Blue jeans have been an icon of American fashion since the early 1970s, when fashion critics presented a special award to denim manufacturers Levi and Strauss, or so say Peter McNeil and Vicki Karaminas in their book "The Men's Fashion Reader." Today, jeans are more than just casual clothing, as men can pair premium designer denim with career and high-end sportswear. Men's jeans come in many styles and fits, including skinny, straight leg, athletic and relaxed.
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When they were invented in 1873, men's jeans were offered in two types of fabrics: plain white and blue denim, according to McNeil and Karaminas. With today's technology, men's jeans are available in a plethora of washes and finishes. From dark raw denim to aged light denim, pretreated jeans can be subjected to bleaching, acid or stone blasts to get the right designer look. Additionally, the fabric found in premium denim can be weathered, worn down and stressed in certain areas to achieve an edgier look. Embellishments such as rivets, topstitching and embroidery also help accentuate various styles.
The skinny fit men's jean usually hugs the calves as it tapers down to the ankle. This style was made popular by rockers such as Mick Jagger in the 1980s, and it best suits men of a slim build. Contemporary versions of this jean are elongated in the crotch area to provide a little more movement, and some have a longer leg length so that the jeans bunch around the ankle area.
Straight-Leg and Boot-Cut Jeans
Not all slender jeans taper at the ankle. Boot-cut and straight-leg jeans hug the seat area, but offer a bit more leg room than the skinny jean. The straight-leg jean is a classic cut that is designed to fall straight from the thigh to the ankle. For a more form-fitting jean, some men opt for the boot cut, which contours slightly around the thigh, with a slight bell bottom.
Both of these jeans come in many variations of washes and finishes, from a crisp dark pant to a faded rustic jean. The darker, more trouser-like styles can be worn with a jacket, tie and blazer for a casual workday.
The athletic-fit jean is a hybrid between boot-cut and relaxed-fit jeans. This pant is designed for comfort with slack in the seat area, while it maintains some of the contouring of the boot-cut jean. Offered by many contemporary jeans manufacturers, the athletic fit is designed for men with muscular builds, because it allows more motion than the boot-cut jean, while helping the legs look leaner and longer than the relaxed fit.
The epitome of casual comfortable wear, relaxed-fit jeans are loose fitting in the seat, crotch and leg areas. These are designed for men who prefer a more spacious jean to the restrictive fit of tight skinny jeans. With its high level of comfort, the relaxed fit can be more comfortable for downtime activities. The only caveat is not to choose a pair with too much excess space, as over-size jeans can sometimes look sloppy.
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- "The Men's Fashion Reader"; Peter McNeil, et al.; 2009
- "Men's Health": Find the Right Fit
- "GQ": The GQ Guide to Denim Right Now; Andrew Richdale; March 2011
- "Esquire": 10 New Ways to Buy Jeans Now
- "Esquire"; Three Ways to Wear Denim; May 2008
- "The Wall Street Journal"; Tight Squeeze: Making Room For a New Men's Fashion; Ray A. Smith; July 2009