The Future of Denim
I have an obsession with denim, I admit it. On the one hand, I’m still looking for that perfect pair of jeans. On the other hand, I regard each attempt to transform denim into something eye-catching and unaffordable as a ridiculous scam. I believe we have reached a point of no return with Visvim's $7,000 oversized jeans.
Let me put it another way: We have nowhere to go but back to the beginning, with durable, flattering, sustainable Levi's.
According to its website, Levi’s was founded in 1853 as a product for miners to wear over their pants. 165 years later, it's hard to argue with the brand's claim that the blue jean is the most culturally relevant piece of clothing in modern times. Jeans are a staple of most wardrobes, for all genders. Denim connotes casual coolness, in a skirt, coat, shirt, dress, or any other form. We all recognize denim's heritage as garb for the working man.
Designer jeans are here to stay, and that's probably a good thing. With all the brands out there, we’re sure to find a cut that suits our body and personal aesthetic. But above a certain price point, jeans become an expression of class and wealth, not fashion. I personally reject the notion that they're "aspirational." I’m going to call them Desperational™. They exist only to assure the affluent of their freedom to waste money.
Distressed denim first appeared in the '70s, for consumers who wanted to look shabbily chic without putting in the effort of breaking in their jeans. It had a resurgence as Luxe Grunge, worn with carefully arranged flannel. Today, you can pay hundreds extra for someone to tear and shred your denim. It's the ultimate irony of the rich trying to look poor, but hopefully, the concept is close to a tipping point. No one believes you wore out the knees of your jeans. The look has run its course when Walmart sells it.
Designers seeking ever more outrageous ways to re-imagine denim are running out of ways to stab us in the eye. My current favourite is a pair of jeans crossed with nude pantyhose, for the daring joker with $600 to spare. The $7,000 jeans by Visvim have a matching oversized denim jacket that falls to your feet, also $7,000.
Huge jeans were inspired by prison wear, another example of the rich imitating the underclass. Skinny jeans were first adopted by beatniks and the early Rockers, maybe to underscore their renegade attitudes. The current cropped jeans that look awkward with everything are a clever ploy to make your normal jeans look passé. Embellished jeans, well, what can one say except "Stop it, already!"
Whether by Gucci or Topshop, embellished jeans have exhausted the imagination with patches, embroidery, pearls, studs, badges, and rhinestones that must make sitting down feel like a bed of nails. What's left to stick on denim? How about more denim? That look is available by brands like Comme des Garcon, who can at least claim a genuine tradition of patchwork deconstruction.
Mom jeans are a response to low-cut jeans, and another stab at irony. Haha, get it, it's funny to look like a mom! Boyfriend jeans were just baggy jeans, but Boyfriend sounded more appealing. Denim jackets have made a huge comeback, but mostly they are huge or have some weird affectation like a pair of extra sleeves, or, god forbid, open shoulders. You could just buy a Levi’s trucker jacket in a huge size, but I guess that would be too unimaginative.
I'm not against innovation, not at all! It's great that denim can be stretchy or stiff, high-waisted or ankle-length. It's great to have a choice of color, and it's great that Americans can covet Japanese denim while the Japanese treasures original American 501's. It's nice to have a choice in denim weight for different seasons.
Now that oversized denim has reached proportions that no one could wear except Rihanna or a circus clown, it's safe to predict that fashion will swing the other way. Fitted denim will look fresh. Super-small sizing will be cutting edge. It will be hard to charge an extra $500 for sized-down denim, but who knows.
A return to flattering, comfortable jeans without holes will be a huge relief to me personally, and to companies like Levi's who are thinking about sustainability and cotton farming. There's now enough ugly denim in circulation to overflow landfills for a thousand years, and let's face it, even third-world countries don't want those studded, distressed kick-flares.