You’re new to this whole “style” thing, and that’s okay. Coming here was a step in the right direction. I’m going to help you build a wardrobe of clothes that will always look good, no matter what you pick.
Today we’re going to start simply. If you can only buy one thing right now – one thing that would be versatile and look great in almost any environment – what should you buy?
Answer: The perfect pair of jeans.
I can already hear you: “Jeans? I already have a few pairs of those. Why do I need more?” If you’re here, you probably own an old pair of baggy boot cut Levi’s or some relaxed fit Wrangler jeans. They are “comfortable”, but they don’t fit you!
Once you get the right pair, you’ll see that jeans that fit are even more comfortable, and the effortless style will draw plenty of compliments.
The Dad jeans are too relaxed. When you’re wearing these, you lose all shape and become a formless blob covered in rumpled denim – not good. I’m not going to tell you to go buy skinny jeans. You’re not a rockstar, so don’t dress that way.
What we’re looking for here is a simple, classic pair of jeans that fits well, looks good in any environment, and stays away from extremes. Extreme washes, embroidered pockets and holes are all off limits here.
Buy this: Dark, slim, straight leg jeans.
Dark jeans are wonderfully versatile. You can dress them up with a sportcoat, tie, and wingtips for a night out or a business casual day at the office, and still pair them for the weekends with a simple white t-shirt and sneakers.
Here are a few of the options that I would consider:
Now the more sartorially inclined amoung you may begin to ask about 8oz vs 12oz, raw vs. washed, etc. This is not a denim nerd post. I’ll go into that more in a future post, but today is about the basics.
Color is important. When it comes to jeans, a good rule is that lighter is less formal. For your one critical piece, I recommend a good dark wash. Why? Because it will work in almost all scenarios. Use it in place of slacks or chinos with sportcoat for a clean business casual look, or with a heavy sweater and boots for the weekend.
From Levi’s to Nudie, there are many brands that would work here, so don’t worry about that too much. What matters more is fit. You want a snug fit in the waist, so that they stay up where you want them without a belt. In most cases, I recommend a mid or low rise waist. The younger you are the more acceptable a lower rise is, but leave the ultra low rise jeans to the under 25’s.
- High Rise – sits 1–2 inches above your “natural” waist (belly button)
- Mid Rise – sits at your “natural” waist
- Low Rise – sits 2–4 inches below your “natural” waist
In your thighs, the jeans should also fit closely without being restrictive. Again, you’re looking for snug, not baggy and not tight.
Straight leg jeans are called straight because they maintain the same width throughout the leg. This means that the jeans will be a bit more roomy in the calf than they are on the rest of you. That’s okay and good, and what separates you from the group of skinny-jean-wearing rockshow kids. If you’re a little more adventurous, you can look for a “slim” jean that will taper some in the legs. This is especially good if you are a thin guy, but make sure that it’s only a slight taper. You don’t want the jeans to hug your calves – that’s getting into rockstar territory (see above).
Finally, the length is very important. Most guys want to avoid “high waters” at all costs, so they end up buying jeans that are far too long for them. You want the jeans to be long enough to cover the top part of your shoes without being so long that they drag on the ground. When your jeans are that long, they will stack around your ankles too much, and the hem will drag the ground and fray.
Again, the denim nerds will come out of the woodwork here and tell me that stacking is good. I agree. Much like an old piece of bronze gathers a unique patina, it creates that stacked aging pattern that looks fantastic and makes it yours. The moral of the story? A little stack is good, too much is terrible. Don’t be that guy. The jeans should rest comfortably on the top of your shoes, but not on the floor. The length should be about an inch or two longer than the cut on your dress slacks. If you’re slacks have a single break with a 30 inch inseam, don’t get 34 inch jeans.
Go get them already
Dark jeans are the one item that can look great in almost any situation – without looking like you’re trying too hard. If you can only get one thing, get dark denim jeans.