Are 'dad jeans' back in fashion?

New York TimesJuly 31, 2013 

Don’t donate those Jerry Seinfeld jeans to the Salvation Army just yet.

Lighter-blue “washed” denims, often with a looser fit and a higher waist – call them “dad jeans” – may be in fashion again. They have been popping up in street-style blogs like Tommy Ton and the Sartorialist, as well as at fashion-forward retailers like Acne, Supreme, J. Press York Street, Baldwin, Billy Reid and A.P.C.

Some of those high-fade models would not look out of place on President Barack Obama out biking.

It may be premature to declare an end to the era of skinny jeans, the low-slung, raw-denim crotch tourniquets that have ruled the streets of Brooklyn lately. But designers who cater to selvage-denim snobs are detecting a shift in tastes and a step toward lighter washes and fuller pant legs. (Selvage denim is denim created using one continuous cross yarn and made on a shuttle loom.)

“We’re definitely seeing more of a washed look, a longer rise, a little fuller thigh,” said Tyler Thoreson, vice president for men’s editorial and creative at Gilt, the flash-sale site. “The edgier guys are going with a drop-crotch taper look.”

Part of the shift might be attributed to the cyclical nature of fashion.

“It’s a backlash against the now-ailing Americana-urban woodsman trend,” said Brad Bennett, who runs Well Spent, an influential men’s style blog. “Dad jeans are pretty much the total opposite, and thus, a quick and easy way for people who don’t want to be associated with the lumberjack look to distance themselves.”

There is also a practical aspect.

“People want to be more comfortable,” said Benjamin Talley Smith, the creative director of Earnest Sewn, the cult-favorite jeans label, which has unveiled the Dexter, a straight-leg jean with a “full thigh.” Even fashion bloggers admit that skinny jeans are not exactly comfy.

“I don’t really find myself ever reaching for my pair of far more expensive raw denim that I have hanging in my closet,” said Jake Gallagher, who runs the menswear blog Wax Wane. “Probably, at least three or four days a week, I’m wearing what would be called ‘dad jeans,’” which he defines as faded washed-out denim (he prefers Levis 501s).

Indeed, some jeans snobs are just “finding that the time investment and work that goes into breaking in a pair – six months without washing, the initial discomfort – isn’t always worth it,” said Jian DeLeon, who writes for Complex, a style magazine.

But before you raid your father’s closet, it should be noted that this denim fetish is confined to certain hyper-stylized urban pockets and that most American men never stopped wearing dad jeans. At the same time, there is a big difference between the dad jeans bought at a Wal-Mart in Texas and the ones now being peddled on menswear blogs. No self-respecting bearded mixologist is going to be caught dead in the loose-fitting, pancake-rump jeans favored by over-50 suburbanites.

Meanwhile, early adopters risk ridicule. Kanye West got whacked on BuzzFeed for wearing what some saw as dad jeans during fashion weeks in New York and Paris.

But for those willing to push the envelope, dad jeans are one way to stand out at a Bushwick loft party. Besides, roomier washed jeans provide a flourish of ’90s retro, which is making a comeback for Generation Y in the form of Doc Martens, flannel shirts and wallet chains. Some fashion-forward types even go so far as to add pin rolls at the cuffs, Thoreson said.

“I’m having flashbacks,” he said, “to eighth grade and my Girbaud jeans.”

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