For well over a century now, denim has long been the go-to material for everyone from the blue-collar working class to the most stylish men on the streets. In recent years, though, your favorite denim has gotten quite the upgrade and the options have become dizzying. Add in increasingly casual workplaces and an increase in dressing up for social occasions and the denim landscape has gotten a bit confusing. Luckily, we’ve got a denim handy primer that’s the perfect tool to help you avoid becoming both a fashion victim or underdressed. Here’s how denim should be done.
Find The Right Fit First
Before we get into the right pairs to buy it’s important to dial in a fit that works best for you. As always we’re fans of a sharp, trim fit that’s not too tight. Of course, everyone’s body shape is different but just because you’re muscular, bigger, or not on the thinner side doesn’t mean you should be wearing baggy denim. Ultimately it’s a matter of preference but typically a slim fit works for those with a slight to medium build and a slim straight works best for guys who are gym rats or on the stockier side. A final note to consider, regardless of what type of denim you buy, there will always be some stretching (even more with selvedge) so take that into consideration when trying fits on and considering your size.
Don’t neglect the length either, there’s no quicker way to make yourself look short and out of shape than to have too much pooling at the cuff. You’re probably used to taking your suit to your go-to tailor to get that fit dialed in and your jeans shouldn’t be any different. Get that taper and length dialed in, it’s worth the investment, just consider how much you wear a great pair of denim. When you find a fit that works for you, don’t be afraid to double up and grab a few pairs, your loyalty will be rewarded as you’ve got your denim uniform locked down.
The Four Pairs You Need
Nowadays, denim can come in a virtual kaleidoscope of colors, and although branching out into fringe hues, like orange, violet and yellow, may seem like a sweet idea at first, you run the risk of pigeonholing yourself when it comes to maintaining your wardrobe’s versatility.
Instead, when investing in a few new pairs, keep it simple. There are four standbys you need in your arsenal:
1. A dark-rinse indigo - Clean, crisp and dark, these are great for weekends and dressier situations.
2. A classic medium blue - An all-American look that works well for the day-to-day casual.
3. A crisp black - Perfect for a night out; a slimmer cut (but not tight) will add a little edge to your look.
4. A light wash or grey - Pair these with other monochromatic pieces and get ready for the warmer months.
Diving into the specifics of color, there’s a very simple rule to keep in mind when deciding when and where to wear certain rinses and/or washes: Lighter shades for casual situations and weekends, darker shades for anything more formal - nights out, or the office (if you work in that type of environment).
Naturally, there will be certain situations, that don’t fit the mold, where you’ll have to play it by ear. Just remember that if you find yourself questioning whether jeans are a good idea for a specific event, they’re probably not. Ideally, we’d recommend an arsenal of types of denim that will allow you to dress appropriately for every situation, regardless of whether it’s a night out, Casual Friday, or your Sunday coffee run.
To Selvedge, or Not to Selvedge
For those not in the know, selvedge, (sometimes called selvage in the U.S.), is a specific breed of denim that is woven on vintage narrow looms. The resulting denim is tougher with a tighter weave and finished, uniform edges. The selvedge edge (finished with colored stitching and white tape) is the signifier of this breed and why you’ll always see denim heads cuffing their denim to show off that detail.
Now, deciding whether to go with the selvedge version of a pair of jeans is subjective. Traditionally, selvedge jeans tend to be a little pricier because of it’s labor-intensive weaving, limited quantities, and higher-quality fabric, but they are a worthy investment. They’ll take some time to break in, but ultimately you’ll be getting a pair of denim that will be unique to you. It will form to your body shape over time and develop those highly-prized fades and a patina that’s totally unique. As we mentioned though, selvedge denim will stretch significantly, sometimes up to 5-10% so bear that in mind when finding your fit.
Care For Your Denim The Right Way
Now that you’ve hopefully got a few pairs of high-quality denim in your closet, it’s important to take care of them the right way. Cleaning them the right way will add life to them and keep ‘em looking sharp and fitting well for years to come.
With non-selvedge denim, a cold wash inside out on a gentle cycle and hanging to dry is the best way to keep ‘em clean. We don’t recommend using the dryer as it will only damage and shrink your denim. We also recommend infrequent washing as they’ll hold their color longer, especially in darker indigo washes.
Selvedge denim requires a bit of extra care. Ideally, you should wait as long as you can before washing (even a month or two if possible) and never wash them in the washing machine, selvedge requires hand washing. Simply run a bath in the tub (or fill up the sink) and add a bit of gentle detergent. Soak your denim in the tub for 15-30 minutes in the soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and hang to dry. Selvedge will experience some shrinkage as you wash but they will break back in as you re-wear them.