“Firsts” always leave an imprint—you’ll never forget your first kiss, the first time you traveled alone, and possibly even the first sandwich you ordered from your now-favorite bodega. For me, I’ll always remember the first pair of jeans I picked out for myself. The year was 2001, so, naturally, they were light-wash low-rise jeans with a flare. I was five years old, so I chose a pair with baby-pink butterflies and flowers stitched on the back pockets, the front hip, and along the hem. I loved them and wore them absolutely everywhere, stains and all (to my mother’s disdain), and I was borderline traumatized when I finally grew out of them.
Since then, I’ve felt the same anxiety whenever I retire from a denim trend, whether it’s reluctantly buying skinny jeans that don’t fit or having to give up my now “out of style” high-rise culottes that actually hug my body the way pants should. Thankfully, denim has no direction at all these days, and we’re all free to choose our own adventure.
Denim has a long-standing history in America, Levi Strauss created the first pair of blue jeans in 1873. They were more practical than fashionable, lasting well into the 1930s as workwear for miners, Western cowboys, and laborers. However, the same way you’ll see every 2023 creative director in Brooklyn sporting workwear brand Carhartt, jeans became more of a fashion staple in the 1950s for the anti-establishment folks. It was the birth of denim as fashion as we know it, and since then, denim has always featured different silhouettes to achieve the peak levels of the latest trends.
Bringing it back to the 2000s, though, something altered the way we view denim: The fabric wasn’t married to just pants, and it was en vogue to wear denim from head to toe, whether it was through denim handbags, denim shoes, or even denim headbands. Still, 2000s denim had an air of wearing more “snatched” versions of the fabric, with the most fashionable people favoring midriff-exposing low-rise bottoms. The denim jackets during what I like to call Lana Del Rey’s 2012 “Blue Jeans” era, where all her listeners paired boxy denim jackets three sizes too big with sheer ripped tights and Dr. Martens, were very different from the 2000s Rocawear or Baby Phat denim jackets with puffier cuts. Furthermore, the Indie Sleaze craze brought on a love for ultra-skinny jeans and ripped jean shorts before 2016 NYC It girls chose cozier light-wash Levi’s 501s as their go-to blue jeans.
As fashion becomes more inclusive, instead of following trends, people are wearing the pieces they actually love.
But these days, there isn’t one denim cut or wash that reigns over the rest: You’ll find denim skirts, denim dresses, denim corsets, and even denim coats alongside jeans of every rise and cut while shopping—and they’re all poles apart, aesthetically speaking. Celebs are all over the place, too, with stars like Kerry Washington and Julia Fox going the avant-garde route, wearing a dark-wash structured denim coat and denim gown, respectively. We recently spotted Ashley Graham in a relaxed Canadian tuxedo with flared jean capris and a long denim top, but Amelia Gray Hamlin wore a dark-wash two-piece set with a fitted denim tube top and a matching denim midi skirt. Denim is everywhere—from denim platform shoes to bucket hats—and not one piece looks like the other.
This is a good thing: As fashion becomes more inclusive, instead of following trends, people are wearing the pieces they actually love. Sure, TikTok microtrends change almost daily—but the leading trends don’t seem to be renewing at lightning speed and they’re not competing with one another for a space at the top. It could even be as simple as multiple styles happening simultaneously.
I know it may seem like a foreign concept—considering style has, up until this point, always been dictated by a “hot or not” judgment from industry elites. Yet the internet is a massive space that democratizes taste—it *literally* brought the power to the people and paved the way for them to create their own trends and styles. And this sentiment is finding its way into how we wear jeans, as Y2K lovers may opt for low-rise jeans, whereas a “dark bimbo” may settle on a black denim vest. Jeans are no longer a trend; denim is now how you can slot the fabric into your personal style, vibe, or aesthetic.
How often have you stopped to wonder: Will this new jeans trend fit me? Fit in a literal sense, yes, but also on a spiritual level. Denim is often referred to as a “second skin,” and the reward of feeling broken-in denim feels better than any other worn-in fabric. So it makes sense that as we’re in a hodgepodge of online trends that all amount to a non-trend, wearing the one fabric that feels most like “you” however the hell you want is the chicest thing you can do.
So, wear it all and wear it well. For a disco queen look, you can opt for ’70s flared jeans or denim halter tops. If you’re after an LES modern emo look, pair ultra-baggy low-rise jeans (bonus points if they bunch at the ankle) with your favorite mesh baby tee. Supposing you’re after a more romantic approach to the trend, you can choose between denim patchwork straight-leg pants or a denim midi skirt and pair it with a frilly sheer cardigan. And if buying multiple clothing pieces seems like too much for your bursting closet, you can always supplement your wardrobe with accessories like denim bags, bucket hats, and shoes.
At the end of the day, your style is yours, and what you wear should be dictated by you—so go for that denim dress, wear those Bermuda shorts, and opt into sporting jean jackets again. Denim is truly everything, everywhere, all at once, and we implore you to have fun with the fabric this season.