What You Need to Know About Everlasting Classics & New Movements
Few men’s fashion items have had as much impact on the world as denim. Ever since Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis created the first pair back in 1873, the sturdy cotton pants have been a fixture in our everyday lives. They’re appropriate for every season, flattering to the physique, comfortable to wear and extremely versatile. Of course, over the years, they’ve evolved to keep up with the pace of the ever-evolving fashion industry. But unlike many other pieces, jeans have always had a place in our closets. They have the kind of staying power that every designer wants for their creations. Like a life-altering technology a la the iPhone, we can’t imagine our lives without them.
So what’s happening with denim right now? Well, fashion in general is ruled by streetwear. Logo hoodies and high-top sneakers are just as at home on the runway as luxury suiting. The clothing of the counterculture has become the uniform of the mainstream. The consumer is rejecting the buttoned up staples that brands like Banana Republic and J. Crew have forced on them for so long. Now, each guy is in search of his own individual statement-one that’s grungy, imperfect and youthful. A huge part of that statement’s effectiveness is denim. Denim is the anchor of most streetwear looks. The degree of ripping, the color, the fit-every detail helps contribute to the message that’s broadcast to the world. For some guys, denim is still a basic staple rooted in safety and blandness. But for most others, it’s an adventurous way to rebel against the perfect image.
At its core, distressing is about making items look older. It accelerates the aging process so the consumer can reap the aesthetic benefits without years of wear under their belts. It’s a decorative process that works for everything from furniture to the creative arts. But with denim, it adds an edge to your look that’s unmatched by any other type of design. It’s important to understand that ripping is not necessarily distressing. Distressing typically involves adventurous washes. A pair of jeans can be ripped without being distressed and vice versa. Look to our Slim Taper Fit Gold Denim Biker Jeans for an example of distressed jeans that aren’t ripped. They’re accented by gold distressing throughout the waist and legs. On the other hand, our Frayed Slim Fit Denim Biker Ribbed Jeans are both distressed (a mixture of light and dark blues) and ripped.
This year, distressing trends have focused on Sulfur washes and overdyeing. Sulfur washes are commonly used on darker colors like black and blue. The process is a relatively cheap one that involves trapping the dye inside the denim fibers. The result is a worn-in look that feels authentic. Overdyed denim is either dyed twice or for an extended period of time. This is reserved for extremely dark jeans like indigo denim or black denim. This is why these jeans often come with a warning about dye bleeding onto clothing or surfaces with lighter colors.
Regardless of the method or combination, distressed denim is all about giving your jeans some history-even though they haven’t necessarily been around long enough to have a story.
Depending on who you ask, ripping is a subgenre of distressing. To the fashion purists out there, they recognize that distressing should involve dyes and washes at some point in the process. Ripping really has its own category. The style has been around since the 80s and was characteristic of punk culture. Then, it was less deliberate. Punk represented a rebellion against everything that was uniform and socially acceptable. The jeans were ripped because the owners had been through crazy experiences. It wasn’t until the last five years that they crossed over to mainstream appeal. Along with heavy metal band tees, ripped jeans have aided the meteoric return and transcendence of punk style.
Now, it’s not so much about subtle rips in places where rips would naturally occur. Surely, you’ve had a least a pair or two that have developed rips on the knees or in the crotch from repeated wears. The new era of ripped jeans is extreme. Some guys are walking the streets with their entire quads exposed. The current trend is about denim as an art project or an experiment.
Our jeans build on the trend while maintaining a superior fit and great functionality. Pairs like our Distressed Rib Biker Jean, in the slim taper fit, offer rips that add edge to your look and keep you on trend while keeping you covered.
Skinny denim has ruled men’s fashion for close to a decade. And trust us, it’s not going anywhere. But throughout the most recent men’s fashion weeks, both the designers and the onlookers were spotted heavily embracing relaxed denim. After spending years in relative obscurity, relegated to discount bins and reserved for Midwestern dads, relaxed fit denim is making its return to the trend spotlight.
And this trend isn’t about what you can find in the bargain bin or on the sale rack. There are tons of brands out there that are out of touch. They’ve continued to produce relaxed fit denim for guys whose physiques demand it and for those traditionalists who’ve rejected skinny and slim fits. Now, there are niche brands producing new relaxed fit denim for the fashion-conscious consumer.
The difference now is in how guys are styling them. Without any type of alteration or tweak, relaxed denim makes you look like a middle-aged dad. The key to making relaxed denim cool again is an aggressive rolled cuff. Pairing them back to some aged sneakers (canvas ones like Converse All-Stars) or combat boots gives them some much needed edge. Don’t wear these jeans the way your dad used to. Instead, think about classic photos of working class guys from the 1920s. Those guys were on to something and serve as a great reference point for the present.
Some guys aren’t content with rocking relaxed denim plain. They’re looking to the time-honored Japanese tradition of patchwork for some extra personality. Patchwork was born out of necessity. When clothes started to wear thin, patches were a quick fix to seal up unwanted holes and tears. In the process of repairing the denim, guys ended up with one-of-a-kind creations that evoked the artistic style of a quilt while still maintaining their masculinity. Now, the patchwork is being purchased on the front end but it’s still just as effective and amazing to look at.
The look has gained traction because it represents the DIY movement without the actual work. For guys looking to add a homemade feel to their outfit, patchwork denim gives them the edge without the labor. It’s an especially effective look because it adds in patches of varying color. Whereas a pair of light blue denim might only work with a certain color group, patchwork opens up a world of possibility.
If you’re reading this in fall and winter, it’s likely white jeans aren’t at the top of your priority list. But as a whole, white denim has stormed the market with a vengeance. Once upon a time, white denim was unpopular. It was a season-specific pant choice that fell in line with warm-weather prep staples like madras shorts, boat shoes and pastel oxford shirts. If you were informed about fashion and had cool style, you weren’t wearing white jeans. But as streetwear’s influence has seeped into all corners of menswear and rips have grown more extreme, designers have found ways to make white denim edgy.
Paired back with neutral colors and accented with edgier style details, white denim is no longer a signifier of the Ivy League dress code. They’re just as much a part of the current style movement as black or indigo blue denim.
Japanese selvedge denim is one of those classic styles that doesn’t need to be altered or updated to stay relevant. The name stems from the construction method in which the outer edge of the fabric, or the self-edge, is used. It’s a high quality denim that’s sturdy and long-lasting. It gains character over time and truly stands the test of time. Selvedge denim first started in the early 1800s but remains an in-demand denim style today. Similar to relaxed fit denim, they effectively evoke the aesthetic of the 1920s working class.
Acid wash jeans are created by treating the denim with bleach. When treating dark denim this way, it creates a bold statement that’s sure to stand out no matter what your aesthetic is. Originally, acid wash was a big part of 80s punk culture. But now, it’s a favorite of hipsters and streetwear fans alike. Our Slim Taper Fit Biker Jeans offer a modern take on the old acid wash style, incorporating in rips and distressing for a truly original pair of denim that can anchor any outfit.
Which One Is for You?
There are tons of denim options on the market. Straight fit, stonewashed and waxed jeans are also other options that still exist. When you’re deciding on what to choose for yourself, it can seem overwhelming. Regardless of your personal preference, aesthetic or lifestyle, skinny and slim are always in.
Menswear in general has shifted toward tailored fits. Major fit shifts are rare in fashion. Skinny has been key for well over a decade, and it will likely take a major drop or design shift to turn the tide. If you’re hoping to find the common ground between traditionalism and trend, you can absolutely find it in skinny or slim denim. Our Skinny Fit Ripped Twill Jeans keep things simple on the wash and detail fronts while still giving you an incredible fit that’s current and modern.
At UrbanCrews, we offer denim styles that appeal to both the trend-aware consumer and the guy who just wants to look good. Whether you want to stand out like a peacock or simply pull together some strong new era looks, we’ve got you covered.
A front of change probably isn’t coming soon for denim. This article will likely serve as an accurate take on the state of denim for years to come. From luxury designers to discount retailers, skinny and slim will continue to reign supreme. There’s an entire generation of guys who’ve grown up knowing nothing but these fits. Anything bigger is associated with the outskirts of fashion. And not the cool outskirts-that one percent that’s so stylistically advanced they could pull off anything. They think baggy jeans are the stuff of the fashion disenfranchised-people who are out of touch or are simply apathetic toward trend. They’re representative of one movement.
On the other hand, you’ll have guys who are willing to take chances and embrace styles like relaxed fits and patchwork. These are guys in that elite one percent-the ones that show up in all the street style photographs on Instagram. They’ll keep pushing the boundaries of what looks good and what should be popular.
Relaxed fit likely won’t take over the mainstream. It seems highly unlikely that, after all the years that the industry has leaned so heavily on skinny fits, menswear would suddenly take a left turn away from its biggest moneymaker and most consistent player. Look for relaxed fit to have a bigger presence in lookbooks and on mannequins but expect skinny and slim to take up the bulk of shelf space.
Whatever happens stylistically, it’s clear that denim isn’t going anywhere. With all these classifications, fits, style details and washes, there’s something there for everyone. Denim has been around since the late 1800s. That’s serious staying power. Perhaps we’re even on the brink of a new breakthrough that will once again change the industry. It’ll start in the outskirts and slowly work its way into the mainstream.
Men’s denim is an ever-growing, ever-changing category that proves fashion’s resilience and creativity. No matter who you are or what you wear, you’ll always need denim.