perfectly simple, the brand’s straight-cut white jeans tick all of the sartorial boxes.
Sharp Scandi style doesn’t get much better than Swedish label Acne. With its elevated streetwear, the brand has become the ultimate name for deceptively simple pieces that will live in your wardrobe for season upon season, without ever looking dated. And that makes its white jeans the gold standard.