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If clothing is communication, what does double denim say about its wearer? When Brad Pitt struts into view in Thelma & Louise, decked out in a loose denim shirt tucked into blue jeans, his attire speaks of irreverence and a free spirit. When Ryan Gosling dresses in a denim jacket and jeans in Drive, he’s playing the neighbourhood nice guy (though his leather driving gloves hint at a darker side). In Brokeback Mountain, Jake Gyllenhaal’s denim shirt and jeans signal both his belonging in the macho world of the American West and his sexuality (double denim is a signifier for the queer community). Over time, it’s become recognised as a look that represents freedom.
And it’s cropped up in designer collections again this season. Balenciaga gave it a grungy ’90s spin with an acid-wash denim jacket styled with frayed jeans. Dolce & Gabbana patchworked different washes into a jacket and jeans. At skate-influenced Californian brand Amiri, blue-black jeans teamed with an acid-wash light-blue jacket made for a pared-back look. London-based LEJ’s first spring-summer collection styled an indigo selvedge shirt with slightly washed five-pockets. And Martine Rose paired pale-blue jeans with an oversized jacket that made the hardy fabric look positively cosy.
“Our customer wants that unique, hard-to-find denim that will set them apart,” says Joe Brunner, menswear buyer at Browns. “We’re seeing the fashion items perform better than the more traditional, everyday pieces.” He notes that as well as seeing the look across the larger houses, young designers such as Stefan Cooke, Casablanca and Bethany Williams are also picking up the trend, “pushing the boundaries of men’s denim with different prints, washes and textures”.
How to approach the trend as a newcomer? There are two ways, says Brunner. “The first being go big or go home.” For maximalists, he recommends “something flamboyant” such as Casablanca’s denim print jacket and jeans. “It looks incredible and you’ll definitely stand out.” Or, for the conservative dresser, he advises looking to ’70s Americana, which “emits effortless cool, Hollywood vibes”. “I’d go with something from Visvim that nods to vintage with dark washes, rips and distressed patches. Orslow is always a great option with classic, sophisticated jeans.”
US label Guess, which was founded in 1981 – just as the trend was reaching its peak – are double-denim stalwarts. “Double-denim styling worked for Guess in the ’80s, ’90s and up until today,” says Paul Marciano, the brand’s CCO. “Denim is the symbol of freedom, it’s for everyone of all ages and all times.” For his summer campaign, shot on the Sicilian coast, Marciano styled models in true-blue denim shirts and paler tight-fitting jeans, giving the collection a youthful ’80s feel. “Denim is our roots and, since the beginning, Guess has always worked with double denim as it represents the young, sexy and adventurous.”
Model, Moustapha Sy at Rebel Management. Casting, Mathilde Curel for Julia Lange Casting. Hair, Pawel Solis at Artlist Paris. Make-up, Mayumi Oda at Bryant Artists. Photographer’s assistants, Thomas Charbois and Kevin Theard. Digital operator, Romain Courtois. Stylist’s assistant, Marie Poulmarch. Production, Rosco Productions
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