The comeback of loose-cut jeans for men

A return to jeans with wider cuts and higher waistbands will sort out the men from the boys, says Tom Stubbs

Levi’s selvedge denim 501 jeans, £85
Levi’s selvedge denim 501 jeans, £85

Watching the seminal Bartle Bogle Hegarty Levi’s 501 adverts from 1985 makes me feel nostalgic twice over. On the one hand for the tinted glow of 1950s Americana; on the other for my teenage self, as I recall being won over by their powerful narratives. At the time, the 501s they featured seemed snug, but today they’d be “easy” or “relaxed” fit – thanks to the supremacy of the skinny-jean trend of the past 20 years or so.

Clockwise from top left: Acne Studios denim Blå Konst Land jeans, £220. E Tautz raw selvedge denim Chore jeans, £257. Dior Homme raw denim jeans, £400
Clockwise from top left: Acne Studios denim Blå Konst Land jeans, £220. E Tautz raw selvedge denim Chore jeans, £257. Dior Homme raw denim jeans, £400

Fortunately, for men over a certain age and girth, there are changes afoot when it comes to jeans: volume cuts and higher waistbands are returning. Levi’s new 514 straight-fit stretch-denim jeans (£70) have an easy, comfortable fit similar to those in the old campaign. With light stone washing they’re almost classic to the point of being a no-statement statement. They’re comfortable, and infinitely more flattering than skinny or tapered styles. The scales have dropped. Men who should know better – and I confess I am one – have been cramming themselves into tight jeans and I’ve recently realised that they are simply no longer appropriate.

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But having tried on Levi’s entire current catalogue, the new “original selvedge” 501 shrink-to-fit jean (£85) – critically, worn unshrunk – is my top tip. The slightly starchy selvedge denim, in true indigo blue, has bold contrast topstitching; the cut is straight and relaxed – and they look great with penny, snaffle or tassel loafers. A dealbreaker. (For fans of a Cuban heel or Jodhpur boots, I recommend the Levi’s 505 [£130], released in 1967, and the first zip-fly jean. They fit snug up top, but have a kick flare.)

From left: Gieves & Hawkes denim trousers, £295. Cerruti raw denim jeans, £145
From left: Gieves & Hawkes denim trousers, £295. Cerruti raw denim jeans, £145

Acne’s new Blå Konst Land jeans (£220) are another game-changer for those looking for a fresh shape. With a loose but not excessively wide fit, they sit high, with an easy arching silhouette; the denim has substance yet remains lightweight thanks to hollow cotton fibres. Winners are the “black” unwashed jeans, which are actually grey, and “indigo”, which are navy and also unwashed; but there’s an array of tones right through to bleached-out pale blue.

From left: Other selvedge denim drill jeans, £155. Tod’s washed denim trousers, £310
From left: Other selvedge denim drill jeans, £155. Tod’s washed denim trousers, £310

The nattiest look right now, however, is the new raw denim – untreated and cut wide. I’m impressed with the jeans (£210) by Ami, made exclusively for Farfetch. They’re in a distinct dark indigo denim, with chino-style pockets, cobalt blue topstitching, and no tab or labels. The roomy cut hangs well and, teamed with tennis shoes or plimsolls and a simple sweatshirt, they have a distinct, modern look. 

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If you want wider still – and I do, since I now appreciate that it feels manly compared with boyish skinnies – then E Tautz’s Chores (£257), in handstitched mid-blue or dark indigo 13.5oz raw selvedge denim, make a real statement. Although based on a 1950s workwear trouser, they have a smartness to them. They sit higher on the waist but still flatter through the seat. I team mine with braces.

For those who prefer raw denim in a slimmer cut, there are some great styles from Paige. The Croft raw‑dyed navy narrow jean (£300) uses a rayon/cotton/polyester/Spandex weave that’s hand-sponged for a matte effect and a comfortable fit. Cerruti has now made jeans a staple of its mainline collection and this season there’s a steely-blue raw “double denim” theme, with tailored jackets and coats paired with matching jeans (£145). These are traditional five‑pocket styles in dark, unwashed Japanese selvedge denim with modern hardware. There are also some smarter denim trousers (£145) cut like chinos. At Dior – whose autumn/winter 2000 collection designed by Hedi Slimane arguably set the men’s skinnies trend in motion – narrow, straight-cut raw styles include those in indigo and battered black. These are what I’d call nightlife jeans. One version (£400) has zero branding save for a minuscule steel Dior ingot, another (£400) a black embossed denim Dior logo.

Denim tailoring can also be found at Gieves & Hawkes, where neat plain-fronted trousers (£295) with a tapered leg are made from Italian selvedge denim with an authentic mottled texture (it’s pre-dyed before construction, so it doesn’t bleed). These are more denim trousers than jeans per se, and work well with a dark navy blazer. Tod’s tailored denim includes dapper trousers (£290); the dark indigo, straight-cut ones are cool but it’s the chambray washed-denim style (£310) that stand out for me. And at Other, there’s a pair (£155) in unusual selvedge denim drill with two pleats, slanted front and welted seat pockets – they’re like ’50s-style peg trousers with a modern accent.

Thirty years on, and denim is getting me excited all over again – except this time there will be no immersing myself in hot baths to get the skinny look. Wide, raw and age‑appropriate is my new stance.

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