Remember when Levi’s “Twisted to Fit” Engineered jeans were considered the epitome of high-tech denim and “jeans material” meant a coarse, durable fabric that could withstand the spills of the working class?
Those memories are seared into our mind, not to mention tummy – we still have scars from where our denim waistband ate into our skin when we cattle class’d it in jeans to the US, home of denim, in the 1990s.
Fast forward to 2015, where fits are better and fabrics are far more comfy. No longer do you have to resort to wearing your jeans for months to soften them, occasionally baking them in the oven to kill the germs. (For realz – denim gurus swear by this treatment, though it’s crucial to keep an eye on your pants so they don’t burn.) Thanks to a slew of new technologies and materials that jeans-makers are marrying with traditional ones, there’s a whole range of fresh user-friendly denim to choose from.
Here’s what to look out for.
How your jeans are woven affects the texture and denseness of the fabric. For instance, modern machine-woven pairs have a finer-textured, more uniform feel, like popular US jeans brand American Eagle Outfitters’ evenly supple and super fine Denim X jeans.
Meanwhile, jeans produced on vintage shuttle looms have more fading and an intentionally rougher grain – something denim connoisseurs tend to appreciate. In Singapore, stores like Japanese cult label 45R are bringing this style of traditional back with a range of denim types including the dekoboko (uneven) textured Sorahiko, made using a traditional Japanese slow-weaving machine.
Don’t disdain elastane and other technical fabrics. Sure, they were never part of the traditional yarn-based denim formula, but without them we’d still be walking around in jeans that puddle around the ankles or are as stiff and straight as chimneys.
“The truth is, without elastane, we wouldn’t be able to wear tighter-fitting styles,” says Anthony Hill, design head of Grana, an Aussie-based online store that offers affordable fashion basics made with the world’s best fabrics (the brand has a pop-up at Orchard Central till 31 August). “Jeans with elastane can be cut closer to the body and the denim is less bulky. For the record, 100 per cent cotton skinny jeans are almost impossible to get into!”
Another plus point of stretch technology? “It ensures the jeans won’t bag out,” says Jeannie Tam, senior brand manager of Star360, which runs American Eagle Outfitters here. We can vouch for that – our current fave pair is AEO’s jegging crop, which hugs in all the right places and is so comfy, it’s our go-to flight pants. (Bonus: It looks way more presentable than joggers.)
At Uniqlo, the latest fabric blends have even resulted in a product that wouldn't have been possible even a few years ago: Denim yoga pants made with Japanese Kaihara denim that have a super skinny fit. “They're as comfortable as leggings and the design is simple and unobstructed,” a Uniqlo spokesperson tells us.
Advancements in technology over the past year also mean that the brand's 2015 edition of Ultra Stretch Jeans have a 10 per cent increase in "stretchability and recovery rate" compared to last year's versions.
It’s taken a while, but designers have finally realised that people don’t have ramrod-straight pins. Newer brands like Grana construct their jeans in leg-shaped cuts “so they can follow the natural shape of your leg”, says Hill. “From the bow-legged to the knock-kneed and pigeon-toed, people rarely have legs that are completely straight.”
Some cuts even help reduce waste, such as 45R’s Painter Denim that’s made from a single piece of fabric, or H&M’s new Conscious jeans that incorporate recycled and organic cotton – so you don’t just look better, but feel better too.
Meanwhile, Uniqlo's Smart Shape jeans are cut to tighten where you need them to, for a slimming effect. They also incorporate a Smart Shape band inside the front pockets that helps tuck the tummy in and reshape the waistline.
According to Grana's Hill, determining the sweet spot for pockets on jeans is a continual point of debate amongst makers and wearers. “You’ll be surprised how controversial it can get! Pockets too high and small make the bum look bottom-heavy. Pockets that are too big make your bum look flat and/or non-existent. And pockets that don’t exist…that’s scary territory for some people.”
To find your personal Goldilocks zone, go for pockets that aren’t too small, too big, too high or too low. (A tough ask, we know, but once you hit on the magic formula, you can apply it for life. Or at least until your body shape changes.)
Can’t wait to start shopping? See some of our fave new pairs in the photo gallery above.
Photos: Grana, American Eagle Outfitters, 45R, H&M