Breaking it down: The Denim Jean

A good pair of jeans screams classic American wardrobe staple and yes, everyone wears them. They have no boundary or specific customer and can be purchased at any price point. . They aren’t just a #menswear thing, they’re an everyone thing. The godfather of denim, Levi Strauss, moved to San Fransisco in the mid 1800’s,  partnered with tailor Jacob Davis, and decided to create a cloth re-enforced with copper rivets designed to withstand the everyday life of a factory worker. Little did they know that they were creating a piece of clothing history.

Waste overalls dominated much of Strauss business from its original conception. They were mostly worn by workers and cowboys of the west. It wasn’t until the late 1950’s that “jeans” became a piece of fashion and identity rather than tool of the trade (thank James Dean for that). Jeans become a sign of social anarchy—often banned from traditional public settings where khaki and dress pants were of the norm. The youth caught on and  adopted denim (both pant and jacket) as a part of their anti-establishment voice and slowly mainstreamed society deemed it a socially accepted article of clothing.

Inevitably, jeans went through “phases” (as does everything). The 70’s brought us disco and with it bell bottoms, 80’s were a time for the glued on looking rock n roll denim (that left nothing to the imagination- if you know what I’m saying) , and the 90’s were full of acid rock, “dad” jeans- colored sequined denim,  and super-models sporting what was the real “birth” of designer denim, Calvin Klein.

Fast forward to today. Denim has become the staple of every man’s closet (no, not in the way that you think). There has been and will continue to be jeans made for heavy work. However, their a new breed of men who are actually starting to take denim seriously. It’s not just a “I need a pair of jeans and I’ll just buy whatever off the racks”. Instead, men are taking a closer look at the fit, wash, and fade process as key ingredients that go into a perfect pair . Most denim today comes from two different parts of the world, Japan and the United States (with dozens more varying throughout). Here in the states we’re starting to see companies popping up all over, designing and producing hand-crafted denim.  Baldwin, Imogene + Willie, Levi’s Made and Crafted, Raleigh, Noble Denim, 3sixteen, Rogue Territory, are just a few to name. It’s without a doubt an exciting time to see some-what of a birth of a new and thoughtful produced denim.

I’ve always considered the wear and fade process of  denim to be an art form. Certain jeans fetch hundreds, even thousands of  dollars on eBay. Original Levi’s will fetch ten times that amount. I’ve been writing on menswear for over a year now and we all some-what agree on our “favorite designers”. However, one conversation that always seems to dive deeper is the discussion on denim jeans. There’s  no “real right pair” that we all will collectively agree upon. The conversation is consistently evolving. This month I reached out to  some of our favorite creators, designers, and fashion directors in the industry. The topic: What makes a great pair of jeans and what’s your go-to?  What we got was an array of  thoughts, opinions, and a concise point that fit is key! Read below to see what each had to say.  A special thanks to Jake, Sam, Nick, Josh, Anya, Justin, and Eric- we greatly appreciate all you did for this piece!


Jake Davis: FilmmakerR by 45rpm selvedge denim are a classic, well made jean. I love the way the indigo fades over time as they look better with time and age. They are my go to!” 45rpm is made in small batches with only the finest materials available.
Sam Hubler: Designer, Raval & Knight“I prefer getting a really dark raw selvedge that has a generally high rise. I prefer them fitting right at my hip but having some room in the seat. I like the legs to be on the slimmer side but not constricting my knees or calves. Basically I like to have just one really solid dark pair that I can wear into oblivion.”
Nick Wooster: Jcpenney, Senior VP of Design“I am not a daily denim wearer, but when I wear jeans, I like a dark rinse, trouser cut from Rag & Bone or Raleigh and then I cuff them like trousers. I am also obsessed with the perfect white jean, which works all year round. Baldwin makes a great white jean and my go-to look is a blue poplin gingham shirt and gray, two-button flannel blazer, both from JCP, and black wing tips. I don’t cuff white jeans; they should hit above the ankle and of course, no socks. Even if it is freezing.”
Josh Peskowitz: Bloomingdale’s, Men’s Fashion Director & Anya Deweerdt: Bloomingdale’s Men’s Contemporary Director                                              Josh: 
“I personally love to take a pair of jeans from the beginning of the life cycle to the end. This means getting some sturdy, 14oz selvedge denim jeans and wearing them everywhere—from bike rides, to the coffee shop, to dinner and drinks, to roll around in the gravel, to climb a tree—until they break in properly. But the biggest problem here is that certain areas will start falling apart and getting holes before the rest is satisfactorily broken in. So the next best thing is a pair of jeans with a very authentic looking wash. One of the finest and realistic looking washes is the 9 year wash from AG Adriano Goldschmied. That’s what I would go to now to replicate the authentic look for next to no work.”                                                                                                                                                                                                          Anya:
“I like to see a man in a pair of jeans that fit well, and that he feels comfortable and confident in. I love the fit of J Brand’s Kane jeans. They are slim without being too skinny and look good on lots of different guys. They come in a ton of washes, but I am really into the more destroyed washes that look worn-in and have a more “vintage” feel.”
Justin Bridges01-1
Justin Bridges: Fashion Blogger & Photographer“I wear a lot of different brands of jeans—all different fits, washes, and other bells and whistles. At this stage in my life, I have to say my favorite, dare I say lucky pair of jeans, is a pair of black denim jeans that I bought from Uniqlo about 3-4 years ago. I only recently started wearing them so much as I’ve gotten so busy with photography work. They are my go-to, I don’t give two shits if these jeans get dirty. They were originally slim straight and I had the waist tailored a bit, as well as the leg tapered below the knee and inseam shortened. Those bad boys are beaten to hell but when it comes to rolling around on the ground to get the right image, I don’t even have to think twice…they go on every shoot with me. It’s a bit freeing to rely on them like a uniform.”
Eric Jennings: Saks, VP & Fashion Director, Menswear, Home, Food, and Gifts “First and foremost it’s all about the fit. Find the brand that fits you the best. Once you’ve found that, half the work is done. Start with clean, dark and straight denim.  Then layer on different colors, washes and other treatments to keep your style interesting. There is a reason premium denim costs what it does. I’ve been to the design rooms, factories and washes where they make the best  denim in the U.S. right now.  The number of steps that goes into one pair of premium denim jeans is mind boggling.  In the end you get what you pay for: the best fitting, longest lasting and most flattering pair of jeans on your body. People will notice, trust me. My go to is J Brand’s Kane fit and Nudie’s Grim Tim fit.”
Sean Hotchkiss01-1
Sean Hotchkiss: J.Crew, Free-Lance Writer  “My favorite denim is the stanton cut in black from Karl at Rogue Territory. he makes the jeans himself, which is fucking cool, and makes me proud to wear them every day. I have them tapered half an inch from the knee. I just passed 90 days straight in them.

Writer’s Note: At first, head shots were the only real option. However, I decided to use a local artist by the name of  John Sebastian. He completed each sketch free hand and under 30 minutes. His work is remarkable and we wanted to highlight his talent with our audience. You can see the rest of John’s work as well as his blog here.



Christopher Dam

Christopher Dam is a senior writer/photographer with A&H Magazine