THE STRAIGHT-LEG JEANS
British Vogue’s Sarah Harris discusses her wardrobe hero
I can still remember my first proper pair of jeans (up until that point, my jeans came from Tammy Girl, the pre-teen arbiter of cool whose heyday was somewhere in the late Eighties, at least, that was its heyday for me) but soon after I turned thirteen, and one year before getting my ears pierced, I was the proud owner of a pair of Levi’s 501 original fit, straight leg and in authentic blue denim. To me, they were the best thing since sliced bread and until the concept of premium denim (ushered in by Earl Jeans in the early 00s) I lived in those Levi’s day and night – by day with flannel lumberjack shirts and my older brother’s Stussy sweatshirts; by night with almost anything that was midriff-exposing. Those straight-leg jeans formed the basis of my everyday uniform and they have done so ever since.
Ok, sure, I admit I had a dalliance with flares, and with bootcut circa 1995 – from Jennifer Aniston to Britney Spears, who didn’t? – and yes, I embraced the skinny, carrot, boyfriend and more, but I’ve never returned to a jean shape more often than I have the straight leg, quite simply because it always feels right. There are certain pillars of a wardrobe that are indispensable, regardless of lifestyle or a woman’s age. The list includes the white shirt, a black blazer, a navy cashmere sweater, a trench coat, and straight-leg blue jeans, which, for me, must be non-stretch, authentic blue (no bleaching, no whiskering, no rips or tears) and mid-rise (too high is less comfortable and trickier to manage, too low is just… no). The style is a mainstay; immune to passing fashion trends. For proof Google image ‘Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’ – her immaculate blue jeans during the Nineties would be as chic today as they were then.
And yet, the wardrobe category is apparently the one that women have the most trouble shopping, probably, because we’re not short on choice – and we are short on time (click the ‘straight leg’ option on jeans on THE OUTNET and it lists a generous 287 results). But the more you try, the more you will instinctively learn what works and what doesn’t. I wear jeans 95% of the time, so often that I can tell from a glance – online or IRL – exactly how they will fit. Did you know, for example, that if you hold the jeans up by the waistband and wrap it around your neck, it’s a good indication of how they will fit your waist? If the waistband doesn’t meet at the back of your neck, they’re too small, if the fabric overlaps they’re too big. It’s a time saver; don’t even slide a leg in if you fail that test.
My favorite designers for women’s straight-leg jeans include, The Row, Khaite and a selection of tweaked vintage styles from Re/Done by Levi’s. One of my only regrets is that out of my collection of 80-something pairs of jeans, I no longer have those 501 Originals, and not just for reasons of nostalgia, but because unlike a lot of clothes – but like a good wine – jeans just get better with age. Consider that when you find your dream pair.