SHREDDED at the knees and pegged at the ankle, designer skinny with a dangerously low rise, even bellybutton ticklers of the "mom" variety—everyone has a favorite pair of denim dungarees.
No other article of clothing is more ubiquitous or unique: So much more than another item on the floor of your closet, your best jeans serve as a testament to your coolest self, an expression of personal philosophy that comes with the added bonus of making your tush look fabulous.
While jeans are enjoying their second century as part of the zeitgeist, much has changed since Levi Strauss invented his first pragmatic pair in 1873. Hell, a lot has changed since you rocked those acid-washed Jordache babies in junior high.
In the past 15 years, denim has transcended backyard barbecues and motorcycle chic as designers like Chanel and Versace have elevated it to the realm of bona fide haute couture. (Yet as fads and washes come and go, a pair of perfectly-worn Levi’s 501s will always be the height of fashion, honey!)
To pay homage to our precious baby blues, international fashion editors Jane Bishop and Florence Kane founded JeansStories.com, a site devoted to denim culture and its latest trends. These jeans geniuses (Bishop serves as creative director while Kane handles the editorial) bring their indigo wisdom to the tenth annual SCAD Style, an extravaganza of lectures and events celebrating the world’s most influential designers, architects and innovators taking place April 12-16 across SCAD’s Savannah, Atlanta and Hong Kong campuses. (All events are free and open to the public.)
On Tuesday, April 14 at the SCAD Museum of Art, Jean Stories’ Bishop and Kane will moderate a panel of the denim industry’s finest-clad luminaries, featuring Cone Denim marketing VP Kara Nicholas, AYR global denim director Jac Cameron, and Scott Morrison, founder of Paper, Denim & Cloth and current owner of custom-jeans boutique 3x1 in NYC.
Wearing a pair of thrifted H&M boyfriend jeans with an embarrassing hole starting on the left thigh, we asked Jane + Florence (their preferred nom de professional) about how to dress up denim, what to do about muffin top syndrome and whether it’s ever OK to rock a Canadian tuxedo.
What was your first pair of favorite jeans?
Jane: I don't remember my first pair of jeans, but I remember my first pair of Seven for All Mankinds. They had a green cast and they were unlike any jean anyone had ever seen—lowcut bootcut that made butts look great. I remember thinking Seven was such an odd and awkward name for a jean company (Earl and Replay were much more like it back then). Now, if you say Seven, I say jeans.
Florence: One of my first, if not my first, was a pair my grandmother bought me to wear for riding her horses in the country when I was four or five. They were a no-name kids' brand, I'm sure!
Why does denim endure as other fashion fades?
Jane: Denim fades, too (no pun intended), but it's always there because it exists outside of fashion. People wear jeans daily without feeling they are making a statement by doing so. As a fabric for clothing, it is exceptionally functional. So it gets used, regardless of whether it's cool or not.
Florence: Because it' not a trend like other fashion. There are trends in the denim world, for sure, but denim itself is not a fad!
What's the best way to personalize the classic white tee/blue jean combo?
Jane & Florence, in agreement: With great shoes and jewelry that is meaningful to you.
What trends can we expect this year and what do you hope we will we never see again? (Please tell me the low-rise muffin top look is never, ever coming back.)
Jane: Right now fashion is definitely favoring wider legs and darker washes, 70s fits and flares. But, really, anything goes. We need jeans for every occasion and that means we want a variety of styles—boyfriends, skinnies, bootcuts, high-rise straights, vintage, new, stretch, non-stretch, clean and distressed...it's a really exciting time in denim because women, especially, have so many choices and they are all right!
We definitely remember low-rise jeans, and experience tells us that they—like all denim trends—will probably make a comeback one day, sorry!
Florence: You know, we think that if a denim style works for you, you should go for it! Many women stuck to their low-rise bootcut jeans even after the skinny became prevalent. And the muffin top thing is more of a fit issue, I'd say, rather than a style issue.
This one's for my husband: What is really the difference between a $300 pair of jeans and a $70 pair?
Jane: A lot can affect the price of a pair of jeans—the fabric (the quality of the denim and where that denim was made, for example), the materials used (rivets, buttons, zippers), the design (fit, wash, fade, and other details like distressing, patches, and rip and repairs), and where the jeans are made...all of these things contribute to how much our jeans cost.
Jeans made in Los Angeles, where a lot of the best jeans are still made, are going to cost more than those made overseas, generally. Having seen the process of making jeans first-hand—a lot of which still gets done by hand—we’re often amazed that all jeans don’t cost more.
What’s the secret to rocking jeans at a formal event?
Jane: Tailoring is everything, and the darker and cleaner the wash the better. Look for pairs that are cut more like trousers, with slanted pockets, a higher rise, and wider legs, as opposed to a 5-pocket style. Distressed jeans are best left for weekends, but white jeans can be OK to wear to summertime parties, if you pair them with a smart jacket and really pretty shoes.
All this said, if the dress code is Black Tie, it’s best to leave your jeans behind.
Florence: Agreed! If you REALLY want to wear denim to a formal event, try a tailored, dark denim overcoat cut in a feminine shape. They're out there!
Two words: Canadian tuxedo. Acceptable or not?
Florence: I prefer to say double denim! (Why knock the Canadians? They're great.) But yes, it's acceptable and encouraged.