Friday 22 September 2017

Why we'll never stop searching for that perfect pair of jeans

Skinny, straight-legged, baggy or bootcut, we love jeans in all shapes and sizes: we just hate shopping for them... Deirdre Reynolds reports

Kate poses for Calvin Klein
Kate poses for Calvin Klein
Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg model for Calvin Klein
Denim dilemma: Model Darragh Hayes has difficulty finding jeans that fit his big thighs
Deirdre Reynolds

Deirdre Reynolds

Wearing nothing but baggy Calvin Klein jeans (and Mark Wahlberg), it was the raunchy image that launched Kate Moss to fame -- and since then, her rise as a style icon seems inversely proportional to the tightness of her denims.

From laid-back boyfriend jeans to deep-vein-thrombosis-inspiring skinnies, they're the one item in a girl's wardrobe that will never go out of fashion. But according to a new survey, a third of us dread shopping for jeans. And of those who dare, two-thirds have never discovered the holy grail of fashion -- a pair that fit perfectly.

Originally designed as sturdy work trousers in 1873, the trend has since reached cult status on the bums of everyone from James Dean to Farrah Fawcett and Rihanna.

So almost 130 years later, why are we still so dazed by shopping for denim?

Faced with dozens of brands such as Seven For All Mankind and a smorgasbord of confusing styles spanning from low-rise skinny fit to high-waisted flares, girls would need a degree in denimology to track down their ideal denims.

"Finding the right pair of jeans is definitely frustrating for women," says Deirdre Enright, Fashion Manager of Brown Thomas, Cork.

"We stock over a hundred different types of jeans -- it's not like the days when you just had your trusty 501s!"

Indeed, jeans have come a long way since Levi's, Wrangler and Lee popularised the look in the 50s. And so dizzying is today's array of denim that the department store is flying in a team of 'denimologists' for 'Denim Month', which runs throughout March at BT2 stores nationwide.

"There's a lot of pressure on women to find the right jeans because of celebrity influence," says stylist Mark Andrew Kelly.

"Unfortunately, Irish women are often swayed more by what Cheryl Cole or Paris Hilton wears than finding a style that suits them.

"Jeans remain a constant classic because there are so many different ways to wear them."

But when Neil Diamond sang about 'Forever in Blue Jeans', he may have been referring to the length of time it takes to find a pair.

"Lots of women come in on their lunch break expecting the first pair they try on to fit like a glove," tells BT's Deirdre Enright.

"In some ways, there's too much choice," adds style guru Mark. "But that's also a good thing as it means there's a perfect pair out there for everyone -- the only way to find them is to try them all on!"

Jean-etically blessed Xposé presenter Lisa Cannon reckons she's among the lucky one-third who don't have a problem finding denims that fit.

"I absolutely live in my jeans," she says. "I love them for their comfort, shape and style and the fact that you can throw them on with anything."

But Lisa admits she's had a few denim disasters down through the years.

"At this stage I know what suits me, but I've worn some horrible styles in the past. I remember wearing a pair of those baggy boyfriend jeans with a nasty red leather jacket in the nineties -- I looked like James Dean from Rebel Without a Cause gone wrong."

So with a day off and wallet in hand, what are the dos and don'ts of avoiding such a denim debacle?

"First and foremost, get to know your body shape," advises image consultant Mark. "But try not to get too hung up on the body shapes you often read about in fashion magazines like 'apple' or 'pear'. Recognising the bits of your body you want to highlight and the bits that you want to downplay like your thighs will help narrow down the choice.

"Dark-wash boot-cut jeans -- which balance out the body and give the illusion of slimmer legs -- usually flatter everyone," he adds. "Low low-rise jeans -- which break up the body at the widest part and make the legs looks shorter -- don't suit anyone, in my opinion!

"I'm really loving this season's Charlie's Angels-style high-waisted jeans -- which help create a smooth silhouette."

And never mind Atkins, the right jeans can even help you drop a dress size -- sort of.

"For comfort and fit, today's jeans contain a lot more elastin -- so most women mistakenly buy them too loose. If you normally take a dress size 12, try going down a size in jeans for a snugger fit," says Deirdre Enright of BT.

"To get the perfect length, bring whatever heels you plan to wear with your jeans to the store with you," she adds. "As a rule of thumb, the hem should cover most of your shoe -- any shorter and they'll make your legs look shorter too."

While high-street jeans from A-Wear and New Look start from around €30, designer labels such as J Brand and Citizens of Humanity can cost 10 times that much.

So do we have to put a three-figure dent in our credit cards for the ultimate in casual wear?

"Higher-end jeans are that price for a reason," argues Deirdre Enright. "If you plan to wear them a lot, it's worth investing in a quality pair.

"Women who've struggled to find a pair for ages are generally happy to pay that little bit extra for a pair that makes them look and feel good."

Typically, while women have to move mountains (of jeans) to find the perfect jeans, their boyfriends can usually rock up and buy a pair for half the price.

"Generally, guys have it handier when it comes to buying jeans," agrees model Darragh Hayes. "Although, because of my fitness regime my thighs are a bit bigger so that sometimes makes it more difficult.

"I'm always in either jeans or combats and have loads of different pairs by brands like Paul Smith, Tommy Hilfiger and Diesel. But the most I've ever paid for a pair of jeans was €150."

And thanks to celebs like Russell Brand, it's no longer just girls who are squeezing themselves into skinny styles.

"I've always been a comfy jeans kinda guy, but over the last couple of years I've migrated to skinny jeans," says TV presenter Sean Munsanje.

"I recently bought a pair of bright orange skinny jeans from H&M. I never thought I'd get into them, but once I did I loved them!"

But just like their other halves, guys are divided over the love-it-or-loathe-it denim trend that leaves little to the imagination.

"I think skinny jeans look ridiculous on guys," argues Darragh. "They look great on girls though!"

Irish Independent

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