Fashion trends: love them or hate them, they permeate every part of menswear. Even something as historic and steadfast as denim isn’t immune to the passing of time and the changing of tastes. In fact, men’s denim trends are some of the most fast-changing and diverse to be found.
In recent years we’ve witnessed skinny silhouettes toppled by loose cuts and wide legs. We’ve seen distressed denim get so holey it disappeared entirely. Whether these are pluses or negatives, well, we’ll leave that to you to decide. Either way, denim is constantly on the move.
From the evergreen mainstays to some of the more questionable seasonal variations, these are the denim trends you need to know about right now.
They say fashion works in cycles of 20 years. And if you’ve been paying any attention to the 1990s revival that has been sweeping the globe for the past few seasons, you’ll know it to be true.
Washed-out denim is one of the more palatable throwback styles to have emerged from fashion’s obsession with all things nineties. As is the case with any men’s style movement, you have to be selective about which trends you pick up and which ones you drop. And a pair of lightly coloured jeans is always going to be favourable to curtains and a Coogi jumper.
How To Wear
The key to nailing lighter shades of denim is to keep it casual. Slim, raw denim jeans can be dressed up to a certain extent – think sports jacket, roll neck and smart shoes – stonewash, on the other hand, is best at home as part of a relaxed outfit. Try wearing a pair cuffed with suede desert boots, a plain tee and an overshirt.
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.
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.
It was once the case that wearing double denim was a cardinal style sin reserved for only the most heinous of dressers. To attempt it was to commit style suicide, but times have changed and done right, you can make it work.
It’s still far from easy to pull off – a menswear move only the pros can get away with – but it is possible.
How To Wear
The most important thing to remember when pairing denim with denim is to keep your shades different. Instead of matching your top and bottom half, you should be aiming for contrast. We’re talking cream denim jackets, black jeans, raw denim overshirts. In short, it’s all about mixing it up. Get this right and you’re halfway there.
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.
Cropped & Roomy
Cuffing jeans has been more or less mandatory for at least a decade now. An exposed ankle sat below a neatly folded turn-up of denim is an image synonymous with 2010s style and while there’s no sign of leg openings migrating south across the board anytime soon, cropped styles are beginning to muscle in on the classic cuff’s territory.
Cropped jeans, sans cuffs, have long been a no-go for any self-respecting man keen not to emulate his little sister’s dress sense circa 1999. But with the rise in popularity of roomier cuts and the demise of the skinny fit, there’s certainly a case to be made for their place in modern menswear.
How To Wear
Loose-fitting, cropped jeans are never going to be the smartest thing hanging up in your wardrobe, so the best course of action when it comes to styling is to keep things casual. It’s also a good idea to keep the rest of your outfit relatively loose fitting and breezy. A slightly oversized tee layered beneath a slouchy sweatshirt is a good option. And if you need to dress things up a little, just play around with texture and colour. As a rule of thumb, the darker the denim, the dressier it is.
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.