THE STONEWASH JEANS
Esquire style director Charlie Teasdale has become obsessed with his stonewash blue jeans. Relaxed, understated and timeless, they’re ideal for spring, but will continue working hard for you all year round. Whether you choose the 90s or American sportswear route, Teasdale says stonewash jeans are an easy-going essential.
There is much discussion of trends, but we rarely talk about fads. Trends originate as commandments passed down from the demigods of style that sit on high and decide the colors and shapes we’ll be buying for the foreseeable. For the most part, trends are born at fashion shows or unveiled on the main feeds of big brands. Fads, however, are much more sporadic, much more personal; they’re user generated. Trends span nations, but a fad can be isolated to a city, a neighbourhood or even just to one person. I’m a faddist, and my fad right now is stonewash blue denim.
There have been other fads before, and I’m sure there are more to come. Toward the end of last year, I became temporarily obsessed with a pair of chunky black penny loafers and I wore them near enough every day until the winter got too much for my ankles. I upgraded to a pair of 1460 boots by Dr. Martens and have worn them pretty much every day since, moving swiftly past the point of tattered charm to a state of near disrepair.
I wasn’t always like this, as my expansive (but concise) shoe collection can attest. But there has been something about the experience of the past couple of years that has made me opt for permanence and reliability every morning when it comes to getting dressed.
When I say, “stonewash denim”, I’m referring broadly to the mid-blue shade, which is a touch lighter than the classic blue jean, and a lot lighter than the deep indigo shade in which denim starts out. Stonewashing is a form of distressing that gives denim (or other fabrics) a softer feel and worn-in look. Traditionally, jeans were stonewashed by literally placing them into a spinning drum with stones and rocks that would gradually beat the newness out of the fabric, softening it while knocking out the intensity of colour. It was not an exact science, which is why when you look at a pair of properly stonewashed jeans (as opposed to acid washed or dyed, for example), they have an inconsistent speckle. Numerous denim dudes claimed to invent the process and it’s never been clarified, although we know it emerged sometime in the middle of the 20th century, just in time for the birth of youth culture.
Now, stonewash denim – and denim in general – has never really been out of favor, but it is especially good right now. A series of active trends (not fads, crucially) feature mid-blue denim as one of their key pillars. There’s the 90s thing, which has baggier, longer-legged styles at its core (see Balenciaga, Acne Studios and McQ Alexander McQueen), while the trend for high-waisted, 70s silhouettes (courtesy of Gucci, The Row, etc) has seen the high-waisted, stonewash flare resurgent. The Seinfeld trend (as perhaps only I call it) for vintage American sportswear, big trainers, oversize knits and sweats, is heavily dependent on really good stonewash denim. And there’s even talk of a return of “Indie Sleaze”, so best dig out your drainpipes. “I’ve had the same jeans on for four days noooow…”
My own stonewash jeans are cropped, slightly tapered, and best worn with the aforementioned** **loafers (or some chunky black leather shoe), thin-gauge knitwear and a roomy overcoat in the hope that I might look vaguely Parisian. There’s an understated, off-duty and completely timeless refinement to good stonewash denim, so they’re just about smart enough for work (or at least, my silly line of work), but I don’t feel overdressed at the pub, either. I will wear other trousers, I’m sure, but right now I can’t think of anything I want to wear more. Although, it might just be a fad.