After years and years of searching for the perfect pair of jeans, a Sisyphean task if there ever was one, I have given up. And my goodness it feels good. I am embracing the concept of the “jeans wardrobe” first introduced to me by my friend Liz. I no longer expect one style of jeans to be “my style.” I may be searching for jeans… but no more searching for THE pair of jeans.
This conversion has been a long time coming. Jeans have been part of my life since I was fourteen years old when my sister Connie gifted me her faded bell-bottoms with the flowered insert in the leg that she sewed herself. When they wore out, I began searching for the perfect jeans. But being tall and skinny with long legs, a big waist, narrow hips, and no butt, the search was difficult. Still, I persisted. For years. And years.
Writing this, the denim memories come rushing back, plentiful and sometimes painful. A veritable plethora of styles and brands, often too big in the rear, and frequently too short. Bell-bottom, straight-leg, tapered, boot-cut, GWG, Levi’s, Howick, Lee, Jordache, Gap, Guess… and on it goes. After I turned twenty, for a couple of decades, jeans seemed to love me as much as I loved them. Then they didn’t anymore. In more recent years I have had some luck with J Brand, Citizens of Humanity, and Paige. And eventually, with Liz’s help, I hit upon Frame jeans which seem to suit me. I have several pairs of Frame jeans in my closet at the moment.
Jeans have been an integral part of my wardrobe since the seventies. When I pull on a pair of jeans I want to feel as if I have come home, sartorially speaking. I want that sense of recognition that you get from a well-loved piece. The “Ahh… these are my jeans; these were made for me” feeling. In recent years it’s been harder and harder to manifest that feeling. For one thing, there are so many styles and shapes of jeans out there it’s a regular jeans jungle. And, for another, my body has changed. I can’t rock a pair of jeans like the old days. I mean, I’m not twenty, or even forty, anymore.
I’ve been narrating my denim struggles on my blog for years now. First back in 2015 when, after a Sisyphean search, I finally found my Citizens of Humanity Rocket jeans at Aritzia. I’m still wearing those, by the way. Then in 2017 I wrote about my unsuccessful attempt to move away from skinny jeans, which ironically ended up with my buying two new pairs of skinny jeans. And in 2019 I documented another attempt to expand my denim horizons, and try wider-leg, looser styles. Again, not so successfully.
Then in late 2019 I bought a pair of Frame high-rise, bootcut jeans at Nordstrom. They are as close as I have come in years to that “these are my jeans” feeling. Gosh, I love those jeans. Wearing them with my Paul Green ankle boots or with flat summer sandals takes me right back to my denim glory days. But bootcut jeans don’t look good with everything. So in 2020 I bought a pair of high-rise, straight-leg Frame jeans. I love those jeans too. I now had two pairs of jeans that I loved and which felt great. Plus a couple of pairs of skinny jeans that I still wore. It seemed as if I was on my way to building a jeans wardrobe.
But here’s the fly in the ointment. Except for my bootcut jeans, every pair of jeans I own are cropped. And I’m kind of sick to death of cropped pants. I have ankle skinny jeans, ankle straight-leg jeans, and several pairs of ankle length trousers. They are great in the spring and summer. They look fabulous with sandals or a pair of loafers. I’ve even worn them with socks and loafers. But I have been longing for a pair of looser fit, not skinny, full-length jeans for fall and winter.
So I decided that I should buy a pair of loose, not skinny, full-length jeans to round out my jeans wardrobe. Ha. Ha. Would it were so easy to fill that particular niche in my wardrobe. Or any jeans niche. Anymore. Can’t you just hear old Sisyphus laughing at me?
I’m serious. Shopping for jeans has become the new shopping for bras. A million possible styles, sizes, colours, and no way in hell can you find a particular style in your particular size, or if it is in “your size” the cut does not suit your body, or they don’t have it in a colour or wash you would consider wearing.
I knew the look I wanted. I’d been coveting for months the relaxed jeans worn by the vloggers I follow on YouTube. I created a Pinterest board for my “Jeans Wardrobe.” Current and future… I hoped. You can find that here. I did tons of on-line window shopping so I’d know what might be out there. And once in the stores I was willing to go beyond my “mandate” just in case something tickled my fancy. I wasn’t looking for THE perfect jean. Just something more relaxed, looser, and a bit more updated than what I owned already. And not cropped.
I had a look in Nordstrom first. Nope. Nothing even close to what I wanted. Skinny, cropped, and more skinny. I moved on. I tried ordering a couple of pairs of wide-leg, full-length jeans online from Ariztia. They looked dreadful. I was swimming in them, even though they were “my size.”
I returned my on-line order and tried on about a dozen pairs in the store. Sigh. No luck. I moved on again. In another store, I simply asked a young saleswoman to choose a bunch of pairs for me after I described what I wanted. She was very patient, but I know she was relieved to see the back of me. I tried tapered jeans, straight-leg, wide-leg-straight, wedgie, mom jeans, not to mention all kinds of styles with names that told me little about how they would fit. I hate that. Remember the old days shopping for jeans at Gap? When they showed a picture of the “fit” above the rack of jeans? That was helpful. This is where online shopping has the advantage over in-person shopping.
And don’t get me started on leg length. In my second trawl through the shops, I saw a couple of styles I could have been happy with, but the longest leg they sold was 27″. “Really?” I gasped at the salesperson. “Those are almost pedal-pushers on me.”
Anyway. Let’s cut to the chase. I finally ended up at the Levi’s store. I haven’t worn Levi’s for decades.
After trying several pairs of Levi’s women’s jeans, all too short, I asked the salesperson about the men’s jeans. Because I’d remembered that twice over the years when shopping for hiking pants for travel, I ended up buying men’s pants. Longer in the leg, narrower in the hip… you get the drift here. In most stores where I shop for jeans, it wouldn’t have dawned on me to try men’s styles. But at Levi’s, there they were, side by side.
So I tried several pairs of men’s jeans. And ended up coming home with a pair of Levi’s 511. Kind of the men’s equivalent to the 501. Slim but not skinny, relaxed in the bum and the leg, but not baggy. They fit perfectly in the waist. And they are long enough in the leg.
I’m happy with them. They cost less than half the price of the Redone jeans pictured above. They are slouchy without being too huge. Without their falling off my hips. One thing that I did not notice in the store, the front pockets of men’s jeans are huge. I may decide to chop off the inside of the pockets and make them smaller. And while the fit is not as perfect as it might have been if they had been women’s jeans, I like them. Besides, if I want perfectly fitting jeans I still have my Frame jeans, bootcut and straight-leg.
This new addition to my jeans wardrobe is intended to be for casual, slightly sloppy, turtleneck, boots, and leather jacket kind of days. I even dug out my old Roots leather jacket from the storage closet. It’s a heavy, classic style, that hits me at the top of my thighs. I bought it back in the nineties and I really like it with with my Chelsea boots and my new slouchy jeans for that kind of vintage, kind of edgy, Helen Mirren meets Johnny Depp look. Seriously, google “Johnny Depp leather jacket in the nineties,” and you’ll see my jacket. Not to mention old photos of him and Kate Moss looking a bit worse for wear.
So that’s the latest installment in my ongoing jeans saga, my friends. The end of the search for jeans perfection. No more fruitless forays to the shops looking for the perfect pair of jeans to love. Now I am all about the jeans wardrobe. I will love many pairs and styles. Henceforth I will be able to shop for jeans with equanimity, confident that my denim reputation does NOT rest on a single pair. One pair of jeans cannot fill all my needs. I intend to be commitment phobic when it comes to jeans. And what a relief it is to just admit it.
Of course that does not mean that shopping for jeans will always be fruitful or easy. Ha. That would be way too much to ask for. A Sisyphean task every now and again is good for us, don’t you think? Life shouldn’t be too easy.
Now it’s your turn, my fashionable friends. Do you have a jeans story to tell? Do you favour one style of jeans? Or do you have a number of pairs in different styles? A jeans wardrobe, in other words?
P.S. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will earn a commission.
P.P.S. Other clothing featured in this post: Vince chunky sweater (similar), Cole Haan Chelsea boots, Everlane cashmere crew, Everland drape Trench, Stuart Weitzman loafers (similar), Fossil Jolie Hobo bag.