Shopping for jeans used to mean choosing between Levi's and Wrangler. Now, there's such a dizzying array of indigos and denim varieties that it's hard to know where to start. We began the selection process by sitting down with industry legend Kiya Babzani, proprietor of Self Edge and expert on all things denim, to learn about high-end jeans and to find out what we should look for when we finally splash out on a new pair.
The jean that fits perfectly is not only comfortable, it also suits the wearer's proportions and style preferences. "A classic, straight-leg fit with a little bit of taper to it is the best-selling thing," according to jeans savant Kiya Babzani, who would certainly know.
Whether you're new to raw denim or investing in a new pair of jeans with a more modern silhouette, there's safety in sticking to the middle of the road and avoiding either ultra skinny or oversize styles. "Don't go too extreme in any one direction. You don't want anything that looks baggy and dumpy, and you don't want anything that looks too tight," Babzani counsels.
That advice also holds true for the rest of your outfit. Far too often, Babzani says, customers who've been wearing more generously cut straight or wide-leg jeans choose to purchase jeans in slimmer styles but forget to adjust the proportions of their shirts. The result? An updated bottom half that gets lost beneath a baggy T-shirt or boxy, untucked button-down.
Also worth noting on any style you're eyeing, especially if you're shopping online, is the rise. A medium rise is standard and means the top of the jean should reach just above the hips. High-rise jeans, hit close to the belly button and low-rise jeans fall slightly below the hips, but are far less common in the U.S. than they are in Europe (though some brands play fast and loose with the term).
If you purchase unsanforized denim, keep in mind that the shrinking that will occur as soon as you soak or wash your jeans means you'll need to buy a size or two larger than you normally wear in order to ensure the right fit.
Credit: Photograph by Talia Herman