AHHA Fashion: Deciphering Denim

Jeans are a gift from the heavens. They are the perfect item of clothing for both men and women because they are versatile, comfortable and timeless. Jeans look good at the club, in the grocery store, on a date, at the park, running errands…almost anywhere at any time. Boot cut, straight leg, relaxed fit, flare, studded, ripped, shorts, skirts, capris; the possibilities are endless.

With all the cuts, brands, styles and sizes available; the leisurely activity of shopping for jeans can quickly become an overwhelming and daunting task. Not to worry, AllHipHop.com Altenatives did all the dirty work. We’ve got latest trends for men and women to help you navigate through the sea of denim and get your jean game tight for the Summer.

Before attempting to find the perfect pair of jeans, let’s understand the trends. Denim has been a fashion staple for decades, and the tides are changing as the evolution of styles comes full circle. For the past 15 years, the jeans rule of thumb was “the bigger, the better.” Baggy jeans was a signature ‘90s style, and even translated into flares and carpenter jeans for the females.

This year we are heading back to tighter styles; men have matured into more fitted jeans, wearing one size up rather than three. Skinny jeans are making a slow but steady comeback for women. Even though boot cut and flares still dominate the stores, retailers are slowly integrating new fitted styles getting consumers acclimated to this trend shift. Additionally, there has been a lot of spectacle on denim – whether it is ornate stitching, studs, rhinestones or other aesthetics. This trend is also slowly on its way out, paving the way for the more muted and classic jean look for the Fall.

Our journey for jeans began at Macy’s, the mega-department store on 34th Street in New York. They offer a wide variety of denim brands from urban lines (Rocawear, Sean John) to mainstream brands (Calvin Klein, Guess, Levis). According to Anwar Phillp, Nautica Specialist at Macy’s, the biggest seller is currently LRG. Age generally dictates sales, as teens go for the big and baggy look, while men 23 and older are buying the fitted styles.

Lines like Rocawear and Sean John offer styles for men of all ages, and attract buyers with their colorful, detailed pocket stitching. One eye-catching pair is Rocawear’s “Heatwave” which features stitched zig-zags across the pocket in shades of red, blue, green and white. The vibrant colors are definitely a good look for the summer and this style offered in both pants and shorts, moderately priced at $78.99. Rocawear’s “Bulls Eye Jean” brings the popular metallic trend to menswear with rays of gold stitching on the back pocket. They come in “raw indigo denim,” a dark blue, and “black rinse denim,” also priced at $78.99.

Sean John uses vivid colors a bit more subtly in its “Kingston” jean with shades of greens, blues, yellows and gold stitched along the border of the back pockets. This style, also available in both pants and shorts, retails for $88. Another colorful alternative is the LRG Classic Fit, at $82, with its signature red, yellow and green stitching along the back pockets.

For a more basic jean, Calvin Klein’s Easy Fit is a popular seller. This lightweight jean comes in five colors, indigo, denim, grey, khaki and black (but looks best in denim), is perfect for summer comfort and will only cost you $45. Levi’s is also holding down the hard denim style with loose cut jeans in light and dark blue at $34.99 a pair. For more fitted styles, designers Guess and Polo offer straight leg styles and closer fits.

A few floors up, the women’s section is a denim wonderland of pants, shorts, capris, skirts and dresses. Although the junior’s best sellers are Seven 4 All Mankind and DKNY; the colors and textures of Baby Phat and Rocawear are more eye-catching. For the flashier ladies, Baby Phat’s “Currant” jean has a grey V-shaped stitching on the rear pocket with a green, purple and pink rhinestone and silver-studded outline, available for $79. Rocawear’s $88 “Dynomite” jean accents the front with gold studs covering the front pockets, and keeps the booty simple with no back pockets.

Some of the fun of women’s denim is its versatility, especially in the Summer. Apple Bottoms has a sexy denim one-piece shorts jumpsuit with a zip-up front, studded pockets and a Gothic print logo on the front. It goes for $88 and is guaranteed to keep your summer hot. Also on the zip-front style, Ecko Red makes a sassy denim jumper dress with a pleated Catholic schoolgirl skirt and stretch back, ensuring a proper fit women of different sizes. It also has a bit of bling with its signature rhino in rhinestones hanging from the zipper, and will cost you $80.

Denim minis (worn with or without leggings) will keep you cool during the Summer heat. Southpole/Lot 29 offers a variety of affordable and adorable denim minis decorated with sequins, stitching and rips. One style features khaki pocket stitching with brown and iridescent sequins and rhinestone accents below the front pockets; while another in dark blue denim has gold stitching (similar style to the New Orleans Saints logo) with gold studs along both the front and back pockets for $42. Miss Sixty offers a dressier mini wraparound skirt in dark blue denim, with an ivory lace and silver sequin accented border along the hem. The crinoline under the skirt gives it that ‘80s Madonna throwback feel.

Shorts of all lengths are making a comeback for the spring and summer. Baby Phat has some provocative pum-pum shorts with white and gold logo buttons and ripped detailing on the front, appropriately for $69. Apple Bottoms works the trendy Bermuda short look with purple, yellow, peach and pink stitching on the booty for $59.

Those looking for more upscale jeans will have to venture to boutiques or more exclusive national retailers such as Bloomingdales or Nordstrom. The experts at The Denim Library in Harlem, New York, showed us the best brands and styles that are worth the investment. According to So of The Denim Library, conservative men like a good fit with minimal pocket detail; while non-conservative types go for more embroidery and details. He recommends Antik Denim for conservative types ($211-$345), or Tavernity So and Evisu for non-conservatives, ($150-$225) as best bets for a quality jean that is not too tight and differ in their detail. True Religion is also very popular at other retailers, but is often a counterfeiter’s favorite because buyers can’t always tell the difference between the real and fake.

The females are often looking for jeans that will accommodate ample hips, thighs and butt. Citizen’s for Humanity ($145-$225) are a favorite for pear-shaped women; while Joe’s Jeans “Honey” style ($145-172) are known for the great “booty fit.” For the booty-challenged, Joe’s Jean’s “Socialite” cut has a higher waist drawing attention away from the lacking nether region. Antik Denim is also a major seller because of its quality stitching and details. One fetching style was the LIZA low rise in light denim with brown stitching and a cream knit overlay on the pockets for $265. Paper Denim is another alternative when looking for sleek fit for extra butt and thighs. They also offer the pencil fit (straight leg with a 1 inch taper at the bottom) that we will be seeing more of in the coming months.

When picking the right size of jeans, Pi of The Denim Library warns women about muffin-topping, the unfortunate phenomenon where a woman’s stomach fat hangs over the top of the jeans. Ladies, there’s no shame in getting the next size up; consider yourself warned!

Since most folks can’t spend hundreds on jeans; there are alternatives. Hit up the racks of Filene’s Basement, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s for designer looks usually a fraction of the cost. You may have to do some searching but it is worth the savings. Old Navy is a crowd favorite as many people interviewed mentioned this as a sensible and reliable standby. Men and women can stay fly and up-to-date for reasonable prices ranging from $19.50-$34.50. They offer Bermuda shorts, capris, boot cut, straight leg and everything in between, giving both good fit and functionality for very little cost. For women, Southpole also offers simple stretch jeans in both light and dark blue for $29.99 that will look perfect with a pair of pumps for a night on the town.

Whatever your preferences may be, you won’t run out of options in the current world of denim. Happy shopping!

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