The Rules of Denim

The Rules of Denim


Finding the perfect pair of jeans can be hard unless you really know what you’re looking for. So SLMan asked the experts for their advice. From caring for your denim (hint: never use a tumble dryer) to how to wear skinny jeans without looking too ‘fashion’, here’s what 7 For All Mankind CEO EMEA Francesca Toninato, Blackhorse Lane Ateliers Han Eta and Paige Men’s Director Jon Geller told us.

So you’re in the market for new denim, what comes first?
Jon: First and foremost, it should always start with the fit. Whether you prefer a looser fit, or something a little more tapered, you should always feel comfortable.

Francesca: Before the fit, comes the colour. What shade of blue denim or do you want black, grey or white? Then there’s distressed versus a cleaner look…

Han: It’s important to think about what kind of jean you want to go for; do you want something more trend led or are you interested in something classic. Then you have to consider your body shape as your body shape usually dictates the style of the jeans. Get to know your body well in terms of sizing as in the denim world generally people use inches when it comes to measurements. 

What are the rules when it comes to fit and body type? 
Francesca: If you have a smaller frame, then skinnier fits are best. Super skinny, skinny and slim cuts keep your shape in proportion. Larger men are better opting for straight or tapered jeans.

Han: Tall, slim and lean men usually go for a slim cut, sporty types with prominent bones usually prefer a straighter cut. We also come across really tall and heavily-built body types who go for a more relaxed fit. Of course if you are a more sartorial customer, you might want to go for a higher-waist jean; for a casual look it’s more of a medium-rise.

"If you have a smaller frame, then skinnier fits are best. Larger men are better opting for straight or tapered jeans."

What is the difference between fits?
Jon: Skinny is the tightest of fits; it’s fitted from the hip all the way down the leg. A true slim style is fitted through the thigh and tapered from the knee to the leg opening. A slim-straight fit has a slight ease at the hip and is loosely fitted through the thigh and straight from the knee down. Finally, a straight fit – the most classic of denim styles – has more room from the hip to the leg opening and follows the same line all the way down the leg. 

How do you do skinny without looking too fashion?
Jon: Keep accessorising simple. And don’t wear a tight top and bottoms at once. If you are wearing a skinny jean team it with a looser top, whether that is a t-shirt, hoodie or sweater, and wear with pared-back sneakers.

Francesca: Treat your tight skinny jeans like you would a pair of smart trousers by dressing them up with a crisp cotton shirt, or a luxurious piece of knitwear.  Throw a blazer over the top for a tailored finish.

What about styling denim, any tips?
Han: Denim is about breaking the rules. A turn up always looks great, especially with trainers just make sure the jean hem is just touching the shoes so you hardly see the socks. I think simple denim is always going to be the most timeless and stylish so that means minimal stitching and no adorned back pockets.

Francesca: Some men always roll their jeans as it’s completely a personal preference, but from a trends point of view, roll-ups are just not very fashionable right now. They seem to be more popular in spring/summer when you can pair them with low sneakers or summer shoes to achieve a casual look. Visible back-pocket stitching and waist-band patches are totally back on trend, after years of a minimalistic approach in the use of trims for denim. This trend is part of the throw-back to the 80/90’s looks, with very ‘visual' washes being cool again. The luxury, designer brands always lead the way on that front. If you ever owned a pair of jeans from the 80/90’s, you may recall that every brand used to have a signature back-pocket stitching. (Plenty of lawsuits happened in those years, as brands took too much inspiration from Levis trade-mark stitching!).


"Visible back-pocket stitching and waist-band patches are totally back on trend"

Can you tell us about the different denim washes?
Francesca: A denim wash is the finish given to denim to help strengthen and alter the colour, texture or feel of the fabric. Rinse-wash denim usually comes in dark blues and black, making it versatile and easy to style with just about anything. 

A mid or light wash is one of the most common washes for denim. It’s effectively the same as the rinse wash, but more of the original indigo dye has been removed through the washing process, leaving the fabric a lighter, mid-level blue. 

Distressed denim has been treated to wear away the fabric, creating unique and permanent detailing that offers an understated, vintage look to the jeans.

Any top tips for buying denim online?
Jon: Take time to do your research. Understanding your specific fit preference is essential when shopping for denim. Always use the resources available at your disposal to give you direction and inspiration while shopping online (style guides, fit guides, look books).

Francesca: Browsing online is great for inspiration, and will offer some insight into the variety of fits and fabrics that vary from brand to brand. It also helps customers see how the jeans look on the models, and offers guidance on styling techniques and outfit combinations. Look out for online functional fit guides.

And what’s your advice for washing denim?
Francesca: If you care for them correctly, your favourite pair of jeans will last you. Staples never go out of style, but they still need a little TLC every now and then. Caring for premium denim not only prevents colour-loss and fading, but will also help to improve shape retention. Follow these instructions to learn the secrets of denim care:

Washing machine
Wash denim at a low temperature, ideally 30ºC. To minimize colour loss and fading, turn it inside out when washing. Denim pigment can bleed, so make sure you only wash denim with similar colours.

Turn the denim inside out. Lay it flat in a few centimetres of cold (or lukewarm) water and leave to soak with detergent for 45 minutes. Rinse with cold water to remove any detergent residue. 

To ensure denim retains its shape, air-dry inside out – and never tumble dry! 

“Always wash at a low temperature. And always turn your denim inside out before placing it in the washing machine. Lastly, you want to hang dry your denim, never place in the dryer.”

Finally, what are your bestselling styles? 
Jon: The Federal jeans are our bestselling style to date. The slim-straight look is a staple among our customers. The Federal is for a guy who wants comfort through the hip and thigh, but is also looking for a slimmer leg opening.  

Francesca: Luxe Performance jeans are our bestsellers for men.  Customers love them for their amazing comfort and softness. Stretch Tek is another favourite fabric: this is a great authentic denim with extreme stretch and comfort. Our most successful fits are the slim and skinny styles, Slimmy Tapered and Ronnie.  

Han:  We have three bestsellers, all of which offer different looks: E5 which is generous on the thigh and then tapered which is modern and popular with sporty types. E8 which is slim and smart and popular with sartorial customers and NW1 which is relaxed and sells well with well-built and casual customers.

For more information, visit, and

DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at [email protected].