Recently, I was scrolling through TikTok when I came across a video of a man in distress. “Tell me what denim is, right now,” he yells into the camera, holding his fist up in a faux-threatening pose. He very urgently wanted to know what denim is made out of and how, which is a good question, but I laughed because it also struck me as an existential one. What is denim right now? Designers are reinventing it, playing not only with silhouette and construction, but also with our eyes and expectations. On the runways, we’re seeing jeans that look like shoes (joots) and shoes that look like jeans (jeakers). Bottega Veneta designer Matthieu Blazy made his debut with leather denim this season, and Glenn Martens gave us denim couture. Celebrities are down for the ride, but what’s happening is so much bigger than any one look or trend; we seem to be in the midst of a Denimaissance, where anything is possible.
“It feels like we’re living through both no jean trends and all of the jean trends at once, with every rise, wash, and cut imaginable suddenly overwhelmingly available at our fingertips,” says fashion writer Emily Kirkpatrick, who’s been keeping close tabs on celebrity denim choices, from Justin Bieber’s extra-extra-large Balenciaga bottoms to Rihanna’s extra-extra-long pregnancy-reveal look.
Because jeans are so ubiquitous, their various trend cycles have served as a particularly reliable reflection of culture, for better or worse. At the moment, people seem ready to put on hard pants again. But what kind? In keeping with the times, the offerings are chaotic. (And inflated in price.) It can be hard to know where to invest. Did Jesse Kamm high-waisted flares survive the “vibe shift”? Is low-rise really back? Are jeans getting bigger and baggier, or skinnier and more micro-mini?
Personally, I’ve only ever found one pair of jeans that fits me well. They’re black and they’re Helmut Lang, and I’ve worn them every single day now for like, five years. They seem to be sold out, though, so I’m also at a loss for what new jeans to buy this spring, if any. Everything I want is either prohibitively expensive or too out-there for my taste. To get some answers, I had to call upon some of my own “fashion friends” for advice. Below are their suggestions.
Bring Back Low-Rise (If You Really Must)
Low-rise jeans were first predicted to make a comeback in 2020, but now it seems their time has finally come, along with lower-back tattoos and bandage dresses, and all things Y2K. “I’ve been stocking up on a bunch of low-rise, flared denim,” says Emma Rogue, who turned her popular vintage TikTok and Depop accounts into a storefront on the Lower East Side last year. “Some brands we’ve been loving are True Religion (especially the ones with diamanté accents), Diesel, and Evisu.”
If you can’t find what you’re looking for at her store or on her Depop page, there’s plenty of used True Religion to be found elsewhere online.
Rogue also said she’s seeing “baggier, carpenter, and skate-style jeans that are meant to be worn a few sizes too big” making a comeback.
Plus intentional distressing, especially around the waist. Justin Bieber would probably approve of these.
Embrace the Spirit of JNCOs
If the thought of returning to low-rise is too much for you (same), a baggier, “slouchier” fit could have a similar effect. Nordstrom’s designer fashion and editorial director Rickie De Sole says she’s seen looser, lower-rise styles on the runways at Valentino and Balenciaga in particular. “Many of these styles emit a throw-on-and-go sensibility without too much of the Y2K nostalgia we saw last season,” she explained.
Instead of going full Justin Bieber, fashion writer Emily Kirkpatrick says she’s “dipping her toe into the shallow end of the huge jean pool” with this pair from Mother. “They lean decidedly more grunge than Insane Clown Posse,” she said. “But I still think they will serve as a gentle transition into my inevitable JNCOs era. Plus, I love the touch of ‘carpenter stolen valor’ that implies I might actually know my way around a toolbox.”
Shopping writer Chinea Rodriguez, meanwhile, says she’s looking for “JNCO, but make it fashion.” She noticed that brands like Telfar and Peter Do showed “huge pants” this season, and lots of baggy jeans were on the runways last season as well, like at Molly Goddard.
Rodriguez also recommends the below from H&M as a more affordable alternative. You may not be able to fit your laptop in the pocket, but certainly a Sidekick flip phone.
If you can splurge, the Cut’s style director Jessica Willis says the Row’s jeans are the “best ever.” And at that price, they better be!
Explore a New Silhouette
“I am a sucker for a baggy jean that looks worn in — like it was passed down from generation to generation,” says Rajni Jacques, global head of fashion and beauty at Snap. She’s loyal to Levi’s, but has been trying some other brands lately as well, like R-13, Re/Done, and ASOS. “R-13 has the asymmetrical button-up jean that’s classic, but the way it buttons up ads a design element that makes it modern,” she said. It also seems to take inspiration from Margiela, which is always a good thing.
Or Just Opt for Vintage
“Considering all of these trends are cyclical, and we inevitably drag our bell-bottoms and high waists and light washes out again every few years, there’s something silly and absurd about deciding one style is suddenly passé,” says Anna Gray, founder of Club Vintage. In other words, just wear what you want, whenever you want! Gray, of course, shops vintage (she’ll be at 99 Scott next weekend), but she also likes the brand B Sides “because they recycle old denim and have great fits.”
Alexis Colby, founder of Bit of Denim (where you can get denim home goods!) also suggests Urban Jungle or 10 ft Single for shopping secondhand.
Try Something Other Than 501s
Almost everyone I spoke to cited Levi’s 501s as their go-to vintage jean, but believe it or not, there are other options out there. “I actually find that classic Levi’s aren’t great for curvy girls,” said New York features writer Allison P. Davis. “What I’ve loved is the Madewell ‘Balloon’ jean. I hate saying it, but it has the perfect vintage curvy fit. It’s the easiest way to get that LEWK but without stress, and square ass.”
What About on Top?
In addition to looser, lower-cut jeans, De Sole says she’s also excited about “the return of a great denim shirt,” and is particularly into Alaïa’s version.
“I’m excited about the return of a great denim shirt,” says De Sole.
My colleague, features writer Matthew Schneier, wore a great denim shirt from A.P.C. to the office this week, but he says he hasn’t been able to find another one like it out there. I might just have to get the dress version, then.
Okay, I’ll Bite: What Are Joots?
Diana Vreeland allegedly once said that blue jeans are “the most beautiful thing since the gondola.” Humans continue to innovate, and “joots” are our latest creation — one I’d argue is just as genius as a slender boat. A combination of jeans and boots, this special garment can also be referred to as a “pantashoe,” a “bant,” or even a “poot.” Both Diesel and Saint Laurent are making them right now (and Jeffrey Campbell, of course, makes a fine knockoff). Julia Fox is wearing them. But if you’d like to participate in the trend in a slightly less complicated way, the below will allow you to walk into a “shoes off” household and not be naked.
Are Denim Bags a Thing Too?
As Julia Fox also proved with her recent Alexander Wang accessory, you don’t actually need to wear jeans on your body at all to participate in this absurd denim moment. The below bag by Clare V. is maybe a little less of a statement, but it still looks a little like a pair of pants.
If You Hate Hard Pants (and Denim), That’s Okay
“I’ve never been a huge fan of denim because it’s a hassle to find a good pair that fit my waist and thighs perfectly because of my hourglass shape,” says Cut junior writer Asia Milia Ware. “Even when I do find ones that fit, they’re just not comfortable. Something about sitting in denim all day just makes me feel stiff, but I do love opting for a good pair of cargo pants or tracklike pants. I can wear them with sneakers or heels; I personally love to dress them up with a blazer. They’re super-comfortable, unlike the many jeans I’ve tried.” This pair by Norma Kamali combines comfort and tailoring, if you don’t want to give up your sweats, either.
Here’s What I Want
I’m here for a looser jean. As someone who doesn’t have a butt to speak of, I appreciate the anti-wedgie look. In my dreams, I could buy this straight-leg, vintage-looking pair by Celine and never have to think about denim again. But, of course, this is delusional, not just because of the price tag, which is insane, but also because there is no “perfect” pair of jeans. That said, I’m pretty sure these jeans by Celine are perfect. And the gold hardware adds a touch of something special, which I’m not getting from other designer brands like Khaite and Tôteme. I’ll look for them on the RealReal until I die.
In the meantime, I’ve decided to forgo hard pants for miniskirts this spring. No, Miu Miu hasn’t made a denim one yet, but I’m sure it will. This indigo one from A.P.C. is currently in my cart instead.