White jeans: how to buy, wash and wear

Wednesday, April 7th 2021
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White jeans are a classic example of menswear that has been damaged unreasonably by association. 

Unfortunately, they carry connotations of flash Mediterranean men, wearing their white jeans with a shirt unbuttoned to the navel. Or skintight ripped styles, on equally flash guys in the UK and elsewhere. 

To the average man they seem showy, basically, and cheap. But they don’t have to. I love white jeans - or rather, cream - and I’d like to explain why. 

I’ll do that in typically logical fashion, before we have a brief chat about how to buy, wear and wash them. 

Let’s start with white trousers in general. Their major advantage is they go with everything. There is no colour they don’t compliment, unless you’re wearing a cream sweater or a white T-shirt (and even then it can work, with a belt in between). 

That’s a godsend when you’re trying to put together a combination within the rather narrow parameters of classic menswear, which is all navy, grey and brown. Suddenly the trousers are always easy. 

The second advantage of white trousers is they manage to be both elegant and striking. Few other colours achieve this - something subtle and chic, yet unusual and characterful.

This is why you see so many sartorially inclined men wearing them - particularly in Italy, particularly in shops or at shows like Pitti Uomo. 

However, they have two major disadvantages. The first is they get dirty quickly. This can be minimised - if you’re careful, if you wear them more on occasion than every day, and if you have a good dry cleaner. But it’s always a risk.

This is where white jeans start to come into their own. Yes, they show dirt easily. But they can also be chucked in the washing machine any time, quite unceremoniously. They can even be tumble dried, once you’re sure all the shrinkage is out. Chances are the denim will even get better the more you wash it. 

The second disadvantage of white trousers is that they will always be a little showy. It’s the flip side of that point about being characterful. Even just worn with plain brown shoes and nice shirt, they’ll always stand out. 

Jeans minimise this problem too. Denim is a practical, everyday material. It will always look less showy than tailored trousers - such as the cream cavalry twill we helped Fox relaunch a few years ago. 

The only problem remaining for white jeans is those playboy associations.

If I actually picture the jeans the playboy is wearing, though, I realise how easy it is to avoid the association. Those jeans will be too tight; they will be bright white; and they may well have a silly, artificial rip in the knee. Maybe even in both. 

So your jeans should be the opposite: a comfortable, straight fit; in an off-white or cream; and certainly not distressed.

In fact I love white jeans because I have found, in the past few years, that I can wear them without any of these associations (at least, among the handful of people I’ve actually surveyed about it).

If you wear white denim in this more subtle way, with simple things like a grey crewneck sweater and brown suede loafers, you get all of its advantages (versatility and character) and none of its disadvantages (dry cleaning, showiness, Ibiza guy). 

The reason I suggest grey wool and brown suede there, is they don’t create much contrast with the denim. And this is another key to wearing it well. 

Those two materials are soft and textured. Black shoes rather than brown will be harder; so is leather rather than suede. My default for what to wear with white jeans is always a grey T-shirt or sweater (whether cashmere, wool shetland, or cotton sweatshirt) and brown loafers/boots. 

The image above, taken from our photoshoot last year for the Donegal Coat, shows these calming effects of grey and brown rather well. 

This is also something I find older women do well: wearing white jeans with much subtler or textured pieces elsewhere. 

Interestingly, navy can look great against white but it’s also high contrast, and therefore a touch showier

The look shown below - white jeans, navy blazer, vintage field jacket - is a pretty common one in the Italian menswear industry. And it does look great. 

But that contrast with the navy blazer is softened by the beaten-up field jacket. And the look is still quite a striking one. 

(By the way, people often forget it was images such as these, of Italian tailors and retailers, that first got people hooked on Pitti. It was a glimpse into an easy, cool way of wearing tailoring. It was never anything to do with peacocks in yellow hats.)

It often helps that these Italians have a tan. But I don’t think you need one to wear white jeans - they’re not near the face, after all, and a blue oxford shirt under a grey sweatshirt calms everything down a lot. 

This is also a reason why I think white jeans can be worn just as easily in winter as summer: the key is not heat, but sun.

White jeans won't look out of place if the weather is bright enough; it's just more likely to be bright in the summer than the winter. And even in overcast England, white jeans don't really look out of place as long as it's not tipping it down.

Interestingly, white jeans can work well with bright colours, as shown in the pic above of me in a yellow shetland. Although, the higher contrast is toned down by the brown pieces surrounding it. 

Texture is also important here. That shetland is softer than a bright-yellow T-shirt, for example. And red can work nicely with white jeans if it’s in a washed-out sweatshirt, as shown in our L’Etiquette article last year

So, where to buy? That’s always the question I get first in the comments. 

Well, my favourite white jeans (pictured below) are bespoke from Levi’s Lot No.1. I love the make and cut, though ideally they’d be a bit more off-white, or ecru (the latter is a good word to watch out for in descriptions). 

My other favourite pair were sold by Drake's in a collaboration with Boncoura, and have been shown on PS before here. They're no longer available though.

However, Drake's does also have the right shade in its current ecru pair. I also like the Resolute version, though they’re more of a bright white. Blackhorse Lane has two pairs: a denim that is pretty good, and a chino/denim material that’s the perfect shade, but has a slightly unusual texture. 

Clutch Cafe sells a Warehouse pair that are the right colour, but also very slubby - which won’t be to everyone’s taste. And Son of a Stag sells those as well an Edwin pair which are also the right colour. 

There are of course many other options, which I’m sure readers will fill in. These are just the ones I’m most familiar with.

White denim does not have the best reputation.

Even one of my favourite bands, White Denim, apparently used the name because they thought it the antithesis of style. 

But I think that’s changing, and with good reason. Men might be dressing more casually today, but they still want to retain both style and personality. White jeans can do that - as a smarter alternative to everyman blue.  

And of course, they slot right into two of themes dominating PS at the moment: casual chic and the cold/neutral-colour wardrobe.

The new outfit shown in this article is neither of those though. It is my Ciardi gun-club tweed jacket, with those bespoke Levi’s and an olive babycord shirt from D’Avino.

The shoes are Belgravias from Edward Green, and the belt is from RRL. (White jeans are the trousers I wear a belt with most often - it often helps separate top from bottom; a particular problem if the top is paler than this.)

The watch, most people will know by now, is my Cartier Chronoflex - yellow gold with a patinated strap.

Photography (on film) by Alex Natt @adnatt

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Zo

Great ideas here. If readers want more inspiration, there are two IG accounts that are huge advocates of white jeans -> Alessandro Squarzi (featured above) and Mitchell Moss. Both exclusively wear white jeans and you can see how incredibly versatile they are. I bought my first pair inspired by those two. A pair of Nudie Steady Eddie in Dusty White as didn’t want to spend too much as it was an experiment. I found them so useful I bought another more expensive pair of Presidents Japanese Selvedge in Ecru.

Ladislav

I recently bought a newly released Real McCoy’s white denim Lot 996. More space on thighs with nice taper towards the ankles and also high waisted, very comfortable. The color is perfect ecru shade so that they are not optic white.

Tony

I remember the deep breathe I took before I bought my first ever pair of white jeans (501s from a vintage place), and the even deeper one I took before I stepped out the door in them the first time, but these days I find them so versatile I don’t give them another thought.

Living in Australia, I do tend to wear them more the way Italians in your pictures do, though – blue chambray (or linen) shirt and black loafers.

Alexander

Berg & Berg also offer ecru Jeans. Cheers

George

Simon
I just bought my first ever pair – went for the warehouse pair. Not too slubby in my eyes but I wear stuff pretty casually and never wear denim with a jacket so that might explain it

Had trouble casting off the Euro vibes but now I love them with a pair of doeks and a work jacket. Thanks

Stuart Burrow

Great article, my question is how acceptable is it to see the outline of the inner pockets through the denim? I have a few pairs of white jeans/shorts and I can always see (albeit faintly) the outline of the inner pockets. Even with my Incotex linen/cotton blend it’s still a little apparent. I would love to wear these more but am slightly self conscious of the ‘see through’ element.

Anonymous

Same advice for shorts?

Mark P

Berg and Berg has a nice pair of ecru selvedge available as well with a higher rise, if that’s your thing.

Andrew Hughes

Hi Simon,

Great article as always. I wear white jeans by Orslow.

Regards,

Andrew

Gab

Hi Simon, would have added TWC and Berg & Berg among the makers of quality white denim, i.e in the right ecru shade.

Gab

Yes they do. B&B is very good value as you pointed out. These jeans are not cheap, though…

Mbb355

Interestingly, last season, B&B released jeans in what they called an “off-white” color, which was really much more white. This season, they’ve released an “ecru” pair, which is much creamier and in line with this article’s recommendation. The color indeed looks much more useful and tasteful without sacrificing too much (if any) personality or interest. Great article Simon, and excellent casual chic outfit here. I never thought to pair olive with cream jeans but might give it a go now (I actually thought your shirt was charcoal at first, which is a much more natural pairing with cream for me).

Mbb355

Dark olive is such a neat and underused color. I wear my Colhays dark olive cashmere crew all the time.

Thorn

The pair of white linen slacks that I had were not lucky. The first time I wore them a dog came out of the duck pond and leant against my legs. The second time, I took a bite out of my burger and much of the filling shot out the other side onto my lap.
I thought they looked good, but when the metal catch above the zip started rusting and the rust came through I decided that they weren’t for me.

Carl

Haha, this made me laugh out loud.

Josh

I didn’t realise BHL had multiple flavours of off-white denim, so thanks for the insight; the tip about using a belt to reduce the contrast was also much appreciated.
In the nerd’s tradition of quibbling over the smallest of details, I would attest that your Levi’s pair are the closest to the ‘perfect’ shade of off-white for denim – which for me would be closer to white than ecru. Something about true ecru paired with denim’s distinctive texture looks really off to me, and very casual; the beige/yellow undertones are somehow over-amplified in denim, compared to smoother fabrics.
A whiter off-white counteracts the casualness of jeans, bridging the gap for (relatively) formal combinations, and providing the necessary contrast for shades of brown (such as your Ciardi outfit here, which is truly stellar). And as whiter shades are more easily maintained in jeans than any other trouser, this might be the best, most practical way to wear them.

Brian

I love white trousers for all the reasons you mentioned but I’m also reluctant to wear them for all the reasons you mentioned. So my compromise is to wear white shorts in many of the same ways you suggested for white trousers. I get all the benefits of wearing white trousers with much less of the downside.

James

Hi Simon, please can you offer a comment regarding why you wear turn-ups on your jeans. I notice you didn’t cover this in your ‘how to wear raw denim article’ either. Do turn-ups make white jeans more casual, easier to wear or no different? If the purpose is to show off the selvedge then it’s arguable a little affected and fussy, which isn’t normally an approach you advocate. No criticism implied, just an interested reader. Thanks

Zo

It probably started with the rise of raw denim over the decade. You’d keep them un-hemmed and simply roll them up, waiting for the first wash and the subsequent shrinkage, and then get them hemmed if you need to. And over the years it probably became a look. And yes, some people now do it to show the selvedge line.

Ben R

I’m getting ready to commission some cream/ecru trousers from the Ascot bunch. Apart from the casualness would many of the same concepts outlined above apply?

On a side note, I was just at the Lot 1 shop in NYC and the white denim was not in the book. But they had a nice light grey “recycled” Japanese denim in a newer book. I put in an order for those. We’ll see how they turn out in 6 weeks.

George

My girlfriend recently bought some vintage cream/off white 501s for herself but found that they were too long (luckily they fit me perfectly). On the couple of occasions I’ve worn them since, I have noticed when other guys have been wearing white/cream trousers out and about and they are more common than I used to suspect. I think they are greatly underrated.

I also picked up some cream Orlebar Brown linen and cotton blend trousers in the Mr Porter sale start of the year in anticipation of a summer holiday this year, restrictions willing. Hoping they see some action soon.

Robert M

I bought a pair from BLA a few months ago, and it’s fantastic. The E5 fit is on the narrow side, but I had a dark pair already and knew I liked it. The white ones became pleasantly softer after the first wash, looking forward to breaking them in further.

Ian

Can anyone recommend slim white trousers ( not cream) that aren’t slightly see through (ie you can see through to the pocket lining / underwear ) I’ve been looking for ages, thanks

Peter O

Dear Simon,

In the history of men’s fashion in North America, please verify that
White denin jeans Levis were first introduced in North America by Levis’ early in the ’60’s. I believe that at that time 1960’s the blue denim jeans brand Levis’ had no serious competition and reigned surpreme in the North American market. Blue denim jeans in USA = Levis. I believe the introduction of the white color in USA by Levis was a huge success, then followed introduction of Levis’ matching white denim jeans jacket.

I think the South of USA has a strong white trousers tradition.

In North America none of the connotations for white trousers of Italian or flashy Englishmen about which you write were known.

Best wishes
Peter

Duncan McPhie

Another great article, Simon.
Many thanks for your thoughts.

Matt H

I’ve long had a taste for white jeans and I’ve been wearing them continuously since my teenage years in the 90s. I think back and I was already wearing the kind of look that I go for now, albeit less refined, with much cheaper pieces and no tailoring.

Lockdown weight gain has me searching for a new pair, so I’ll check some of those brands. I’ve never found it too hard to find a fit I like at a lower cost. Just got to avoid too low of a rise.

Russ

The chick looks so much better in the white jeans than the guys do. You included Simon! I look forward to the return of a few more suit reviews.

Robert Demers

Hello Simon, Very infrequent inquisitor here but longtime follower from the US and formally a very frequent visitor to the UK where we met in your earlier days. Question: how does one obtain Levi’s Lot No. 1 white denim jeans; as I am now retired and spend a good amount of time in the Caribbean, this seems like an interesting idea? (suppose those of us over 70 would be able to accommodate this look?)Excellent article as always. Thank you

Mitchell Moss

Excellent post, Simon. As someone mentioned, I’m a major proponent of white/off white jeans and wear the like 80% of the time. Here are my recs:
Sid Mashburn’s “natural” denim are my favorite “luxe” pair; they’re less expensive than Drake’s or Berg & Berg by about half. They recently released a version in selvedge for a higher price. They also sell a version in stark white, and also carry white Levi’s 501’s in the shop. So check those out.
My favorite pair of all time, though, are an old J.Crew slim-straight (now called “770”) in a lightweight but stiff off-white denim. They have frayed holes near the waistband so I wear them more sparingly now, but nothing I’ve found are nearly as good in fit, color tone, or fabric tbh.

Robert

@Mitchell
Thanks much for the 770 jeans recommendation. Tracked down a pair and they’re great. And Simon thanks for this article. Got me out of my faded blue jeans rut. I have never thought much about ecru jeans (or the subtle difference between white & ecru). This article prompted me to give the look a try. Lots of good info in the comments section if one reads closely. And PS helps push me out of my comfort zone. Two great features of this site. Thanks Simon.

Thomas Mastronardi

I am a lifelong fan of off-white jeans, in myriad shades from ecru through beige to what we used to call ‘wheat jeans’. Stylish, sublime, and always just that single step beyond the commonplace. Bravo, Simon.

Emerging Genius

Interesting article. I’ve been fairly averse to light colored pants but your logic is making me reconsider that stance.

However only on warmer and sunny days

Rui

Great article Simon. I would love to hear your take on white (off-white) cords.

Rui

I’ve just had a pair of trousers made from a Loro Piana cotton/ cashmere cloth and I find them very comfortable and rather versatile in several casual combinations, either “low” with a simple crew neck or Shetland and shirt, with a chunky roll-neck or smarter with a tweed-type jacket.

The crease will disappear after wearing them a few times and it is true that they will need a dry cleaner’s care. In this regard, I find that they do not get dirty as quickly as a tailored trouser.

P.S.: One of the best gigs I’ve attended to was White Denim’s!

RT

I’ve found ecru/off-white cords to be very useful. In fact, Coincidentally, wearing some today! I have two pairs – 5-pocket (jeans style) and flat-fronted trousers, both RTW. I wear them a lot on sunny, but perhaps cooler, days in autumn, and spring, in particular. They’re very flexible and go with lots of knitwear and casual jackets.
One thing that occurs to me is that I live by the sea. (Not a Mediterranean resort, though!). I can’t quite pin it down, perhaps there are underlying nautical or maritime associations, but they seem to be particularly suitable for where I live and don’t look out of place at all, or particularly showy.
Incidentally, I think that’s also true of boat shoes. I understand that there are associations which in other contexts many would find unappealing. However, they seem entirely appropriate in my little coastal city and I’m as likely to see crew members in our working fishing boats wearing them as other people. As ever, I suppose, context is key.

Gavin

Curious to hear your thoughts on how a brand like Casa Atlantic with their white offerings tie in here ? I had been looking at the Jadid version in white but am now looking at B&B ecru. Thanks

Anonymous

Just out of curiosity, what Casatlantic model did you go for? Thanks.

Tommy Mack

Simon, slightly tangential questions: how do you wash your whites? Strictly separate from colours, I’m assuming?

My problem is it takes a long time to build up a white load so my white shirts tend to get worn once or twice and then sit in the laundry basket a long time. I intend to buy a few more white shirts and Ts as they’re obviously real staples but am I missing a laundry trick?

Am I over-thinking things, should I just accept that I’m going to have to run the machine half empty if I want to wear my whites more often?

I think it will be a while before I’d risk white jeans around my kids! I did have a pair of white Levi’s years ago but the cut wasn’t great and I seldom wore them.

Peter O

Dear Mr Mack,

What aspect of the cut do you object to about your pair of Levis in white denim?
Or in other words: how could the cut be improved?

Thank you.

Gregoire

Simon
As we are on whites (and casual chic) – any advice for tennis shorts? Would love a smarter pair than just what is offered by Nike. Maybe the Sid Mashburb pair

Ferdinand

The Swedish brand Ron Dorff has vintage-style tennis shorts designed to actually play tennis in them that look good (I prefer them in navy though: https://www.rondorff.com/collections/trousers/products/tennis-shorts-3?variant=31746473689161) . You need to size up, I usually wear 52 in trousers and wear an XL here.

The brand is quite obviously geared towards gay men, but there are some subtle sportswear pieces that look contemporary yet nicer than Nike etc. (also, of course, nothing wrong with a gay brand, but the style is partly very much in your face so I wouldn’t wear it).

Ferdinand

Yes, polyester, made in China, shamelessly overpriced and questionable brand image… ticks all the boxes.

But still for playing tennis I like them a lot, and to be honest for sportswear I am completely fine with artificial fibers, as they simply perform better in my experience.

Another generic alternative would be the Lacoste sports line, they always have some classic tennis shorts that are okay(ish), but I guess that’s not exactly much of a surprise.

Gregoire

Am debating either trying the Mashburn ones or having a pair made up by Luxire… Will let you know

https://www.sidmashburn.com/white-navy-lightweight-twill-mid-length-tennis-short.html

Alan

Simon, worth checking out Workers Club too. A stiff ecru in raw form but excellent make and they offer two fits for options.

Gab

Hi Simon. As to the risks of appearing a bit euro-thrashy with white jeans, would you say the risk is lower, higher or identical with non-denim trousers of the same shade? Thinking about for instance the Officers trousers by Rubato, which, although fairly white, do not seem to carry this kind of connotation.

Gab

Agreed. I do have them and they managed to hit a very good spot (shade but not only: fit, make, etc.). Btw, the fit, quite roomy, helps to avoid fitness / Instagram / toy boy associations.

Manny

White jeans are a great opportunity to wear your most fun shoes too. There are pairs I’ll wear mostly with my various off-white jeans — espadrilles, blue suede desert boots, deep purple brogues, you name it!

Max

Hi Simon,
love the photos and the read. Agree on the cream/ecru rather than white thing and also on avoiding the distressed look. While I really like the shot of Oliver Dannefalk (by jkf_man/This guy) wearing ripped jeans, it would look a little odd with white jeans though.
Got a nice cream one from Zaremba’s RTW section. Selvedge, mid-rise, excellent fit.
Cheers

Luca Simoni

I don’t find white denim to have a bad reputation. Quite the contrary. The use of white sports trousers originated, and is still in use, in the equestrian environment. If you notice all polo players normally wear white jeans. And the same goes for show jumping, dressage and horse racing. So white denim goes perfectly with all ‘equestrian’ fabrics: tweed, covert, sportex and beautifully with a navy blue blazer.
Supposed mediterranean playboys may not know it, but a gentleman does.

Anonymous

Simon
If you were to recommend a pair for your casual chic summer vibe… would it be casatlantic or rubato?

Dan

I could never wear white pants. Too many women where I live, the USA, wear them. It fact, white jeans are associated with women in the USA. Every spring and summer they break them out. Nor do I think any man can pull it off outside of fashion or Pitti Uomo. Also, white is too associated with linen where I live. However, cream jeans or something more off white could work.

Phil

Hi Simon,

Good article. An another brand that makes nice ecru denim is Naked & Famous. Made in Montreal from Japanese denim, like all their pieces. It is actually slightly different from other ecru jeans because they kept the natural cotton seeds in the fabric, which adds some depth of color. They have different cuts, with one being a slightly higher rise with a nice taper.

Anon

Looks good but too bad its 2% elastane..

Anonymous

What cuff length do you use on jeans?

Liam

Really useful post and very timely for me as I was just looking for a pair. It’s excellent to pick up on the comments so I can look slightly beyond say Drakes, Trunk, Dicks of Edinburgh etc (noting that I’m UK based). These are all excellent but it’s nice to have a broader choice. On this point I’ve never myself ordered from further afield like The Armoury and NMWA. I’d be interested to know others’ experience on returns, taxes etc. Finally how about a similar piece on fatigue pants? Another useful element when dressing more casually.

Alex

Great post as always

Highly recommend the BLA denim in ecru. Also eBay for Levi’s in white / off white.
Plus Drake’s and John Simons for Bedford cord 5 pocket trousers in a similar colour.

R Abbott

I checked out the two links you posted to Blackhorse Lane and one of them is described as “ecru raw denim” and the other as “ecru twill.” What’s the difference between the two? What’s the practical impact in terms of stiffness, break-in, and fading between “raw denim” and “twill”? Do you think both would stretch equally over time?

Thanks,

R Abbott

As far as appearances go, could you wear the twill version in the same circumstances in which you would wear the raw denim version?

Also, I assume the twill version would need ironing, in contrast to the pure denim.

Ian A

I bought the Ecru Blackhorse Lane Jean from their factory store and had the misfortune of having a violent stomach upset coming home on the tube! Clearing up I was told by family member that stains would be impossible to remove and that I should Chuck them! My persistent machine washing and stain removal paid off and no further incidences have threatened their life! They are as near good as new!

I’m a fair bit more adventurous (or irresponsibly wildly indulgent) in shoe colour than Simon and find they work well with most other colours with only black or possibly white doubtful.

Ferdinand

I usually find that denim is best executed by high-quality contemporary brands, while “tailored” denim often just looks dated. I also really don’t get the fuss about raw denim, which I associate with the same kind of people obsessing over fedoras and 1950s motorcycle jackets.

My usual go to brand is Closed, for (off)white denim I would however recommend Jeanerica.

Jake

Thank you for the article. These pics seem to show mainly brown or brown suede shoes or loafers. How do you feel about white / ecru jeans with black loafers? Or even lighter khakis for that matter with black?

Bolaji Babafemi

Hey Simon, really enjoyed reading this as I only just mustered the courage to purchase a white jeans and a white linen trouser recently at a charity shop. A calculated gamble, as I felt I would only wear them once and stop. But I agree white jeans/off white can be very versatile and flattering too, especially on black skin (which I have). The contrast is so strikingly beautiful. Now I can follow the recommendations here for a more assured foray into the world of white jeans, perhaps chinos too. Some ‘revenge shopping’ on the cards here! Are you going to finally stage that pop-up shop this summer, even if it features only home-grown brands? Did you notice Adret has opened its first shop in Mayfair. They seem to do a lot of off whites, beiges and creams. But rather ‘slouchy’ silhouettes.

Bolaji Babafemi

Many thanks Simon. Grateful for your styling advice. Can’t wait to experiment as soon as the sun comes out! And can see you made good on your promise to profile ‘beautiful’ Adret.

Clifford P Hall

Simon, thank you for making me think and try harder as usual. You mentioned loafers and boots in the article. Can you say more please about the type of boots and material.

Thanks

Cliff

Initials CG

Well Simon, this had me digging through storage for my old jeans! For roughly 20 years, I haven’t given much thought to jeans. I have several that are more than 25-30 years old – still in great shape, thank God! There was something almost erotic about throwing on a pair of dry 501’s (commando style) after surfing in Santa Cruz. You’d light a fire on the beach, have a few beers, and get friendly with the girls. It was heaven! Try that now, overweight women park rangers show up in military gear and beat you worse than Rodney King!
In the early 80’s Rome, you’d throw on a pair of white Levi’s, pale blue shirt (buttoned well-above the navel) and a blue blazer to pick up your girl on your vespa. A little euro, yes, but you and the girl were the poster image for Campari. It was a cheap but effective date. The classic, straight leg 501 was perfection. It was slim, but not vulgar. It came in raw, shrink to fit, washed, light blue, white, black, almost everything – even brown! It was youthful, casual, smart, sloppy, dressy – age appropriate at any age. It flattered every gender. Heck, your girl would wear your Levi’s and look amazingly feminine! (Anyone remember the TV ad with the girl in her 501’s “Travis! You’re a year too late!”)
They were reasonably priced and ubiquitous at most department stores (25 bucks at Mervyns – about a 100 in Europe, even before the EU) up through the 90’s.
Then some moron CEO at Levi’s, with an MBA from the Kathleen Kennedy school of business decides to keep it fresh.
I say that because with a couple of jeans I’ve picked up lately I notice something is terribly off with the world. Since this article on PS, I want to get back into jeans. All kinds, I’m easy. I’ve scoured shops, online sites too. “What is Levi’s doing?”
Slim fit has been a thing for several years. Ok, I get it. Before it was baggy. But why would a brand – Levis – interchangeable with the word “jeans,” totally screw up heirloom pieces like the 501? It’s a number… want to introduce a fashionable line? Use another number! The 501 was called “classic fit” for a reason. Wanted a higher waist, slightly roomier but not baggy, pick up the 505. Light cream in canvass with a slim fit and reasonable taper? The 551 was a unique work of art. There was a series for most tastes, but the best remained the classic.
Today’s 501? They’ve lowered the waist to give all men a permanent plumber’s crack? The sizing couldn’t be more off. They’ve tapered the legs at the bottom to such an extreme that it looks bizarre – like you’re wearing chicks leggings! Even my gay friends say those jeans look gay! Does anyone recall the horror that was Jordache for men? Or Gloria Vanderbilt jeans? This is worse.
I know, I’m old, I’m in my mid 50’s; I gotta be contemporary … and I see that many comments here ask about slim fit jeans. Fine. But why make it impossible to pick up a normal pair of jeans? You know, the one piece of clothing that elevated the everyman to elegance without snobbery or pretension, the most trans-gender, trans-racial, trans-national, trans-size…trans-situational (some guy wore 501’s for a black tie event, and it actually worked.) Something about a custom service for Levi’s just seems twisted to me when there are people around the world starving from abject poverty – and I am long past my “save the whales!” days.
Searching the web, I’m shocked with the whole vintage thing. Original fit? Used for more than 50 euro on ebay? Have I been living in a cave all this time?
I tried Sid Mashburn’s, based on a suggestion above. Promising. I like their aesthetic overall. Limited online possibilty for outside USA, which they should fix quickly, so you have to go through Mr.Porter for Europe. So, desperate in my quest, and totally gassed by Simon’s article on white jeans, I order a pair. Maybe Levi’s, Lee’s and most other brands have problems with fit, so I’ll give the tapered look another shot. Suggestion was to take up 2 sizes from your usual measurements in Levi’s. Check. Order beige, because supply isn’t what SM’s site offers. Receive Flint Grey, instead. Ok, I’m easy-it’s Italy. I can make it work. Sid, if you’re reading this, I’m wearing them now.
No. Please dig up an old pair of classic 501’s and copy them. At least, add a classic fit to your offering. Heck, I’d even try them in light pink, but please change the fit. If people are actually searching for vintage Levis, it means a classic fit will fly off the shelves.
Maybe I’ve been cooped up in the house too long with too many females. Maybe I’m exaggerating. God forgive, boring! I decided to add a comment about jeans in the hope that some guys out there can relate. I love tailored clothes. I love the artisanal passion that goes into so many aspects of dress – shoes, cloths, cuts, styles, watches – you name it. It’s my secret vice. I’ll spend the money.
But jeans? This is like walking out of the last James Bond or Star Wars movies, “what are they thinking?”

Russ

Really enjoyed the post by Initials CG – amusing but spot on too. Why, with the millions of jeans sold each year, are so many cut with low waists and extreme leg tapers? Comfort and easy worn style seems to have surrendered to emulation of the ‘spray on jeans’ effect. I don’t want to show my ‘lunchpack’ to the world either, yet so many jeans make no allowance for discretion or comfortable movement of men’s bits in the crotch design.

Russ

Thanks Simon. Maybe the male youth of today will end up with high voices….

Initials CG

Maybe private white and you, Simon could come with a pair of jeans? You guys seem to be knocking it out of the park with really well thought out wardrobe pieces for the PS shop lately.

Rob

Simon – please give a “guest slot” to Initials CG! He is saying what we are all about thinking!

Der Senator

No less a sartorial authority than The Wall Street Journal recently decreed that skinny jeans are out. Call your tailor and have a pair made that fit. Failing that, look up Blackhorse Lane Atelier and check out their E8 Slim Tapered. Classy and classic.

Clifford P Hall

Simon, any advice please on how to think about suede loafers with a tassel or without with white jeans.

Thanks.

Cliff

Lewis

What colour socks would you wear with white – or, rather, ecru – jeans? I’m colourblind so can’t really tell from the pictures. Thanks

Nick

Hi Simon,

Having been inspired by your article to try some white jeans for the first time (to go with an Anglo-Italian Navy Hopsack DB) I am struggling to decide between Trunk’s own-brand 5-pocket cords and AI’s ecru denim jeans- do you have any guidance please, in particular are one pair likely to be less versatile than the other in your view? Thank you

Nick

Thanks Simon – much appreciated!

Paul M

Great article – however, I’ve found some of the cheaper brands offer excellent value. White jeans do get grubby over a period of time so I tend to rotate what I wear. So don’t discount H & M (great white cotton jean style), Burton’s (white cotton trousers) & Zara Man – hard wearing, look great and are ridiculously inexpensive!

Clifford P Hall

Simon, were your Belgravia’s the Mink suede? Any thoughts please on the Piccadilly vs other brands, think you made a comment about the Piccadilly having a lower vamp than the Belgravia.

Many thanks.

Cliff

Michael

Hi Simon,
I recently bought a pair of ecru jeans from BHL however I am struggling to put an outfit together with them. For shoes , I have a dark brown suede penny loafer and as for tops , navy and grey T shirt and some casual shirts from Private White in chambray and a dark brown calf woven belt from Anderson & Sheppard. But I find it rather difficult because I guess that jeans with T shirt and loafers and the belt seems that the T shirt it’s out of place? As for the shirt I can’t figure what T shirt colour to wear underneath the casual shirt . In all of this combinations I wear also the dark brown belt. What do you think Simon?
Thank you

Michael

The shirt from Private White a short sleeve chambray which I found it look better with a T shirt underneath but it does look good on it’s own. Does the dark brown calf woven belt is suited with jeans and T shirt even if I wear some trainers instead of loafers or it’s better with a shirt ?
Thanks you Simon

Justin

Great article, Simon. I have two pairs of Levis Lot 1s from Lizzie and will soon get (another) pair in the ecru cloth as they are incredibly versatile here in Los Angeles. Did you go with the 18 cm bottom opening in the Lot 1 pair pictured above? I’ve been enjoying a bit roomier trousers of late and was considering having my next pair made up a little “straighter.” Thanks.

Rupesh Bhindi

Hi Simon,
Would you describe your Bespoke Levi’s jeans as off white/ecru in colour or is it an optic white pair of selvedge jeans?
Thanks

Rupesh

Mike

Hi Simon, could I ask about the measurements of your ecru jeans (waist, thigh, knee, leg opening, rise)?

Nick

Great, Great article! thank you

Ahmed Bashir

Simon, can you provide the babycord fabric details here please?

Alexander

The “dusty white” colour from the Italian Nudie Jeans looks spot on for me. May I ask your take on this? https://www.nudiejeans.com/de/product/gritty-jackson-dusty-white
Any readers that have experience with this label?
Thank you!

Neil Tang

Hi Simon,
Have you tried Anglo Italian’s ecru denim? What are your thoughts on the fit and make?

Graeme

Hi Simon
May I ask where that cap youre wearing is from?

Clifford P Hall

Simon, happy summer, can you say more please about the socks your wearing, color, material and brand.

Thanks.

Cliff

Clifford P Hall

Welcome any thoughts on “how to make less smart”

Clifford P Hall

Simon, thank you for taking the time to answer, appreciate that.
Cliff

Martins

After reading this and seeing a bunch of brooks brothers chinos in tk maxx, picked up 3 pairs. White, beige and olive. Beige goes with everything. Need to figure out a nice way to wear olive. This article will serve as inspiration for white. And even if I figure out white is not for me, for 20£ a pair I believe it a worthy experiment.

Alex

For those of us who are younger, or perhaps on smaller budgets: Massimo Dutti is currently selling a pair in the perfect off-white shade. The fit is slim but not skinny. I bought some myself in-store yesterday, but also available online:

https://www.massimodutti.com/gb/men/collection/jeans%2Ftapered-fit-jeans-c680509p9360931.html

I hope you don’t mind the link Simon, I am not affiliated with the company in any way.

Absolutely chuffed with these and they will look great with brown suede. I have been looking for a while and your comments about the need to be off-white is spot on: white looks too harsh, cheap and showy.

Alex

I didn’t really notice the stretch to be honest. It could be that I am just used to wearing jeans and denim shorts with a few % elastane, as that seems to be the norm these days. I have tried to read up on lyocell and am still none the wiser; it seems to be some sort of fiber made of wood pulp? As long as they look good and last I’m not too fussed.

TK

Hi Simon,I’m thinking about purchasing some ecru jeans from BHL,their E5 model.I’ve noticed from your blog posts that you are pictured mostly wearing a jacket or Cordings raglan overcoat over your ecru jeans.Is this because you think they look better like this rather than just wearing a simple shirt with them in summer which might appear too flash…playboy?

TK

Yes,I can see that mostly wearing T-shirts,crewnecks etc can produce a very relaxed result as I suppose,could a grey shawl cardigan as well.In this way you look well put together but miles from that flash geezer.It’s really a question of dialing down the look,for me at least.

Rob

I just bought a pair in the Japanese ecru denim. Very unusual with flecks of cotton seed, but rather lovely. I have concluded that you can’t really avoid a bit of a Wham-era George Michael look in summer. Maybe because there are fewer layers to tone them down. I think they will be toned down well once Autumn layering arrives though. I agree with what Simon Says about being best when it’s sunny ……… if only. Go ahead – I don’t think you will regret your purchase.

Frank

you seem to like a grey top of white jeans. i ‘ve got a light grey herringbone jacket from a Neapolitan maker, so rather casual. I’m been considering combine the jacket with a grey roll neck (should it be darker og lighter than the jacket?)- do you think it could work or is it only blue on blue that works?

Frank

Thanks, and I just saw Your posts on F. Caraceni where You combine a Grey jacket with a Grey shirt. And I like it

And

Simon, having had only trousers with elastane for a long time, inspired by this post and your various comments on the pure cotton vs stretch denim aspect (which I think unfortunately are very scattered around several tangential topics), recently I tried pure cotton straight jeans in ecru, also motivated by the fact that the commonly-available slim cuts didn’t allow me to wear OTC socks comfortably.
The break-in was definitely hard. But worth it, I must say. They are now so comfortable (and lovely to the touch), that I can’t stand to go back to the pulling sensation of stretch jeans. I am now 100% converted to non-stretch denim.
It did take me literally months to find a suitable pair. They had to be off-white (ideally ecru, much “softer” and thus more versatile imo), they had to be mid waist, fairly straight but not baggy and also not distressed (this combination already excluded almost everything local shops offer here in Italy!).
Plus, they had to come in odd sizes (I wear 31) and, even harder, in 30” hem length (no one that I know of offers chain stitch hemming locally).
Finally they also had to be relatively affordable (I personally just can’t justify 350€ on jeans like Drakes offers), though I knew I was going to pay much more than the typical high-street jean due to so many caveats.
I was starting to think my quest was hopeless, but eventually I found the perfect pair in unbleached cotton (with cotton seeds showing, lovely really) in 31/30 from Nudie Jeans, for 140€.
Unfortunately, they are now gone, so might not be of great use to others. But in case they ever come back, the fit to look for is “Gritty Jackson”.

And

Actually, the jeans I’m talking about just resurfaced on the website, and about 30€ off too, for the black friday sale.