You know how every now and then you realise you really need a new toothbrush? It’s the same with jeans. Of course they get better with age, softening and moulding to your shape, becoming less like an article of clothing and more like partners in crime. But then suddenly they reach the point where they aren’t worn in, they’re worn out. Gardening clothes.
We all remember the days when we desperately wanted our jeans to fade in the great hippy tradition and then later, in a time called the 1980s, we wanted them to split at the knee. None of that applies any more.
For grown-up blue jeans, I don’t think there is any choice except the darkest denim, and it has to be real denim
If you want faded, shredded jeans now you can buy them that way, but nobody over the age of 20 ever should. Except Elle Macpherson. She can wear any kind of jeans in the world and look amazing. And she does.
For grown-up blue jeans (black, grey and brightly coloured jeans are a whole other conversation) I don’t think there is any choice except the darkest denim, and it has to be real denim. I often glimpse what looks like dark denim but on closer inspection turns out to be random dark blue cotton. This is greatly to be avoided. (Marks and Spencer, you’re on notice.)
It has to be proper denim, with the particular weave of white and indigo threads, so it is lighter on the reverse side. (If the fabric is the same on the other side, walk away; better still, run.) There should also be a subtle diagonal texture to the weave.
But you know that; you had vintage American Levis 501s back in the day. That was real denim and that’s what you want, but unfaded. If you find a reliable source of it, can you let me know?
I’ve spent the last two days scouring Oxford Street and have decided that finding new jeans is almost as demoralising as swimwear shopping – and it’s not like I have to try a million pairs on. By our age, we all know what suits us.
If you’re tall with lady hips, you probably prefer a bootleg. For the classic English pear, it would more likely be a boyfriend jean. If, like me, you are short of leg and snake of hip, it has to be the cigarette straight.
Nothing would get me into a skinny jean. At best, I feel like Max Wall; on fat days, Mr Pickwick. And I don’t like the feeling of them cleaving to my shins. It’s claustrophobic.
If, however, you are blessed with Elle Macpherson legs – and I know girls my age who are – wear your skinnies and love them. There is no age restriction on the style, it’s just a lot to ask of most body shapes.
So knowing what suits you is one thing; finding the bastards is the hard part. I don’t know anywhere reliable for denims. Over the years, I’ve spent from £15 to £199 and found my dream jeans in Harvey Nichols, Gap, TopShop, Marks & Spencer, Next, Uniqlo, Dorothy Perkins and Saks 5th Avenue. But never the same place twice.
So I have learned to be cunning. I’ve found that the more expensive the brand, the longer the legs – and a pair of bootlegs, when shortened, can be more like a straight leg on me. I’ve also found that jeans designed as capris for, say, Elle Macpherson, are the perfect length for a short-arse.
My most cunning ruse so far is buying cheapo skinny jeans two sizes two big and then belting them in, à la Banarama. (I know you did it. I know I did.)
Being oversized, they’re like straight legs around the calves and drape a bit around the hips and thighs in a jodhpur-ish/Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits manner, which is surprisingly cool and flattering.
When I first tried this stunt, I wondered if I was slightly deranged with jeans desperation, but when a fashion PR friend asked, ‘What are those jeans?’ with her eyes narrowed, I knew I was on to something.
But I still won’t stop looking for my straight-leg dark denim holy grail. And next time I find some, I’ll buy two pairs; one for everyday, one for best, with minimal washing to stave off the time when I have to go jeans shopping again.
Further reading Carol Vorderman: hands off her tight trousers!