By Cillian O’Connor On 13th March 2017
Athleisure is, as recent sales figures would suggest, the hare to denim’s tortoise. A recent market research report revealed that while jeans was one of the apparel categories that sold well last year, it was athleisure that outstripped the rest of the competition.
But that doesn’t mean tailored sweatpants are poised to win the race. Think about it: we’ve been buying and wearing jeans in our droves for years. You can’t really wear a pair of glorified trackies with an Oxford shirt, nor can you style them out at a club (not least because loopback cotton turns the smallest of pint slippages into what looks like a very [very] unfortunate accident).
What’s more, designers are getting more experimental with denim than ever – dressing jeans up, or ripping them apart in all new ways. To get you up to speed, here we unpick the denim trends worth jumping onboard with in 2017.
Tired of raw jeans turning your fingernails blue? Then this one’s for you.
Partly in preparation for summer, and partly in keeping with menswear’s current penchant for all things nineties, designers are retiring their unwashed denim styles in favour of jeans paler than a grunge band frontman on a comedown.
“There’s been a move away from the typical mid-wash towards lighter washes that are perfect for summer,” says Mr Porter junior buyer Robyn Ferris, whose noticed brands such as Nudie, Acne Studios and Our Legacy expanding their offering of washes in recent seasons.
“Most brands are circulating around that classic Levi’s 501 stonewash shade, which is a great outfit base to build on with pastel T-shirts and shirts,” says Thom Scherdel, buyer at The Idle Man.
From light indigo to sky blue, the market’s awash with washes that offer the perfectly pale counterpoint to punchy colour up top. But beware, light washes tend to work best for light men, so stick with medium to dark washes if your thighs are more rugby forward than fashion model.
If ubiquity spelt the end for bootcut jeans, are spray-on skinny styles on their last legs?
Not necessarily. First off, bootcut jeans are abominations, plain and simple. Secondly, it’s not that skinny jeans aren’t a viable wardrobe option; they are – and they’re flattering, which is more than can be said for a pair of ol’ blue line-dancers – but they’re just not ‘fashionable’.
Why? Because designers today are quicker to take their cue from skaters than rockstars. Therefore, if you really want to prove your style cred, it’s time to swap the sewn-on fits for something roomier. “[We’re seeing] a more mature, straight fit (that’s also often cropped) becoming more prevalent,” says Ferris, who describes designers’ latest looser cuts as a contemporary take not to be mistaken for ‘dad jeans’. (Which are, in their truest form, basically high-rise denim Hammer pants).
“Once you try a wider leg, you’ll instantly feel a sense of comfort and flexibility,” says Scherdel, who’s seen Dickies’ 874s – The Idle Man’s “best-selling bottoms” – fly off the shelves since the retailer started stocking them.
The secret to pulling off a relaxed fit? “Keep whatever you’re wearing up top fitted,” says Scherdel. To nail the ideal up-down balance, pair generously sized jeans with a simple white Oxford shirt or long-sleeved T-shirt.
This year, britches are getting busted. If up until now men’s jeans could be neatly divided into two camps: neat, slim, unwashed replacements for smart trousers; and neat, skinny, stretch-heavy replacements for sweatpants; this year’s are going back to basics with rips, distressing and hems rawer than Gwyneth Paltrow’s dinner.
“After almost a year as a women’s denim must-have, we’re beginning to see a lot of frayed and unfinished hems crossing over to men’s,” says Lisette Geller, managing editor of riveting denim blog Denimology.
“They’re a standout trend because they’re such a simple way of updating your [look],” agrees Scherdel, who also says he’s seen countless menswear press and buyers rocking raw hems at shows recently.
Mr Porter’s Ferris is also jumping into the fray this season: “A raw hem is particularly popular on a slightly cropped jean,” she says, citing Simon Miller, the LA-based label which uses Japanese fabrics and advanced distressing techniques, as a must-buy for its refined take on the raw trend.
Doing raw right is all in the styling, so refrain from cooking up anything that would spoil its low-key vibe. “Raw-hemmed jeans make for quite a grungy look, so best to keep your look pared-down with a skate-style T-shirt and Vans,” says Ferris.
Along the same straggly line, it looks like knee slashes and all-over rips are sticking around, too. So you’ll probably have to put up with older relatives saying things like, “Did you pay extra for those holes?” a little longer.
Make Do And Mend
While one faction of menswear designers is all about blowing denim apart this year, another is stitching it right back together.
Popping down the local in Alessandro Michele’s embroidered exotic snakes and florals might be pushing the needle too far for some, but Gucci isn’t the only label dressing denim up this year.
From Off-White’s metalhead printed jeans to Philipp Plein’s embroidered styles worthy of an off-duty Conor McGregor, bells and whistles have gone from off-the-wall to on-trend.
“Big and bold looks are best for denim jackets, while localised placements on jeans are a great way to give five-pocket styles statement appeal,” says Trotman.
Want to try the embroidery trend on for size? There’s never a better time than during the summer months. Though, consider the weight as well as the wash to ensure your bottom half remains more stylish than swampy.