By now you should be taking cues for how your denim should fit from the likes of Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake, Neil Patrick Harris, and Donald Glover, who have been spotted in slim, tailored (but never too skinny) styles, and learning from the very public mistakes of Russell Brand (who continues to induce winces with his painted on, hip baring, jeggings) and Justin Bieber (who just looks ripe for a wedgie with his jeans perpetually sagged below the waist and puddled at his ankles).
Here are the 4 brands and fits that will never lead you astray:
The Barton Rigid from Imogene and Willie
Dark wash, slim denim like this should be the workhorse of your wardrobe. As Chris Pine demonstrates it looks just as good thrown on for a hung over bodega run the morning after as it does dressed up with a shirt and tie. Made by hand in good ol’ Nashville, TN from the very best selvage denim, Imogene and Willie always keep this slim through the leg and ankle, unwashed, pair in stock.
Colored Options from Levi’s Made and Crafted
Neutral colored denim can provide a much needed respite from the stack of indigo washes you probably already own with the added benefit that it brings along just the right amount of louche attitude. A slim, black pair adds a punk after taste to Dr. Howser’s sweater vest ensemble while this narrow fit in just the right shade of washed down grey from Levi’s Made & Crafted works as a exellent lighter option without risking any comparison to the stone washed, saggy bottomed styles favored by conference going dentists.
The Slim but Slouchy, Sharp Bengt from Nudie
For those of us that enjoy a few rounds of squats at the gym or want the perfect compliment to a crisp pair of Nike’s, a little extra breathing room in the thighs might be necessary. Which is where the Sharp Bengt fit from Nudie comes in. Straight, even relaxed through the thigh and knee, they taper at the ankle ensuring that both your build and footwear will remain recognizable. As JT also points out, when executed in a dark wash with a longer front rise they look like something James Dean would have worn to the skatepark.
The Best of the Distressed by Simon Miller
Based on the impressively grimy state of his Adidas, I hope Donald Glover earned those rips at the knees the old fashioned way. Which brings up the central dilemma of buying pre-distressed denim: much like online dating you want the results without anyone knowing how you achieved them. This is why denim savant Simon Miller is so good at what he does. Take for example this mildly beaten about pair that combines an aggressive wash and abrasions with a light spattering of paint. It looks like something that could have happened naturally unlike everything from these guys, or him, or them.
Most brands that are even trying to have a horse in the race will have some version of the slim, but not skinny, fit so the key is to find something flattering for your unique build and remember to never ever buy your dad’s jeans, anything that has the word “flare” anywhere near it, or allow tigers onto your ass.
Evan Widhu is a men’s wear buyer in New York. He savors the almost sisyphean task of making a pair of Levi’s 501 Shrink to Fit’s actually shrink to fit.