Photo Courtesy of Who What Wear
Written by Peyton Haahr
Jeans. They’re pretty much one of the most, if not the most iconic piece in fashion.¬†They have served many purposes, been worn powerfully and thoughtfully, many times to create change and spark influence and inspiration. They’ve been worn by hard-working men and women during the world wars, by important leaders and everyday folk for innumerable decades taking them from country to country, from cities to suburbs, from work to play, from parties to reunions. While denim has a rich historical tapestry, shopping for jeans is another story. It’s often something consumers dread, as sizes differ from brand to brand, people’s bodies are shaped uniquely and brands don’t often cater to the outskirts of the sizing range. It’s like shopping for swimsuits – the majority of the time you don’t end up buying anything, and often leave the story feeling worse than when you walked in. When approaching jean shopping, it’s very important to understand the language of denim and ultimately the fit of each style, and what may look best on your body type. We’ve broken down the numerous names and styles of jeans to allow consumers to make more sense of what they should be hunting for and how to make the process that much easier.
Images Credit to Elle France April 2017 & Vogue Brazil
First up: the skinny jean. Most are likely familiar with the style, and it has been incredibly popular over the past decade. As the name suggests, the legs in this jean style and usually pretty skin-tight, and hug your curves. There isn’t any flare or wideness in the legs, and are tapered and tight all the way down to the ankle. The style has been so popular as brands have played into the appeal of stretchier fabrics and more comfortable materials that make the denim wearable for long periods of time. They’ve included more spandex alongside the cotton, crafting jeans with versatility and comfort, while still maintaining the classic jean style. From out point of view, skinny jeans are great for any body type – they are so wearable and easy to style that they should be a foundational piece in everyone’s closet.
Slightly different are the cigarette jeans, which aren’t as widely known as skinny jeans. This style means that the jean leg is a little straighter, and less tight that the skinny jean, but it isn’t completely relaxed. There is definitely a sense of relaxation to these jeans, especially around the claves, but they are still largely close-fitting and closer to the body. We love pairing them with mules or casual sneakers for a day out with family and friends or a weekend vacation. So, if you’re looking for a jean that still fits tighter, but has a slightly more relaxed fit, this is the style to look for.
We would qualify straight-leg jeans as the next notch up in terms of relaxation and less constriction. They often extend a little longer towards the ankle as well, and are more likely to have a cuff on the bottoms. These will give off a casual, off-duty look if you’re headed up to Los Angeles for the day or meeting friends for a summer lunch.
Images Courtesy of A.P.C.; Farfetch.com; & Adam Selman
Next up: boyfriend jeans. This style is becoming an increasing favorite among the younger and older generations alike. Both are warming up quickly to the relaxed and retro style that plays perfectly with the vintage vibes – tees, jackets, denim jackets – that have become popular at all levels of the fashion industry. Their slightly baggy fit makes them a wonderful choice for casual get-togethers or for people who choose to stay away from tight-fitting garments. They are great to cuff or bunch up for less ankle coverage (to show off those fabulous shoes you may be wearing!) We love wearing our own boyfriend jeans with oversized button-ups, graphic tees, and silk camisoles.
Now, to differentiate between flare jeans, and bootcut jeans. It’s easy to throw the terms around and not understand the difference, but it’s easy once you figure it out. Flare jeans are what we think of as bell bottoms‚ and the wild and retro style that reminds us of the hippie era and tie dye printed tees complete with smiling faces and peace signs. Flares are wider and open up a lot more, quite literally flaring out. A few brands are taking a stab at bringing the style around again – one being Free People. The brand’s bohemian signature is the perfect canvas for this style. The style hasn’t caught on as much as slouchier boyfriend jeans have, as it tends to favor those with thinner, longer legs. But if that’s you, this trend can be a great take on the retro trend.
On the other hand, bootcut jeans are not as wide as flares, and they start widening their pant leg around the knees. The column doesn’t pull out in such a bell-shape, but still does push away from the body more than a straight leg jean. Bootcut jeans were created for a reason: that they were usually worn with boots, and the pant needed to give around the calf and ankle to allow the boot to fit. Since often times these cuts are styled with a longer pant leg, be sure to pair them with a shoe with some height to offset any dragging fabric when you’e out and about.
Image Courtesy of Who What Wear
While these are the style names for a good majority of jeans on the market, it’s important to be aware of the rise of the style. There is high, mid, and low rise. High rise has historically been popular for many of the recent seasons, especially with jeans, pants, and leggings. They are, without a doubt, the most flattering rise of all, and can do wonders with smoothing, elongating, and created a waist for those with less of a defined line. Higher rises allow for cropped tees, hoodies, and jackets, and those with curves benefit wonderfully from this capability. Mid-rises are popular, and work well for women with less curves and an athletic shape. Low rise are the least popular, as they tend to be the hardest to wear and least forgiving with their rise since they hit below the belly button. Those with curves should look towards high or mid-rise styles, while petite or women with well-defined waists can look to this.
Image Courtesy of Net-a-Porter
Shopping for jeans is a process. It’s not a situation where¬†you amble out to the mall and stumble upon the perfect fitting jean like Cinderella’s slipper. Well, maybe very few of us do, but for the majority of women, it usually takes quite a few try-on sessions and return trips to find what fits best. Making inroads into these steps isn’t easy, but it can be helped by learning what styles work best for your body and what to look for when out on the prowl for that great pair of jeans. You can know what to avoid and what not to compromise on – but considering how many choices there are out there, it’s not going to be a breeze every time. Yet denim’s icon status is well-deserved, and jeans are easily one of the most important things to have in your closet. The struggle is real, but the end is worth it.