Jeans. So utilitarian. So egalitarian. Yet so bloody difficult to nail! Are expensive jeans worth it? Should you pay more then £100 for a pair? Surely denim is considered a workwear fabric, ergo it should be cheap as chips. Yes, but no.
There’s denim and then there’s denim. Japanese denim is beautiful – dense, dark, rigid but made in Japan so relatively expensive. Stretch denim to me is not really denim. (It’s usually cheap and prone to sagging, and don’t get me started on jeggings.) And modern mass produced denim is nothing compared to vintage denim. I love my Levi’s but new 501s are nowhere near as hardwearing as their vintage equivalents.
But aside from the denim, it’s the cut that makes the difference. I like a boy cut, whether that’s oversized slouchy ‘boyfriend’ jeans or a straight leg trouser-jean that stops at the ankle (I wear them with box fresh Jack Purcells). Arket has some very nice ones in clean, untampered-with organic denim in pale pink, ecru, black, or raw indigo for £55. [Updated version available here.] They’re high-waisted and prone to shrink on the first wash so it’s best to size up.
But I’m equally drawn to The Row’s dark-rinse wide leg jeans, as sported by one of my favourite Instagrammers, Linda V Wright. Or the cult 45R jeans, made in Japan from organic cotton and costing over £350. Certainly not cheap but if you wear them to death, the cost-per-wear is peanuts. To make raw denim last longer, you’re advised not to wash them too often. Rinse in cold water, yes. Machine-washing, no.
How cool is Linda…?
While American and Japanese-made jeans have always hogged the limelight, the Brits are starting to get a look in, according to the New York Times. It flags Blackhorse Lane Ateliers who have been gaining fans for their utility-luxe wide-legged cuts as a manufacturer to watch. But most exciting for me is the unisex denim line from Toogood (top). Designed and constructed entirely in Britain using cotton/linen selvedge denim from an East Lancashire mill, it’s proudly utilitarian and made to last (I’m especially loving the carpenter jeans). If you’re feeling flush, you’ll find them at Dover Street Market from £675-£755.
I think there’s a difference between paying these sorts of prices for small batch artisan jeans and paying for a ‘designer’ label. With one you’re paying for a thoughtful design, quality materials and a jean that gets better with age. With the other you’re mostly paying for marketing (which is totally fine if you’re happy with that).
Side note: If you’re looking for new ways to reinvigorate your old denim, then check out the new Denim book by Amy Leverton, It’s a great street style handbook for irrepressible denimheads, just published by Rizzoli. At the recent book launch I had a fab chat with trend forecaster Kelly Harrington and Doug Gunn from The Vintage Showroom about our filthy denim hoarding habits. Check them both out on Instagram for more denim inspo.
WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Toogood; Arket x 2; Linda V Wright/Instagram x 3