The Men’s Denim Guide
From the stuff of gold miners’ uniforms to the modern man’s sartorial staple, denim has never worked harder, but that doesn’t mean you should have to work hard to find your ultimate pair of jeans. While for some a feature of every day, for others jeans are a prized wear on the weekend; either way though, they’re worth getting right, so we spoke to some of the denim industry’s leading brands to help navigate fit, fabrication and aftercare.
While for women the cut of a pair of jeans is most often characterised by its flattering qualities - whether that be to accentuate or disguise a body part - for men, it’s more about the overall look. In choosing your cut of jeans you’re deciding the occasions they'll be worn and the aesthetic you want to purvey. "We believe in 24/7 denim," says the 7 For All Mankind team, reflecting on how denim is no longer reserved for off-duty. "That's why our fits are diverse. You can find something great for every moment of the day." Diesel concurs: “Jeans can be dressed up or down, they are for every occasion.”
The key to knowing which cut is right for when, then, is to understand the varying silhouettes. With that under your belt you’ll feel equipped to decide on the wash and detailing - the more obvious aesthetic markers.
Skinny Fit: Often crafted with added stretch, this fit will sit close from waistband to ankle.
Slim Fit: A contemporary style that should hug the legs but loosen up around your ankles.
Straight Fit: Cut straight in the leg, this fit will feel snug on the thighs but roomier from the knee down.
Classic Fit: Slacker throughout, get the length right to avoid a flaring at the ankle.
Relaxed Fit: Relaxed in the leg, this fit should still sit snug at the waist.
While the terms each denim brand uses may vary slightly, most jeans will fit into these five camps, and the terminology isn’t there to confuse: “All of our fits have names, making it easy to remember and repeat buy,” explains the C-OF-H MAN team, so it’s worth keeping a memo if you find a style you particularly like.
If you don’t know your washed from your raw from your selvedge denim, you’re not alone. “Raw denim jeans are simply jeans made from denim that hasn’t gone through a pre-wash process,” explains the DSquared2 team. “Raw denim comes in two forms,” the Diesel team continues, “sanforized or unsanforized. Sanforized denim has undergone a chemical treatment that prevents shrinkage after you wash your jeans. Unsanforized denim hasn’t been treated with that shrink-preventing chemical, so when you wash your jeans they will shrink between 5%-10%.”
“Selvedge denim,” the Diesel team goes on to explain, “is made on a shuttle loom, typically one yard wide. The edges on these strips of fabric come finished with tightly woven bands running down each side that prevent fraying, ravelling or curling. A common misconception is that all selvedge denim jeans are raw denim jeans and vice versa. Remember, selvedge refers to the edge on the denim and raw refers to a lack of pre-washing on the fabric.”
So what are the merits of selvedge denim? “The use of selvedge makes the jeans more durable,” the Jacob Cöhen team attests. “It develops a patina that is unique to its bearer.”
While for some the wash – or the lack of – will suffice, added detailing can not only distinguish a brand but can also up the luxury. For 7 For All Mankind it’s “the iconic double brand label, ‘7’-branded rivets and the squiggle on the back pockets” that set its apart.
Meanwhile, “details are the pride of Jacob Cöhen collections,” the team states, adding: “buttons are made of silver, copper-brushed ‘old’ carbon, leather, mother of pearl and 904L steel, which is also used to make Rolex watches.” The Italian brand also boasts pony skin brand patches and every pair of jeans comes complete with a handkerchief; the details-oriented among us need look no further.
For selvedge denim wearers, however, the main detail is on the inside – a tell-tale red and white line runs along the seam – so a simple turn-up will do the talking.
A subject that can seem fraught with dos and don’ts, the overarching advice for looking after your jeans is to wash them as infrequently as possible; simply spot clean and air wherever possible.
“Avoid leaving your jeans in the washing machine, remove them immediately after washing to dry naturally,” the Jacob Cöhen team suggests, while the C-OF-H MAN team exclaims: “no tumble drying or radiator!”
Providing a handy tip for dark indigo washes, the C-OF-H MAN team suggests: “it’s always a good idea to put a tablespoon of salt in the washing drum as this will extract any extra indigo denim dye from the jeans and help prevent it rubbing off on white clothes or furniture.”
C-OF-H MAN: “The Mod fit; they’re crafted from super-stretch fit with a luxurious feel.”
7 For All Mankind: “Our brand classic is the Luxe Performance collection, the epitome of form and function. The technology weaves a unique blend of high-stretch fibres to create a complete recovery fabric, which means that your jeans retain the exact shape and fell, no matter how long or frequently they are worn.”
Diesel: “Check out our Jogg Jeans to understand Diesel in 2016, this hybrid product combines stretch cotton making the product look like authentic denim mixed with the ability and real comfort of style and movement.”
DSquared2: “The Clement Jeans perfectly shape your body!”
The Last Word
“The more you wear and use your favourite jeans, the more they change to your body and lifestyle. That is the beauty of denim, it becomes a part of you!” 7 For All Mankind
Shop our edit of designer jeans below.
Looking for more wardrobe essentials? Discover Elgar Johnson's 24/7 Edit.