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The Ten Denim Essentials


I genuinely don’t think I could get dressed in the morning without denim. It’s always been an intrinsic part of my wardrobe and I really believe you can never have enough of it. Unlike other basics like the Breton tee or cashmere sweater, every piece of denim is different and adds something new to an already tried-and-tested look. I spent my youth trying to convince my mother of this sartorial fact and still don’t think I’ve succeeded but it hasn’t tainted my faith in hoarding denim one little bit. Describing someone as wearing jeans and a t-shirt is about as useful as saying ‘brunette’ as a response to what someone looks like. Said jeans could be waxed skinnies, low-slung and ripped, indigo mom-rise or emo acid wash with an array of chains and spikes (I’m afraid I won’t be advocating any of the latter this time though), and each pair would say something different about the person in them.

Using a mixture of my own outfits and favourite bits of inspiration from Pinterest, I thought I’d highlight my ten denim must-haves I don’t think any closet is complete without.

1. The Perfect Black Skinnies

The ultimate essential had to take pride of place at number one. Invest in the perfect pair and wear them all year round; black ankle boots and chunky woolens in the winter, open-toed birks and tank tops in the summer. They shouldn’t bunch at all at the ankle (if they do they’re too long) and sit low to mid rise with the classic five pockets so you can wear a belt on your hips. I find a slightly cropped version (stops just above the ankle) the most flattering for my build and height.

My current favourites are by Frame Denim and Topshop.

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2. The Perfect Cut-Offs

If I lost these old, battered Levis shorts I think I might shed a tear. I bought them years ago, hacked off a bit more so they verged on inappropriate and have lived in them every summer since. I once read having pockets hanging out of shorts is the ultimate in white trash bad taste but I’m afraid I kind of love it on these. And not even the biro stain on the back pocket can turn me off then… Keep them loose (think slightly A-line), bum-covering (no one wants to see your bum cheeks unless you’re on the beach) and personally I find the most flattering rise is an inch beneath your tummy button (but keep that covered too).

Vintage Levis from Urban Outfitters are always my go-to but heard great things about Ksubi and Rag & Bone too.

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3. The Dungarees

I understand there might be a bit of an age limit for dungarees. As much as I love them, you can end up feeling like you’ve regressed back to being a five year old in the OshKosh B’Gosh overalls you couldn’t wait to be too old for. But, unprepared to give-up the denim classic I’ve fallen back in love, I’ve come up with a kind of solution. I only wear sleeveless tops (or indeed nothing but a spindly wire-free bra) underneath and somehow the toddler favourite instantly grows up a bit. Ideal for dress phobes, 90s fans and indecisive tomboys.

Try Frame Denim, American Apparel, Urban Outfitters and Topshop.

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4. The Vintage Cut

I’ve always loved light-wash Levis 501s, it’s just difficult finding the perfect pair. You can go with one of two options here; high-rise and fitted to highlight and exaggerate curves (see also Mum Jeans), or low-slung, straight legged styles that are perfect with slides in the summer. I like the latter, it’s just my small frame and stature that kind of puts a spanner in the works… The hunt continues.

Check out Urban Outfitters Renewal again for these.

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5. The Denim Jacket

From cowboys to grunge kids, 80s icons to contemporary fashion editors, the denim jacket has been a constant presence over the last forty years. I love my white one (found via eBay) but am always on the lookout for a classic blue wash too. I’m also a big fan of the shearling-lined DJ come winter. I had to include a picture of Riggins from Friday Night Lights (one of my favourite shows ever fyi) as his obsession with the latter tragically cemented my own.

I think ASOS, Topshop, Proenza Schouler and Rag & Bone are doing the best right now.

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6. The Baggy Boyfriends

These pretty much sum up the ‘every pair is different’ theory. I’ve got quite a few pairs of these oversized boyfriend-style jeans but still have plenty of room (metaphorical rather than physical I should add) for more…. I seem to naturally gravitate towards light and mid-washes but love darker pairs when I see them on others (the They All Hate Us ladies and Mija have the best baggy denim inspiration around). Take a cheese grater to the knees and don’t be afraid to rough them up a bit. On the rare occasion I’ll wear heels, I like teaming them with these baggy, messed-up jeans in order to keep a bit of androgyny and ‘undoneness’ to my look.

Mine are from MiH Jeans, Gap, and Zara.

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7. The Ripped Skinnies

Time to pick up that cheese grater again…. I love a ripped knee and will often buy normal, perfect stitched skinnies only to destroy them back home. I once bought two identical pairs of Zara jeans that fit like a glove (first picture below) so I could rough up the knees on one pair and keep another in tact as a back-up. I like washed grey denim the best but blue, mid washes are great too.

For perfect rips done for you, look to Asos, Zara and Current Elliot.


8. The Light Wash Skinnies

These have proved the trickiest to perfect for me. Pale jeans are just not as flattering as dark and black washes, especially if you’re not blessed with sky-high legs a la Karlie, and after lots of misses in nude, pale pink, yellow and white spray-one jeans (wish I was kidding about the yellow), I long ago realised this is not a genre I can easily jump on board with. I now know the key is in the fit and thickness of denim. In light-washed skinnies I like a thick, tight-fitting style with less lycra than I might go for in black or grey. And again, I go for a similar fit as the plain black skinny jeans; stopping at the ankle, five-pocket-fly designs and low to mid rise.

It’s worth investing in these, so I’d go for ultimate denim brand J Brand.

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9. The Mum Jeans

They make your ass look enormous and give you an instant food baby. So why are they so appealing? I have no damn idea but they really are. It might be something to do with the retro, nostalgic undertones or how you can wear something cropped and girlish on top without looking like a prepubescent try hard. They need to sit right on the waist to be truly ‘mom’ style and while they may be slightly more doable for those with the body shape of a ruler, I think they can look amazing when worn with confidence by someone a bit more pear-shaped. Just don’t expect the guys to dig them.

Topshop or vintage are the only way.

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10. The Denim Shirt

Even I’m getting a bit bored of my obsession with manly, oversized shirts. But I couldn’t do a denim essentials post without mentioning one of my favourite jean pieces…. I like mine soft, oversized and with a vintage-feel. The perfect thing to de-sex super short leather skirts and skin-tight trousers, and the easiest way to work double denim with the aformentioned cut-offs in the summer. As well as tucking into separates, it’s just as good undone and thrown over bikinis and beaded necklaces on the beach. Or if you go really oversized, you could belt it into a shirt dress for something that’s so effortlessly sexy it needs only a glass of red wine in hand by way of accessory.

I go down the menswear route for this; Ralph Lauren, Gap and J Crew.

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Ph. myself, Mija, Life of Boheme, TheyAllHateUs, Pinterest, Maja Wy, Caroline Sandstrom.