In a sea of people trying hard to pin down the latest fashion-forward look, an editor from US Vogue, Tonne Goodman, pulled-off the toughest one to master: effortless chic. It was hard to ignore, largely because the key component of her style was – still is – a pair of crisp, white, man-ish jeans. Hers could be the inspiration for today’s white jean revival.
Those who witnessed white jeans the first time around might wonder how they could ever be considered stylish.
They are notoriously difficult to wear, not only because they are ridiculously impractical (strictly wear once and wash) but white jeans have a chequered fashion history.
SUPPLIED Liz Hurley’s Glamazon approach to white jeans (centre) never made it out of the 90s.
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Most notably, white jeans underpinned the OTT aesthetic of the 90s, inextricably linked as they were with the era of supermodels and high-octane Versace-style excess (there was even the eponymous perfume: Versace White Jeans).
Worn with a strappy heel and a deep tan, they were most often seen gripping the thighs of women like Liz Hurley and Elle Macpherson. But for the rest of us? Those jeans were tight. Those jeans were more often than not see-through and those jeans were unforgiving.
The fashion moment passed as fashion moments do, and white jeans went the way of white stilettos before them, gladly consigned to the sartorial dustbin.
But like all one-time must-haves (white heels included) white jeans have circled around and are on the rise once more. But rest assured: white denim c.2020 is nothing like the supermodel’s favourite.
It’s not even similar to its most recent incarnation – Smart White Denim – staple of affluent mum’s from LA to London, worn trim and tight by everyone from Kate Middleton to Jennifer Lopez.
So, what’s new about today’s white jeans? First of all the fit, which is relaxed and casual. They might have a high waist but they’ll be cut wide through the leg.
Look at Levi’s Utility Pleated Balloon Pants or the High Waist Flare Jean from Assembly Label. Their most consistently popular (and flattering) jean silhouette has a high waist and a gentle flare.
David Byrne of Hurricane Denim, who has been selling jeans to Wellingtonians for over 30 years, says, “We are selling a lot more white and cream, in canvas and cord, to all age groups.
“The new looser silhouette has helped the revival. The key thing is that they must not be see-though.”
For the right white jeans, fabric weight is everything. You want tougher stuff that retains some structure, rather than stretchy smooth material that clings.
Kiwi label Commoners have a pair in cotton drill (a heavyweight cotton, like denim, but a different weave), it’s called the Utility Pant and it’s slouchy perfection.
Choose a looser fit (if in doubt, buy a size up) and you’ll find that white jeans are as flattering as any other.
And if you add a dash of bleach to each white jeans wash (as that Vogue editor advises) they’ll keep looking fresh.
You could do worse than follow her lead to the letter: pick up a pair of men’s white Levi’s 501s and wear them crisply pressed – an iconic classic through and through.