Even something as historic and seemingly steadfast as denim isn’t immune to the passing of time. As the years tick by, certain styles drift in and out of favour, and in spite of a global health emergency bringing much of the world to a standstill, denim trends are still on the move.
In recent years, skin-tight fits have been eclipsed by 2000s-throwback bagginess, distressed denim got so holey it disappeared entirely, and high-rise waistlines returned from their decades-long slumber. But what’s next for jeans? Below, we address that question by taking a look at some of the new years’ biggest denim trends.
From the evergreen mainstays to some of the more questionable seasonal variations, these are the denim trends you need to know about in 2021.
Cropped and pinrolled jeans are still prevalent in modern menswear. So much so, in fact, that’s it’s easy to forget there was ever a different, lengthier way of doing things. But there was, and in 2021 it’s set for a comeback.
The re-emergence of jeans with longer legs that stack above the ankle is symptomatic of something larger taking place in all areas of menswear. Styles popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s are beginning to make a comeback, and stacked legs is one way that’s manifesting in denim.
How To Wear
It’s pretty simple, really. Just uncuff your jeans or buy longer ones. But pay attention to the fit of your jeans before giving this a go. It’ll work great for relaxed or regular-fit denim, but not so much for anything overly skinny or slim. In terms of the rest of your outfit, avoid anything too fitted or tight as it will look jarring next to the looser-fitting legwear.
Blue Is The New Black
For many years now, grey and black jeans have been ubiquitous, but they’re becoming less so as we move into the new decade. Blue is back in a big way and there are enough shades of it to cover pretty much every conceivable occasion.
Mid-wash indigo denim is becoming increasingly popular, marking a shift away from lighter stonewash styles. Raw indigo denim is, as always, still a great option and has the added benefit of being smart enough to cope with smart casual duties.
How To Wear
Blue jeans are most at home with casualwear. Indigo denim has its roots in workwear and will always look great with other pieces that are cut from similar cloth, so to speak. Stick to laid-back favourites like flannel shirts, plain T-shirts, casual outerwear and boots or sneakers and you can’t go too far wrong.
If you’re in need of something a little smarter, simply dial up the darkness. Darker blues, like raw indigo, can pair nicely with things like Oxford shirts, loafers or Derby shoes and even soft tailoring.
Menswear’s love for manual labour is nothing new. Alongside sports and the military, it’s one of the most common places from which designers delight in taking inspiration.
Jeans, and denim in general, for that matter, have their roots in practical applications. It was a fabric favoured by blue-collar workers for its heavy construction and robustness. But it’s not just the material we’re talking about this season. Workwear-inspired detailing such as hammer loops and patch pockets have been making an unexpected comeback too.
Meanwhile, denim chore jackets are also enjoying a resurgence. And thankfully, they’re a little easier to style.
How To Wear
Carpenter jeans are never going to be an easy garment to get right, but your best bet is as part of a workwear-style outfit, if you want to avoid looking like a 13-year-old skateboarder from 2002. For less divisive option, stick to that denim chore coat, teamed with either contrasting jeans or trousers and topped off with a sturdy pair of winter boots.
There’s another key symptom of the revival of late 1990s and early 2000s fashion. Baggy is back, and this time it’s not just skaters and teenagers rocking the look. Baggy fits are everywhere from tailoring to T-shirts, and denim certainly hasn’t escaped the shift.
Loose-fitting legwear will be rife in 2021, which is perhaps a difficult pill to swallow for those of us who’ve been living in slim-fit denim for the last decade. But roomy jeans do have their benefits in terms of comfort and can actually look great when styled with a little thought.
How To Wear
The first thing to know is that ‘baggy’ isn’t a synonym for ‘ill-fitting’. It’s perfectly possible to embrace a wider, looser leg without looking like a child that’s raided their dad’s wardrobe. Get the fit right first – mid-rise, snug in the waist, roomy in the thigh, with a slight taper from the knee to the ankle – and everything else will fall into place.
Again, avoid pairing baggy jeans with anything fitted or clingy. Instead, opt for similarly slouchy and relaxed garments that complement the cut of your legwear.
(Always) Slim Cuts
While skintight silhouettes have all but disappeared from menswear, slim cuts are still alive and well. It’s a timeless fit that’s flattering and versatile, making it well worth adding to your rotation (if it’s not already a cornerstone of it).
It may not be a trend so to speak, but slim-fit jeans are always going to look good, regardless of year or season. Think of this style as one of the fundamental building blocks of your wardrobe. It’s simple, modest and – perhaps most importantly – won’t leave you cringing when you stumble upon photographs of yourself 10 years from now.
How To Wear It
Slim-fit denim is best worn with other fitted clothing. Other than that, it can be worn in any way you choose. Take a smart casual approach by opting for black and combining with black leather Derby shoes and an Oxford shirt. Or dress it right down with a crew-neck sweatshirt and some trainers.
Raw On Top
Why let your legs have all the raw denim fun? Give your torso a little action too. Raw denim is nothing new, but wearing it in jacket form is becoming increasingly popular.
A good raw denim jacket is a real investment piece. Wear it often and look after it, and you’ll be rewarded with a garment that ages and weathers with you, making it completely personalised and unique.
How To Wear
Again, when wearing denim on top it’s important to ensure it doesn’t match too closely with whatever you’re wearing on your legs. Generally, black jeans or even white/cream jeans will work well here. Or, better still, opt for green or beige chinos instead. Then stick on a pair of suede boots and you’re good to go.
Return To High-Rise
Waistbands have been moving north in tailoring and trousers in general for a little while now, so it was only natural that jeans would eventually follow suit. A return to the high-rise styles of the 1950s, 1980s and 1990s has been in the making for some time, but unlike most retro throwbacks, this one’s actually got some depth to it.
Historically speaking, high-waisted is denim legwear’s default setting. And while it may have lost ground to mid-rise and even low-rise styles over the years, it’ll always be relevant.
How To Wear
The first thing to consider before reaching for the high-rise denim is body shape. If you’re the owner of a pair of long, spindly legs, adding more length at the upper end isn’t going to do anything to balance out your proportions. But if you’re average height or below, go wild. Although we’d suggest not going down the tucked T-shirt route if you’re a little on the short side.
Outside of shirts, T-shirts and trainers, wearing white has always been a risky business, particularly when it comes to trousers. Nail it and you’re the coolest guy at the party. Screw it up and you’re a middle-aged lady on a hen do in Benidorm.
We believe the payoff is big enough to make the risk worthwhile, and judging by the surge in popularity of white jeans and denim jackets of late, so does everyone else.
How To Wear
When it comes to white denim, contrast is your friend. If you’re wearing white up to, opt for rich, dark colours on your bottom half and vice versa. Jeans-wise, it’s crucial to nail the fit: steer clear of anything too tight and instead go for a slim or straight leg to keep things classic.
We all know raw denim is all about achieving beautiful fades and interesting patinas over time. The trouble is, not everyone likes the idea of living in a pair of dirty jeans for a year while the process takes place.
Thankfully, pre-faded denim is trending hard this year and with the quality of washes on offer from specialist jeans brands like Edwin, Nudie and OrSlow, nobody will know the difference.
How To Wear
Faded denim looks great, there’s no disputing that, but it’s far from smart. Unless you want to wind up looking like Jeremy Clarkson, we’d suggest picking a different shade of denim for smart-casual affairs and keep the faded stuff for casual looks and weekend duties. Cuff them just above the ankle and pair them with suede chukka boots or a pair of throwback runners.
The Repair Job
Ever ventured home in ripped jeans only to have some witty relative offer to sew a patch onto them? Well they’re going to love the latest distressed denim trend to have hit stores and street-style galleries across the globe.
Featuring strategically (and sometimes not-so-strategically) placed decorative patches, a new breed of distressed jean has come to fill the hole left by the torn and tattered denim of the mid 2010s. Yes, it’s an acquired taste, but it’s not impossible to make it work as part of a cohesive outfit.
How To Wear
As with most aspects of menswear, it’s best to go with the “less is more” approach. Avoid full-blown patchwork monstrosities and opt instead for tastefully executed cut & sew detailing and sparingly used patches. Much like any statement garment, patched-up jeans benefit from being surrounded by simple, stripped-back pieces, but keep things slouchy and relaxed as opposed to crisp and pristine.